Games like Final Fantasy have set the standard of what it means to be an RPG but South Park may have changed some of those standards with The Stick of Truth. Littered with pop culture references and formatted like a day long episode of the popular show it’s based on, The Stick of Truth manages to warp everything RPG gamers hold holy with the satiric zeal that South Park fans love. While initially the pacing is off-putting, remember, it’s an RPG. There’s some stuff to learn, people to beat up and mailboxes to whack with sticks because that’s what an RPG is even if it’s set in South Park. A great rule of thumb for The Stick of Truth, just settle back and enjoy. That and throw all the rules for RPG styles and storylines out the window. It doesn’t all have to be sweeping landscapes and glorious animations or stoic, gorgeous man-boys. Cloud will never pummel Sephiroth with a five-foot long pulsating pink dildo but the new kid in South Park might so get ready for some dirty forth-grader on forth-grader action.
First though perhaps not most importantly, many thanks to Obsidian and anyone else who had input into the looting system for this game. Countless hours have been spent searching remote locations, pulling up plants, flying around on mystical creatures, obtaining secret maps, and any number of other ridiculous ways RPG’s have of finding special gear, potions and useless collectibles. The Stick of Truth makes it simple. There are four ways one can loot. There’s the standard treasure chest whose locations are marked on an in-game map. There’s the ever popular searching of downed foes after combat has ended. Destroying or damaging objects while traversing South Park may result in an item being dropped. Vases, street lamps, boxes, logs, mailboxes, parking meters and many other environmental objects can be destroyed or damaged for items. Last and in true South Park fashion, the new kid can rob people’s homes, offices and shops. In perhaps the most efficient RPG looting mechanic ever, anything lootable is accentuated with gold hardware. No need to check every drawer nook and cranny, if it’s got a gold handle, there’s something to steal.
Though there is a fast travel system it does not take long to get around from one place to another on foot. It’s worth the time to explore South Park as entering random houses will sometimes reward the new kid with, ahem, interesting outcomes.
Another worthwhile perk of exploration, speaking to the citizens of South Park will reward the new kid with friends and unlock quests. It’s beneficial to make as many friends as possible and complete quests early on in the game. In this sense, The Stick of Truth does not play like a typical RPG. Many recent RPG’s and games that have open world exploration have quests and side missions that are not unlocked until the main storyline has been completed. These quests and missions will at best unlock collectibles or achievements and are not designed to enhance main storyline gameplay. Acquiring different numbers of friends in The Stick of Truth serves a dual purpose. First, friends equal perks and perks equal useful advantages in combat such as the ability to revive companions with full health or increased HP. Second, as the new kid makes friends, they appear on an in-game social media page similar to Facebook. Throughout the game, friends will post messages on the new kid’s message board. Don’t expect helpful hints or tips for beating bosses. It’s likely that this feature is included as a satirical commentary on the utter uselessness of Facebook which is just fine because it’s incredibly entertaining and helps immerse the player more fully in the South Park world.
As previously mentioned, side quests should be completed early on. Completing a series of side quests will occasionally reward the player with an incredibly useful combat summon. Mr. Slave, Jesus and the City Wok guy can all be summoned during battle. The end result is the same in every case, complete obliteration of some or all enemies. In addition, each character will accomplish the utter destruction of enemy combatants in highly entertaining ways. Mr. Slave’s attack will be familiar to those who watched a very memorable South Park episode with Paris Hilton. There is a limit of one summon for each unlocked summonable character per day which the characters will explain when they are unlocked. What is not explained is that the new kid must speak with those characters once per in-game day in order to be able to summon them again which is a very important detail.
Combat runs as one would expect from an RPG in terms of mechanics. The new kid has a primary melee weapon and and secondary ranged weapon. Special combat abilities depend on the class of warrior chosen at the beginning of the game. New abilities in the chosen warrior class will be unlocked and can be upgraded throughout the course of the game. The new kid starts with the standard HP meter and a PP meter (it’s okay to giggle, the South Park kids do). Later a special meter is unlocked for the four fart-based abilities the new kid learns throughout the game.
Combat is turn based and is generally fine aside from some big issues with the accessibility of booster items. Turns have two phases, potion or special booster ability depending on the character and attack. The use of potions or boosts is necessary almost every turn which becomes extremely time consuming for multiple reasons. No hot keys can be programmed on the controller for commonly used potions or boosts. Every time the new kid needs some Cheesy Poofs to replenish his health, the player must scroll through a list of all acquired potions and boosts. The other reason the potion system is a fail, multiple different potions that do the same thing. The Stick of Truth would have been fine with one small and one large health potion. Instead, the new kid lugs around three or more different types of small and large health potions. While one large potion may replenish more health than another large health potion the new kid isn’t rocking eleventy billion HP. Multiple types of the same size of potion exist for methane replenishment and other boosters too. Ultimately, the potions list is cluttered with a lot of useless items that cumulatively waste stupid amounts of time in scrolling at the beginning of each turn.
South Park has always had a unique visual style. Characters in the fictional Colorado town lack physical articulation and look like they’re crafted out of construction paper. Landscapes are somewhere in between two dimensional and, well, we really don’t need to explain what South Park looks like. Babies fresh from the womb could probably pick Cartman out of a lineup. That’s how popular the show has become.
Over the seventeen seasons South Park has been on the air, the graphics have seen some polishing and the show looks a little bit cleaner and brighter. How exactly does this translate to video game consoles? Pretty well actually. A new generation of consoles wouldn’t do much to improve the overall graphic feel of the game because the animations of South Park are simple. To that end, the Xbox 360 has no issues whatsoever handling the Stick of Truth’s graphics. Loading times are fairly quick and the game runs smoothly.
The best part about the graphics in the Stick of Truth is that they do a fantastic job of making the player feel like they are playing an episode of South Park. The show’s places and people have been replicated so perfectly in the game that it really feels like the gamer is the new kid in town.
Though South Park has been on the air for what seems like forever it never loses it’s capacity to surprise and entertain. The Stick of Truth is no different. At times it’s laugh out loud hilarious. Sure there have been other games that allow the player to flush or even use a toilet but what game makes a turd a useful combat item? Seriously? Though there is some button mashing involved, successfully dropping a deuce will reward the new kid with a “turd nugget” which can be flung at enemies in combat. Even better than watching a turd sail through the air or the satisfying splat it makes when it lands, turds cause a “gross-out” status ailment. But wait, there’s more. Recipients of these brown beauties will drop to their knees and vomit periodically and also make angry comments though who wouldn’t if they got pelted with a turd. It’s literal toilet humor and it has never been done so well.
Ever invested in the shock factor, there are some jaw-droppingly disturbing moments during gameplay in the main storyline. Without giving too much away, prepare to dodge balls, giant, hairy swinging balls. The abortion clinic portion of the story was twisted in none of the ways one would expect and culminates in a boss battle that is sure to cause controversy. A latter part of the game involves traversing the muddy waters of Mr. Slave’s anus. There are no words for that level. Some mental images cannot be erased and it’s tough not to feel pity for the many, many adorable and surprisingly eloquent creatures that have been shoved up Mr. Slave’s bum.
Some bits of gameplay test the perversity of the gamer which is just fine. Those that are easily offended or possess a gentle sense of humor shouldn’t buy or play this game. Then again, people who check those boxes wouldn’t anyways. Perversity is sometimes its own, extremely entertaining reward. A level on an alien ship involves rescuing Randy Marsh from involuntary probing at the hands or rather, giant mechanized dildos, of rectally curious extraterrestrials. Throughout the level, the new kid encounters consoles that require pushing glowing buttons in the correct sequence A.K.A. Simon. Failure to enter the correct sequence will result in Randy being anally punished which is easily visible via a screen that pops up when the console is accessed. Randy Marsh is, well, a huge douche so if some wrong buttons got pushed intentionally and repeatedly…
Set aside some snacks some energy drinks and an empty cup. Just kidding about that last part, kind of. It’ll take twenty or so hours to complete the main storyline and The Stick of Truth will be hard to turn off. Despite some combat issues, South Park’s latest game is worth the wait and the $59.99 price tag. Fans of the show can finally satisfy their curiosity about what it would be like to actually live in that kooky Colorado town so come on down to South Park and meet the new kid.