Come on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine! That is exactly what we will do, in the 6th South Park game to date. Previous titles have been average to pretty bad since the first title in 1998, but this one has had a lot more hands on work by the show’s creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, meaning it should be the most faithful representation of the show yet.
What impresses most about Stick of Truth, is that at first glance, it is indistinguishable from the TV show, the visuals, the animations and the voice acting are a perfect match to the what you will see on TV. The show has a very distinct style and it is recreated here to an absolute tee. From the very first moment, you are drawn in to the game and the world around thanks to iconic look and feel.
In older games, developers have tried to make the game 3D, which doesn’t match up at all with what South Park is, or others have kept the 2D feel, but used a fair bit of creative license which has meant that, even though it is a South Park game, you can tell straight away, that it is a game, based on the show.
Here though, this feel like an extension of the show and much like South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut, a natural progression to the the South Park world. When the movie was released, it felt like it was the right medium at the right time and despite potential for a second movie (just look at some of the 3 parters they have done over the years) Matt and Trey haven’t gone for that. Doing a game at this time just feels right and in the overall timeline of South Park, it is an ideal fit.
The game itself should be something fans of the show should pick up on, using themes based on the characters dressing up as mythical characters, that are influenced by the likes of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and the like. The story here is that you play a new kid in town and are thrust into a battle between human and elves for the mystical Stick of Truth. You are introduced to Cartman very early on, who asks your name. It is here that the first bit of South Park humour comes to the surface, no matter what you enter, you will be known as Douchebag, it is both funny and takes a small swipe at usual RPG elements. You then set up your class from one of four options, including Jew and given some basic battle training.
It is from there you must set off on your journey, making your way around the vast map, as you complete a series of quests. We say vast map, but it in realist is a map of South Park itself, but again, using known elements of the show, the boy’s imaginations see it as more than the small mountain town and despite the relatively small size of the map, it never feels over used, nor boring. Early quests are design mainly to give you a tour of the town and teach you the various game mechanics, as well as introducing the various characters.
Gameplay itself is far from groundbreaking, battles are a traditional turn based affair, based primarily on games like Paper Mario. You chose an attack and hit a well timed button to deal maximum damage. Use the same timed button press to defend attacks and potentially counter an attack. There are various potions that can be used to heal or revive during battle, again nothing that you wouldn’t have seen before.
Battles aren’t exactly taxing either, save for the odd boss, but that really doesn’t matter, as much of this is about the story and the humour. So with that in mind, the battle segments are generally well paced, the only issue is that they do at times become a hindrance as you move round the map completing quests, because of their ease. However, that is a mild hindrance, rather than something that destroys the experience.
Getting around town on foot is more than worth it, for the well placed references to all things South Park, from characters, posters, hidden items and musical cues, such as Kyle’s Mum’s a B***h, to Blame Canada, the well known songs are all there and are a joy to listen to, bringing back memories from the show’s history. Even side-quests will reference known stories from the past and are cleverly intertwined within the game.
Despite the size of the map, you aren’t limited to walking everywhere, as there are some very generous quick travel options, as Timmy will come and take you from one part of the map to the other in double quick time. Again this is a great use of the South Park humour and a little swipe at traditions RPG mechanics, as really, you don’t need the quick travel to get anywhere and overall it saves little time at all.
For some reason, content in the PAL regions were cut from the game (you’re safe in the US), that adds up to a couple of minutes gameplay time in total. Whilst it is a shame that content aimed at adults has to be cut from a game that has been made for adults and given the relevant age rating, it allows Matt & Trey to use some of their creativeness to add in some censored screens, that actually may be more amusing than the content censored anyway. However it is 2014 and we are adults and content shouldn’t be cut from one region and not another, but that is a discussion for another day.
On consoles there are a couple of technical niggles, that should have been ironed out, considering the delays, however they are there. Again, it is nothing game breaking, but as you walk around the map the frame-rate will drop occasionally, especially when running, some animations during battles may get trapped in a loop, but again this is very rare. It is just a shame that they are there.
There are probably around 15-16 hours of game play just following the main story, which feels well balanced, as there is no way the humour here would work over a 40-50 hour campaign. The pacing is pretty much spot on, however, should you want to explore and do more the the side quests, find the little treats dotted around the game, then you can extend your time by a good few extra hours.
This isn’t a game for everyone, it is one that can be enjoyed by many, but it will be fans of the show itself, that will get most satisfaction from the game. Someone who hasn’t really watched may not get half the references, especially the recent ‘Black Friday Trilogy’ that acted as a bit of a setup for the game, but fans will lap up everything on offer and have a wonderful time during their stay in the quite mountain town.