South Park: Stick of Truth Review. A New Precedent in Licensed-Gaming.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is an immersive , open-world, RPG filled with adventure, flatulence, and that time-tested sense of parody which has kept the show comical for 16 years.

At my age, South Park carries a heavy feeling of nostalgia.  I remember being a 8-year-old boy during its inaugural 1997 season; sneaking out of my bed to catch a glimpse at show that, at the time, was beyond my depth when it came to pop-culture parody, crude humor, and utter vulgarity.  I also remember the first stabs at creating an interactive experience with the franchise, such as the obscenely average, self-titled, PS1 attempt: South Park, the lackluster South Park Rally, and let’s just not even speak of Chef’s Luv Shack.

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But to just say Stick of Truth is “the best South Park” game would be severely undercutting it.  The game is not only an achievement for the show itself, but instead, the crowning jewel of any attempted licensed-game in the history of franchised gaming – adding yet another rung over the lowest game of the franchise ladder, Superman 64. 

Graphics

Starting with aesthetic, Obsidian Entertainment – who worked side-by-side with show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker (along with the entirety South Park Studios) – hit the nail on the head regarding visual immersion.  The game not only resembles your very own custom episode, but moves fluidly among a backdrop of insanely authentic scenery.  Tom’s Rhinoplasty, South Park Elementary, Tweak Bros. Coffehouse – it’s all there and ready for you to explore.  

The game not only resembles your very own episode of the show, but moves fluidly among a backdrop of insanely authentic scenery. 

Combat, AI, and other interactive features are smooth, intelligent, and extremely polished.  Keep your character idle for a few moments, and he/she will start texting, stand near and NPC and they will talk to you–better yet, fart on them and watch their reaction.  The attention to detail isn’t tremendously overdone, but certainly better (and sillier) than most games.  For PC owners, the game shines even on older systems – an added bonus for those of us with aging machines, or bargain rigs. 

Even though the game plays as semi-3D scroller (à la Telltale’s Walking Dead), it’s absolutely unnecessary to ask for more.  After all, it aims to mimic the show’s perspective, and breaking off of that would only take away from the feeling of its authenticity towards this beloved television franchise.

Sound

We all know that a game’s soundtrack won’t necessarily make or break a title, but again, Stick of Truth fails to fall flat in this area.  If you’re an avid fan of the show you probably already know that Parker and Stone are pretty talented composers, with original music being a core staple in the series. 

Whether you are aimlessly wandering around, or engaged in battle, you’ll notice the music is pretty special in this game.  Going far beyond your typical “fantasy” music, South Park: The Stick of Truth contains some eloquently, yet funny, scores.  My favorite includes a Gregorian-chanting Cartman over a symphony of Middle-Earth proportions– adding that hilarious spin prevalent in every aspect of this game. 

Needless to say, you won’t be hearing much of Les Claypool, or that transitional banjo twang which is peppered in the actual show itself.  However, turn on any radio found in the game, or walk into any establishment with one playing, and you’ll hear all the classic originals from the show: “Too Many Minorities,” “Jesus Baby,” “Taco-Flavored Kisses,” and my personal favorite, “Kyle’s Mom is a Big Fat Bitch.”  

The game’s SFX aren’t anything to shake a stick at (I apologize for that one), but again, each are meticulously given that famous South Park treatment.

Gameplay

If you’re going to tease an upcoming title during an E3 press conference, you better be sure the game is going live up to the hype – and considering what we’re given with South Park: The Stick of Truth – it certainly does so.

You choose from one of 4 self-explanatory classes: Fighter, Mage (Cartman: “like a wizard but less cool”), thief, and Jew – a class that gains strength the closer they are to death. 

Your epic journey begins with an opening scene depicting you, the new kid, being ordered by your parents to go outside and befriend some of the locals.  It is here where you can customize your character’s look, outfits, hair, etc.  Not the most impressive customization options, but given the show’s simplistic art direction, and the fact that you find all sorts of “flair” out in the wild, this early blemish can be overlooked.

After venturing from your doorstep, you run into everyone’s favorite punching bag, Butters, who then leads to you to Cartman’s backyard, which essentially kicks off the game’s plot; an imagination fueled fantasy arc filled with your typical fantasy stereotype heroes, evil Drow Elves, (played by other 8 year old boys), and the ironically “mystic” Stick of Truth.  From there, you choose from one of 4 self-explanatory classes: Fighter, Mage (Cartman: “like a wizard but less cool”), Thief, and Jew – a class that gains strength the closer they are to death. 

You can choose any name you like, but don’t bother lingering on this decision, as Cartman and others will only refer to you as “Douchebag,” or “New Kid.”  After a quick battle tutorial, and a quick overview of the map and menu system (which is ironically set up as a type of Facebook/Social Media system), it’s off to the races.

The fighting system in this game is reminiscent of any Final Fantasy title, but heavily relies on carefully timed actions to land the most amount of damage (a QTE system).  Familiar RPG moves, buffs, and stances, provide the necessary variations that keep combat from being completely dull.  However, herein lies my main qualm with this game.  Combat is ridiculously simple.  It doesn’t take long for you master the core mechanics, and early on in the game, I felt overpowered.  It also doesn’t help that enemy presence is extremely scarce.  I found myself having to search for long stretches of time just to satisfy my itch for a brawl.

Combat is ridiculously simple.  It doesn’t take long for you master the core mechanics, and early on in the game, I felt overpowered.

Weapons and skills in this game are also very RPG formulaic.  Each weapon you obtain has a certain amount of slots which can be fitted for upgrades, there’s skill trees, perks, and so on.  Despite these criticisms though, you’ll find yourself playing the game not for what is under the hood, but rather, a highly enjoyable and comedic experience.  Every action has an equal or greater hilarious reaction.  The “South Park spin” I mentioned earlier is found in every facet of this game, which is what makes it a laughter filled ride into obscurity.

Final Verdict

Given the average combat and weapon system, I still think this game has some aspects of replayability.  The best part is you don’t really have to follow the show to enjoy its humor – in fact – a mere casual knowledge of this once cult series is more than enough to truly “get it.”  The game is worth every penny for a hard-core fan, and should at least be given a shot for fans of open world RPGs.         

Sure, you can go back and experience each class, but immersing yourself in this living and breathing “quiet, little, inbred, mountain town,” is where you will truly get your kicks.  If all else fails, you can always just walk around and fart on every NPC.

What are your thoughts on South Park: The Stick of Truth?  Love it, snub it, or just “meh?”  Let me know below, and as always, don’t forget to follow and troll me on the Tweets. 

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South Park: Stick of Truth Review. A New Precedent in Licensed-Gaming.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is an immersive , open-world, RPG filled with adventure, flatulence, and that time-tested sense of parody which has kept the show comical for 16 years.

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