Review: South Park – The Stick of Truth / Publisher: Ubisoft / Platform: XBOX 360, PS3, PC / Release Date: Out Now
Remember all those attempts at making a South Park game? Fans have had to endure snowball first-person shooters, karting spin-offs, tower defence titles and even a mini-game compilation curated by Chef from his Luv Shack. But now with Matt Stone and Trey Parker finally determined to see their obscene universe given video game justice, they have jumped aboard with Obsidian entertainment to write and creatively oversee the RPG epic, South Park: The Stick of Truth.
Luckily for them (and us), it is a move that has yielded wonderful results. The Stick of Truth works not only as an incredibly enjoyable RPG experience, but it might also be the finest use of a creative license in video game history. The town of South Park has been fully realised in an open world, references to episodes litter the environment and you can even summon Jesus to deliver barrages of gunfire against an unborn foetus. It’s everything you’d want from an interactive version of South Park.
The gameplay itself is traditional, yet refreshingly simple, turn-based RPG akin to a Paper Mario title. It cleverly streamlines a lot of the complexities associated with modern games in the genre to focus on the brilliantly absurd humour and plot. You play as a blank slate, a voiceless and customizable South Park character who moves into the town and soon has to start making friends with the locals. After a promotion to “douchebag” status and a few lessons in the art of dragon farts, you’re soon wrapped up in the kids' quest to control the all important stick of truth.
Whether you’re a seasoned RPG player or a genre newbie, you probably won’t find too much of a challenge in The Stick of Truth. The combat is relatively basic and if you explore all the side-quests it doesn’t take long to acquire special weapons and items which slightly overpower most of the enemies in the main story. But whether you’re ripping farts on “the ginger kids” or watching Butters unleash the might of Professor Chaos, it’s an experience that never becomes dull over its concise 13-14 hour campaign.
This is largely because it feels exactly like an episode of South Park. The shoddy animation style, the shuffle movement of the characters and even the show’s transition jingles all feature in The Stick of Truth. Every bedroom closet hides an abundance of references and you’ll smile every time you hear ‘Kyle’s Mom’s A Bitch’ or Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Taco-Flavored Kisses’ playing on a shop radio. The majority of fan favourite characters get at least a little bit of screen time too, from Mr. Hanky’s hilarious domestic issues to Al Gore who’s still ‘super serial’ about hunting ManBearPig.
It perhaps isn’t surprising that South Park: The Stick of Truth might also be the funniest game ever made. Humour has been executed well in games before, as Portal 2 or The Stanley Parable have shown, but nothing has quite achieved the belly laughs on offer here. Matt Stone and Trey Parker haven’t simply written a great extended version of the show, they’ve used it as an opportunity to provide satirical spins on game mechanics and trends that have emerged over the past few years. It’s safe to say, you haven’t faced Nazi zombies quite like these before.
There a few technical issues with slowdown and jugs in the frame rate, but it isn’t enough to stop this being an absolute must-play for any South Park fan. It’s outrageous, filled with unforgettable moments and is a complete blast from beginning to end. While the game's appeal might be lost on the unconverted, this isn’t designed for them. This is for every fan who has ever dreamt about tossing farts at Kyle or calling upon Mr. Slave to violently ingest a homeless man through his anus. If that doesn’t sound like fun, then sorry guys but you’re going home.