South Park: The Stick of Truth Review
developer: Obsidian Entertainment
|ESRB rating: n/a
release date: Mar 04, 14
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Ten minutes into playing South Park: The Stick of Truth, I'm looking over my class selection which includes a Jew and wondering why I thought I could give my character any other name besides "Douchebag." This is South Park; of course I'm going to be called Douchebag. That's me, Douchebag the Jew. My character is wielding a shepherd's crook and wearing a yarmulke. Kids are yelling more f-bombs than I think I heard in Spec Ops: The Line, if that's possible. Cartman is teaching me how to "cast spells" a/k/a fart on dummies.This is South Park, and if you get offended easily, just walk away now. Like the TV show, this game isn't, and never will be for you. And that's just the start of how wonderful this game is.
The mighty fortress stands!
Suck my balls!!
Like most RPGs, the main story isn't entirely the strong point. It centers on elementary school kids LARPing, humans versus elves fighting over who can keep the Stick of Truth, an instrument that can control the universe. Players take control of the New Kid a/k/a Douchebag who just moved into town and gets caught up in the LARPfest as he tries to make new friends. But of course, in good South Park fashion, nothing remains that simple for long. The New Kid gets tormented by anal-probing aliens, Underpants Gnomes, and Al Gore. Strangely enough, everyone, even those who aren't LARPing, falls into the set turn-based combat that the kids are utilizing to be "medieval and stuff."
Yes, the gameplay is turn-based, and the South Park characters make fun of that quite often. In the tutorial, Clyde remarks that it's stupid, and Cartman agrees. If you take too long to make a decision when it's your party's turn, characters will comment how bored they are and they wish they were watching TV at home. The combat is just the beginning of the game mechanics and features the characters make fun of. Nothing is sacred and nearly every typical game element can be found within, from door puzzles to memory mini-games to summoning help in battle to Nazi Zombies.
That's why the game is enjoyable and the hours just slip away while playing; it's not because of the story or the gameplay, but the over-the-top humor, parody, and numerous references from the TV show and movie. It all comes together in a way that's so delightfully South Park. Where else can you complete a side quest asking to collect nuggets of poo for Mr. Hankey, fight off the Mongorians (not a misspelling) for the owner of City Wok, and hunt for the illusive Manbearpig and have it make complete sense within the universe?
Obsidian and South Park Studios created one of the best South Park experiences a fan could ever have. Playing the game is like being a part of a 15-hour episode, but not all of it translates smoothly into actual gameplay. For instance, all of the fart abilities are manipulated with the analog sticks, and the tutorials for these are quite frustrating. When the game teaches how to fart (I can't believe I just wrote that), the direction you need to move the analog sticks pops up on the screen. The instructions seem clear, but when trying to apply them, you realize that they're anything but. One particularly frustrating tutorial was for the Squeaky Sneaker. I probably heard Randy Marsh tell me how awful my fart attempt was ten times before I finally flicked the right analog stick correctly. Of course, he didn't just tell me how bad it was; he had to show me once again how to do it, every single time. I could nearly recite his speech by the end.
Home at last.
Everybody say 'cheese'.
I experienced similar timing issues with the button presses during combat as well. With the turn-based combat, players have to press a button at the right moment to inflict Perfect damage or execute a Perfect block. With some of the class-based abilities, particularly the ones that require swiveling the left analog stick, the timing always feels off, even when you nail it perfectly. I always felt like the perfect executions for some of the attacks were culled from luck more than sensing the right rhythm in the button combos.
None of these nit-picks melted my joy for very long. I have been excited about South Park: The Stick of Truth ever since I saw a preview at San Diego Comic Con nearly two years ago. I only saw 20 minutes of gameplay, but I was hooked and I wanted it immediately. Now that I finally have it, I have to say it's been completely worth the wait. In fact, I'm willing to already call it my Game of the Year.
I had heard that Stephen King's Misery was a love letter written to his fans. South Park: The Stick of Truth is a similar love note from Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
8.9 Very Good
Obsidian and South Park Studios fantastically crafted the closest experience we can have with the world of South Park, Colorado;
Some of the button commands for attacks and abilities aren't that fluid, especially those involving the analog sticks.
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