Comedy, ?, Success.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is not the first South Park game, but it is the first South Park game written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. It is the first South Park game worth buying.
Like the Game of Thrones plot of the last season of the show, The Stick of Truth is played as a South Park epic involving the children’s cast of the show split into separate factions (elves, wizards, knights and Jews) battling it out with each other over the titular Stick of Truth, which gives whoever holds it power over everything. I do not want to spoil the plot for those who have not played the game, but I will say this – it’s incredible and funnier than most episodes of the show, especially when everything goes to pot.
You play as a voiceless character that you design, who has just moved into South Park, given a quest by his father to make friends. It’s classic South Park humour through and through, what starts from humble intentions comes something utterly ridiculous and surreal that only a deranged child could think of. I’m not going into the nitty-gritty of South Park humour, if you like the show you will love this game – there are so many in-jokes from the show and knowing jokes poking fun at videogames.
I cannot do justice to how funny this game is, so you’ll just have to take my word that it is funnier than most episodes of the show, this is often because of the nods to episodes both new and old (it’s great fun to walk around with Hasselhoff as a head for example). The humour is injected into pretty much every aspect of the game, not just the cut-scenes. There are a lot of nice touches crammed into each frame of the game and it oozes off the screen thanks to the game’s superb art.
Not only does it sound and play out like a long episode of the show, it also looks just like the show – better even. When you first turn on the game, you’ll just want to explore the sights of South Park, it’s not only brilliant fan-service, it is great design. No wonder the game took a couple of years to come out, it would have been difficult to create such a like-for-like version of the show in game, indeed, apart from the humour, how The Stick of Truth looks is its greatest achievement.
The music in the game is also superb, with original scores and classic tunes from the show, The Stick of Truth sounds like the best of South Park. It’s fantastic to walk into buildings from the show, with one of Chef’s classics blurting out in the background (along with clips of Terrence and Philip playing on TVs and adverts for films playing in the cinema). I can’t get over how great it is just taking in the sights and sounds of South Park, it is perfect.
Gameplay however is not. It is clear The Stick of Truth takes many gameplay cues from the Paper Mario series, and thanks to this we have a very solid battle mechanic that is akin to but not as good as Paper Mario. It’s good fun to swap and change weapons and armour (I always like games where you can actually see the armour you’re wearing change) and the battles are fun (especially the special moves). Just like Paper Mario also, there are no random battles – the enemies run toward you when they see you. While this all sounds good, it is just that, good. The gameplay never feels fantastic; it actually gets a little boring when you find yourself just running to and from different places in South Park.
This I feel slightly detracts from the class on display in presentation and attention to detail – to me the RPG in the game never feels beyond good and even occasionally lingers on the pointless. Farting for example never feels fully developed in battles, even though it wants to be and weapons and armour never feel strong enough despite the game never feeling difficult enough. I feel this is because items in the game are too plentiful and too powerful – it is too easy to buy hundreds of items as money is never hard to come by. Even though the game took a long time to come out, I feel more time should have been given to properly balance the difficulty, and the issues with items and money.
Also like in Paper Mario however comes one of the game’s stronger points in terms of gameplay: the buddies (assist characters). It’s great to play around with the different assist characters as they all add something outside of battles as well as in. Butters wins the award for the best buddy however as he takes hits away from you and can heal – he is also the funniest and has the best mix of special attacks (Kyle has the strongest one, but it is a little overkill).
I’m not saying the gameplay is bad, but it pales in comparison with the rest of the game, which is expertly made and deserves all kind of awards. Like the show itself, The Stick of Truth slightly falters and suffers a little from a lack of consistency, not in its humour, but in its gameplay.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a solid game, one that wears its humour on its sleeve and has a good RPG under its skin. With more time in the oven however, The Stick of Truth would be quite the game, as it is, it is almost there.
Come on down to South Park and have yourself a time.