Developer: Obsidian Entertainment and South Park Digital Studios
Platform: PlayStation 3 (reviewed)
North American Release Date: March 4 2014
European Release Date: March 7 2014
Trophies: 1| 3| 5| 42
Trophy Guide: South Park: The Stick of Truth Trophy Guide by ooga and Vettes
What Is It?: An absurd send-up of RPG titles, and gaming in general, shaped in a way only the creators of South Park could get away with.
If It Splashes, It Means You Get a Free Wish
Games based on TV shows are rarely anything more than competent at best. Think 24: The Game, or The Simpson's Hit N' Run -those are the good examples. It gets into murkier realms beyond that, you only have to look as far as 2013's The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct to know how slapdash and downright broken TV adaptations can be. South Park: The Stick Of Truth, however, is not only a detailed letter of love to the source material; it's a fine game in its own right.
The game opens with Cartman recalling a tale of a power struggle between Humans and Drow Elves for the titular Stick Of Truth. This is of course, part of the big 'Role Playing Game' the boys of South Park are playing, with Cartman heading up the Humans in the Kingdom of Kupa Keep (or KKK for short, naturally), while Kyle rules the Elves. Your character turns up as the new kid in town, a silent protagonist who, thanks to an amusing riff on character naming options, will be affectionately titled 'Douchebag' for the remainder of the game.
I don't remember learning a spell this way before
Beyond your initial recruitment into the ranks of the KKK, as they begin a mission to retrieve The Stick from the Elves, the plot takes many absurd, crude turns along the way. You will go from fighting hobos in sewers, to uncovering a conspiracy involving Taco Bell, and covering many more particularly distasteful (but funny) shenanigans in-between.
It's a trademark South Park experience, full of outrageous situations and sweary children, one that fans of the show will find to be indistinguishable from an actual episode in quality terms, throughout play, it looks, and feels, and sounds like you are participating in the actual show. Plus it sprinkles on a broad sum of the series' history to give those fans plenty of knowing nods and winks. There are a couple of jokes that seem like they're trying too hard to be offensive rather than funny though, sadly, and while the 'censored' parts in the EU/Austrailian version of the game are no doubt in a similar vein, they are ultimately funnier in reference than they were shown visually.
The Stick Of Truth also overtly mocks many of gaming's lazier traits (Including a running joke about a certain well worn theme in recent gaming history), while still paying fond homage to the medium in general (Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the series creators, have stated that Earthbound was a major influence on making this game). All in all, the plot's humour helps drive you to keep playing just to see what crass, silly nonsense will occur next. Trust me, there's plenty that does.
Never Fart on Another Man's Balls
Happily, the actual gameplay is solid enough to warrant your gratification on its own. The basic setup being that of an RPG, with leveling up, turned-based combat, party members, summons, item management and all the other tropes you'd find within a regular 2D Role Player. The Stick Of Truth does all these things well enough, adding a distinctly South Parktwist to the formula. It doesn't pull up any trees in gameplay terms, but does compliment the shows' low-fi, simplistic, presentation.
The menu system is done through your character's Facebook page, keeping tabs on the residents of the Colarado town you have made friends with in amusing status updates. Of course, there are the customisation options, map screen and skill trees present too, not dissimilar to the sort you'd find in other role playing games, but again, adding a disgusting twist on the genre standards. This is best shown in adding enchantments ( named patches and strap-ons here) to clothing and weapons you've collected. In this case, you are likely to deal in equipping, say, a Ginger Pubes mod, that grosses out the enemy on contact, to your weapon. Basically, that amounts to a traditonal 'corrosive' attack, it's just that they give some hilariously crass names to them instead. The skill tree also pitch in with a delightfully silly set of names to normal perks and upgrades as well, all this fits perfectly with the tone of the series.
Any quest you take on can lead to confrontations with all sorts of factions
The turn-based combat is made more involving with Q.T.E. button prompts and stick-waggling, used to deliver more damage on magic, melee and ranged attacks as well as reducing the impact of any coming your way. Misstiming these prompts badly enough will see your offence barely nick one or two hit points off enemies. It's a welcome system for keeping you on your toes, rather than sleepwalking through each minor battle. The gleeful stupidity of using such weapons as a plastic phallus and your own faecal matter to take down Ginger Hall Monitors will, if you are anything like me, keep you mildly amused during each encounter as well. Generally, everything runs pretty smoothly, there's an odd bug or two, like where your character starts moving by themselves on occasion, and some limited slowdown occurs during some area transitions, but it's nothing damning or game destroying, more of a minor inconvenience.
The sacrifice for the quality of the script, and attention to detail of the world, manifests itself in a relatively small playing area and a somewhat brief running time for an RPG. While still meaty at around 15-20 hours, there isn't an awful lot left to do once you've got through the finale, and the world is pretty much fully explored during the progress of the story, diminishing the appeal of returning. Despite that, it could be argued that a shorter game keeps the pacing and quality at the right level. You may be disappointed by the length, but I doubt you'd be left unsatisfied by what you get.
South Park is not a huge place, but it is filled with the show's expansive history.
The Trophy List should be a relatively simple one to conquer if you plan accordingly. At worst, you'll have to play it twice if you don't grab some of the missable trophies first time, but you should easily be halfway to the Plat before the end of your initial run.
Screw You Guys, I'm Summarising.
Managing, for the most part, to be both a genuinely funny game based on a TV show, and an enjoyable gameplay experience, South Park: The Stick Of Truth deserves praise for achieving what many others have failed so miserably at (including South Park itself in the past). It doesn't do quite enough to warrant replaying over and over and is brief for the genre it occupies, but at least fills its time with plenty of crude humour, solid RPG turned-based combat and roaming, and an absurd plot that pushes the taste boundaries to places other big titles wouldn't dream of venturing to.
Fans will lap up the attention to detail and overall feel of authenticity, while anyone with a mild interest in either the show and/or the genre will probably chuckle at most of the jabs at gaming's expense whilst enjoying a heartfelt mocking take on RPGs.
My Verdict: 8.5/10 - Play it!
Gameplay: 8.5 - Does everything you would expect of a turn-based RPG, whilst layering it with the infamous South Park style. The only downside to that is that turn-based combat is somewhat repetitive by nature. Thankfully, the injection of humour, and filthy imagination, into these long-in-the-tooth mechanics makes for a more entertaining experience.
Technical: 8.5 - Perfectly captures the look and sound of the show. The framerate has its issues on occasion, and the odd harmless bug turns up, but nothing that really hinders your enjoyment of the game.
Longevity: 8 - Not particularly long for an RPG, but delivers a strong 15 hours at least from your initial playthrough. Beyond that comes down to how much you love South Park and/or collecting things. It does well to not feel padded out as it is, so you could easily forgive such a lean run-time.
Select Critics' Scores
Games Master UK - 9/10: Shameless, hilarious and surprisingly complex - an essential purchase for RPG and show fans.
Game Informer - 8.5/10: All the fart jokes and Chinpokomon references in the world wouldn’t mean anything if the gameplay weren’t up to snuff, but The Stick of Truth manages to impress as a game on top of being frequently hilarious.
Telegraph - 8/10: Stick of Truth features some of the most daring and explicit writing ever seen in a mainstream video game and it more than makes up for its by-the-numbers gameplay.
PlayStation Official Magazine UK - 8/10: Brimming with some of the best dialogue and characters in a game, The Stick Of Truth is only let down by needless framerate issues and a lack of additional locations beyond South Park itself.
Like These? The Stick of Truth Might Be For You.
South Park (TV show)
The Simpsons Game (PS3)
Futurama: The Game (PS2)
Final Fantasy I-VI (Various)
Nazi and/or Zombies (Various sources)