South Park: The Stick of Truth Review – A Game About Kids Being Kids (PlayStation 3)

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I can remember when South Park: The Stick of Truth was first announced and I knew right then and there, this was a game I had to play. The main reason was that this was a South Park game that looked exactly like the television show. It had all the same art assets, the same voice acting, and the story seemed like it would be a faithful recreation of what South Park was known for. After 2+ years in development with various publishing issues and delays, what you see here is the finished product of what is the best South Park game ever created. In fact, this may even be one of the best RPG’s of the year.

Strong Warning: South Park: The Stick of Truth, despite being a game about children being children, it’s definitely not really a game you want your kids to play or watch you play. Although the game could be fun for them, the fact that there is tons of adult language, violence, and sexual scenes makes this a game you’ll want to keep them away from until they are old enough to understand what it all means.

Story

South Park: The Stick of Truth has you playing as the “new kid” in town instead of one of the main characters. You have just moved to South Park after some “mysterious” events that your parents don’t want to talk about and must make new friends to pass the time. On your quest for friendship, you meet all your favorite characters from the show. You come to find that many of the children are engaged in a giant role-playing scenario in which two factions are fighting over the possession of the Stick of Truth, those of the Kingdom of Kupa Keep (KKK) and The Elves. The Kingdom of Kupa Keep is being led by Eric Cartman while The Elves are being led by Kyle Broflovsk. It has a very “Lord of the Rings” feel to it which seems appropriate for an RPG.

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As the new kid, you’ll first meet up with Cartman and his KKK. He’ll teach you how to use most of your moves as well as give you your name that you’ll be known as for the rest of the game. He’ll explain what The Stick of Truth is and during an early battle it gets stolen by The Elves. You go on a huge quest to try and retrieve the Stick of Truth from The Elves only to discover that the KKK may not be what they appear to be. You are given a choice to remain loyal to the KKK or join up with The Elves. Of course this wouldn’t be South Park if there wasn’t a huge twist and by golly, there is.

I won’t give away the rest of the story as it’s a main plot line but I will tell you that there sure is plenty to like when it comes to the rest of what’s going on in South Park. There are tons of side quests you can do and while they may not all seem related, they actually are. The story is like that too where it kind of jumps around all over the place and it almost feels like you are playing several episodes of South Park at once, but the story all intertwines with each other creating something that is truly epic.

I’ll just leave you with the official trailer below so you can get a small taste of what to expect from the game. It’s best if I not tell you too much as this is a game that must be experienced with a clean slate without knowing much of what to expect. There is actually a lot more to the story in South Park: The Stick of Truth that I didn’t mention and in my opinion, it’s best that I don’t tell you about it.

What I will say is that South Park: The Stick of Truth is brilliantly written for those who are fans of the show. There are so many inside jokes that pop up, making this game a real treat for fans who have followed the show all these years.  You’ll find references from past and present characters as well as many of the episodes throughout its controversial run. It’s all here. If you’re worried about the length of the game, don’t be. there are plenty of side missions along with the main quest to keep you busy for weeks.

Gameplay

At the heart of South Park: the Stick of Truth is a rather deep RPG system, though you couldn’t really tell upon first glance. However as you play, you’ll discover that you can do many thing that you’d expect in a more traditional RPG. For instance, you can customize your character’s base look as well as the clothing and accessories he wears. There are tons of wearable items that can be found throughout the game and each has its own stats that can affect a characters strengths. The same goes for weapons. These are found or won during combat and can be equipped before each battle. Weapons too have their own stats so you’ll want to choose higher level weapons as you progress. Both weapons and clothing can be augmented with “powers” using attachments. This gives the weapons the ability to inflict elemental damage such as fire, electricity, ice, and “sickness.”

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Moving around the world looks very 2-dimentional, though you’ll find that there is actually quite a bit of depth and you’ll be able to move in 3-dimensions. Although the world in which South Park inhabits may look 2D, you’ll have to train yourself to think of it in 3D if you really want to get the most out of it. The world itself if you look at the map doesn’t seem huge at first, but for the world of South Park, it’s pretty big. You’ll encounter many of the places you’ve become familiar with on the show and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the entire town is actually there. Almost every building you come across can be entered and explored and even the surrounding forest areas can be entered, though you may want to avoid those at the beginning if you don’t want to get lost. It’s called the Lost Forest for a reason. As you progress through the game, you’ll even be able to visit areas outside of South Park making the game even larger than you thought.

South Park: The Stick of Truth has a very traditional RPG like fighting system. It’s turn based so which means that each side will take turns attacking. The difference here is that when it’s your turn, you can use items and heal or use special abilities before attacking. That means in some instances, you can actually make two moves per turn. Since you usually roam the game with a partner, he too will take a turn after you’ve taken yours. You can attack using your melee weapon, ranged weapon, magic, or special abilities. Your companion can do the same or you can choose to swap companions, but that will use up a turn in the process. When you attack, it isn’t all automatic either. You are given a choice of normal or strength attacks and must press the corresponding buttons when told to do so. Otherwise what happens is if you miss the cue, your attacks will be very weak.

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After you’ve taken your turn, the enemy side takes theirs. here, when they attack, you can block them in order to reduce the damage as long as you do it at the optimal time when they tell you. This helps defend against all attacks including special attacks that can cause increased damage. The fighting system in the game is actually quite good and very interactive so it never feels boring as you must participate in order to have the best outcome.

If you’ve played other RPG’s before, than you know that random battles are pretty much a given. In South Park: The Stick of Truth, they are here too, but the game allows you to tip the outcome of the battle in your favor before the battle even begins. For instance, you can fart on your enemies before engaging them in order to inflect them with “gross” as well as shoot them with your ranged weapon to put them in a stunned state for 1 move. If you’re clever, you can even use the environment to your advantage where it’s possible to beat them without even engaging in a battle. Of course if you don’t want to battle, you can always just run away which works too.

Graphics and Sound

Here is where the game really shines. Unlike previous South Park games, The Stick of Truth looks exactly like the television show. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of art assets came directly from the show itself. It has the same 2D cardboard cutout style as the show and that’s what makes the game really good. Playing the game feels like you’re watching the show, but your able to interact with it and determine its outcome. Everything looks exactly like the show, the characters, the background environments, the whole feel of it is replicated exactly.

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The same goes for the audio and sound in the game. Many, if not all of the character voice acting is done by the same exact people who voice the show. The music is the same way with the same composer who created all the show’s score creating all the music for the game too.

Both the combination of the graphics and audio helps make this one of the most authentic South Park games ever. Of course this is all because the show’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Park helped oversee development and had lots of creative input when the game was being made.

Not everything is quite perfect though. I did encounter some frame rate drops and slow downs in certain parts of the game, for example the playground area. Also I did encounter a couple graphical glitches where the colors turned all funky. Other than that, it’s still a great looking game. Slow downs and frame rate drops though were the main issues.

Final Thoughts

How faithful is South Park: The Stick of Truth to the television show? Very. That means that although this is a game about children being children, it’s definitely not a game you want your own kids to be playing. There are tons of parts in the game that just are suitable for kids despite how funny these moments might be to me as an adult. I’d say about a good 90% of the game isn’t suitable while the other 10% is just fart jokes that they’ll find funny. I still wouldn’t let them play those parts.

If you manage to keep your kids from watching you play, you’ll find that South Park: The Stick of Truth is an awesome RPG, despite the fact that this might not be what you would traditional think and RPG would be. The storyline is fantastic and engaging, the humor is spot on and hasn’t been toned down for the game at all, and the inclusion of all the characters and original voice actors makes this an authentic experience for fans of the show. It really is one of the best licensed games I’ve ever played that was based on a television show.

If you’re a fan of the show, you owe it to yourself to play South Park: The Stick of Truth. Though it may not be on “next gen” consoles, that shouldn’t stop you from playing what is arguably one of the best RPG’s of the year. What I think fan will really like is that even if you’re not a fan of RPG games, South Park: The Stick of Truth makes playing an RPG fun. The combat is engaging, the story is perfection, and most importantly, it’s just a super fun game to play.

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