Only in the town of South Park, Colorado, would it be unsurprising that an alien anal probe granted the power of teleportation. If there was ever any doubt that Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s satirical, gross-out comedy would transition to a videogame well, then said doubters should be ashamed - the presence of the TV show’s creators has ensured the release of a genuinely funny game. Probing anal cavities is just the tip of the iceberg though: The Stick of Truth is packed with a hilarious story that revolves around you - the new kid.
Foretold by the grand wizard Cartman to have a mystical power, the new kid arrives in the small mountain town amidst a war between the humans and elves. Led by Cartman and Kyle respectively, you’re recruited by the former to take back the Stick of Truth - a weapon [Stick] that grants its wielder control over the universe - from the pointy-eared elves.
In true South Park fashion, the kids’ epic adventure is juxtaposed by a narrative involving alien goo that’s turning the town’s residents into Nazi zombies. There’s no wonder Germany slapped a big ‘BANNED’ label on a local release.
But us Europeans should just be happy that we got a release at all… right? By now, you already know about the censorship that TSoT has been subjected to outside of America, and the only further explanation you need is that it’s moronic. Sure, the cutscenes in question are vulgar and crass, but given the nature of the source material, the decision is baffling. Apparently, shrinking yourself so you can crawl up a guy’s arse is far worse than carrying out a mock abortion on a dude. But this isn’t Ubisoft’s fault. Obsidian (the developers) have dealt with having their hands tied in a mocking and funny manner; and haven’t allowed it to spoil the fun that TSoT promises. And holy Cheesy Poofs is TSoT fun.
On par with the excellent writing is the authentic feel of the quaint little town, and what you can do in it. Not quite sandbox but far from linear, you’re able to explore the layout of Colorado’s most famous town to your heart’s content. From relocating hobos to helping Al Gore find ManBearPig, you don’t have to look far for references to the TV series, and the multiple side missions are varied enough to make you want to do them, if only for the rib-tickling dialogue.
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll find yourself engaged in the throwback, turn-based combat system, and as many have expected, it’s very much an RPG-lite affair. Upon your arrival at Cartman’s Kupa Keep stronghold, you choose between Warrior, Mage, Thief or Jew, and apart from the different skills each class has, there isn’t a huge difference between them: items aren’t class specific.
Magic too, is universal, granting the power of flatulence. This runs off your mana bar instead of the PP (power points) that your skills use, with more buttock clenchers being unlocked as you progress through the story.
There’s no shortage of humorous ways to dispatch foes in battle - especially with the unique abilities that your buddy (party member) has access to - but there’s little room for customisation in terms of stat progression. Each class has access to five abilities, which are unlocked as you level up, meaning there’s no skill trees or alternate paths, just linear power increases. There are passive buffs (perks) to unlock by making friends with the town’s residents, but this too is an identical list for every class.
Again, the revelation isn’t surprising or even unexpected, and if the diluted mechanics detracted from the enjoyment, there would be a problem… but they don’t. TSoT won’t be winning over any hardcore RPG fans, but then, it doesn’t need to - this is, after all, a love letter to fans of the TV show.
The result may be a game that’s a little too easy to beat, but at the end of the day, TSoT is damn good fun. At around fifteen hours to conquer, some may be put off by the AAA price tag, but in no way does Obsidian’s effort ever feel like it isn’t worth your time. This is, by a very clear margin, the most authentic South Park experience you’ll ever play.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
The Stick of Truth may be a little light on challenging gameplay, but the simple yet fun RPG mechanics, coupled with writing that matches the TV series in satiric gold, makes this the best South Park game you’ll play for a very, very long time.