South Park: The Stick of Truth for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
It’s really nice when a game comes out and it’s exactly what you hoped it would be. I’m a long time South Park fan, getting into the show at an inappropriately young age. The movie is a solid contender for my favourite of all time. So…yeah, I love South Park. I also love RPGs. South Park: The Stick of Truth is not only great South Park, that was pretty much guaranteed, it’s a pretty damn solid RPG too.
In Stick of Truth you play as a new kid moving to South Park, who is almost immediately caught up in an epic play-fantasy war between Eric Cartman’s Kupa Keep Klub (the KKK) and Kyle Brofloski’s elven horde. This being South Park, the children’s games escalate quickly to ridiculous levels, becoming caught up in a wide ranging government conspiracy.
Look, Stick of Truth is essentially a 12 hour episode of South Park. If that thought horrifies you, this game won’t be for you, and we’ll probably never be friends. Stick of Truth is absolutely packed with references to classic characters and episodes, and is a real love letter to the long-time South Park fan. Pretty much every classic character makes an appearance, with my only real sadness being the lack of Satan and Saddam Hussein. Stick of Truth, being South Park, goes to some weird and disgusting places. Like, worse than the show. Matt and Trey really pulled out all the stops on this one. One of my favourite regular pieces of shtick in South Park is treating the silly or ridiculous with insane gravity, and it was these moments which I most enjoyed.
Visually, it looks like South Park. What else is there to say? That ‘crappy but actually really good’ art is completely intact, and there are moments you’d think you’re watching the show. The voice acting is performed entirely by the regular cast, so…mainly Matt and Trey. The amount of dialogue, both in the story but also in incidental dialogue, is extensive, and it’s brilliant to see that Matt and Trey did not skimp in this regard. The music is great too, both in call backs from the show to the Skyrim-esque main theme which plays as you explore the town. The biggest irritation was that the dialogue would regularly get out of synch with the animation in cutscenes, before snapping back. This happened far too often to be just a mild annoyance.
Stick of Truth could probably have gotten away with bad gameplay, and got by on the strength of its writing and style. It doesn’t though! The gameplay is a lot of fun, largely influenced by Paper Mario. In fact, Stick of Truth is the best Paper Mario game since The Thousand Year Door! The battling is turn based, but with timed button presses and mini-games integrated. There are four classes, fighter, mage, thief or…Jew. I, of course, went for Jew. They don’t affect your gameplay a huge amount, but they each have some fun special abilities. Joining you for most battles is a companion, which can be switched (usually) at will. You can choose from Butters, Kenny, Jimmy, Stan, Kyle and Cartman, and each have different abilities and special moves. Each turn you can use an item and an attack move (a melee, ranged, special attack or magic aka farts), making things incredibly easy. I didn’t die in combat once. Still, it’s fundamentally fun to play, and that’s what we’re actually here for right?
Outside of combat there’s a fair bit of exploring to do, but it’s obviously not quite on the scale of Obsidian’s other RPGs. Still, being able to actually walk from one end of South Park to the other is an undeniable thrill for long-time fans. Like with Paper Mario, the environments are more reactive than your typical RPG, and there’s often hidden things to do and interact with. One of my favourite ideas is that you can use the environment outside of combat to take out waiting enemies before battle even begins. It’s not particularly intricate or anything, but it’s a nice, fun, satisfying mechanic. There’s a fair bit of customisation in the weapons and armour your character can equip, and both can also be upgraded. There is a half-baked usage of companions outside of battle to perform particular task, but it’s used very rarely and feels bolted on.
Stick of Truth isn’t Obsidian’s lengthiest game, but there’s still plenty of stuff to do. The main campaign is the perfect length, and there are a fair few really cool side quests. Sure, a lot of them are very much ‘go here, kill x’ affairs, but when its South Park characters it’s hard to be annoyed. There are plenty of collectibles, for those that way inclined, from Chinpokomon to Facebook friends. Stick of Truth doesn’t outstay its welcome, and is a master class in videogame pacing.