Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: South Park: The Stick of Truth (PlayStation 3)

Review by Nick H.

A lot of licensed games feel diluted, like the qualities that made them an interesting property in the first place get lost in the transition from television or book to the gaming console. Maybe it is the idea of trying to add objectives, or coming up with a compelling element to build a game around, but more often than not games built on television shows find up losing their footing and falling on their face along the way.

For anyone who was concerned that would be the case with the new South Park: The Stick of Truth game, rest assured you are getting a fun game that remains very faithful to the source material that inspired it. Finally, someone did licensed games right.

The idea of a role-playing game built on the South Park universe is borderline genius. Dungeons & Dragons is a topic that South Park has touched on in the past, so translating that to the imaginations of fourth graders and all of the ensuing shenanigans works really well. You create a character who is new to South Park and is ordered by his father to go out and make some friends. Mainstays such as Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman of course make their appearance, but plenty of other characters from Butters to Al Gore show up as well.

This one's just for the Aussies, because it's been censored here

Odds are, if you are reading this review, you are a fan of the show. If you find the language, crude humour and sometimes-sensitive topics that South Park covers not to your liking (or worse yet, even uncomfortable) - you will not enjoy this game. I am serious. South Park earned its M rating. Even if your tolerance for being offended is high, if you find juvenile humour like fart jokes a waste of time, you will want to steer clear of this game. The level of crass does vary by region. For example, if you are Australian as our beloved Editor-in-Chief is, you get the screen above instead of some of the game's actual content.

Now that we have established all of that, exactly what is the point of South Park: The Stick of Truth? You take on the role of a new kid who is simply trying to make friends. You will meet people along the way who immediately want to be your friend, while others might ask you to do something for them first. Other characters may require that you have a certain number of friends before they friend you. This all ties into the perk system, which lets you do things like deal extra melee or fart damage in combat.


You earn money and experience through combat, which is in and of itself an interesting mix of turn-based action (because as Cartman proclaims early on, that is how they did it in the Middle Ages) and timed button presses (for dealing attacks or blocking). The system is very basic as you only have a party of two characters, but there is enough skill and equipment progression to keep things from bogging down.

The voice acting and graphics are perfect representations of the show, which is what this game feels like - an extended episode. As far as RPG titles go, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a somewhat short experience. A dozen or so hours will get you through the primary storyline as well as just about all of the side quests. There is some replay value to be had here, as you do get to make a plot choice partway through the game of some minor importance, and there are four different classes you can choose from also. Hunting for Chinpokomon, opening all of the garage doors, earning a trophy for letting Kenny die ten times in combat (you had to see one like that coming, right?) and more give you plenty of reason to give it a second go - especially if you missed some things the first time through.


If there is a complaint to level at South Park beyond the somewhat short running time, it is that there are some technical hiccups with the performance here and there. A day one update helps to smooth out some of them, but there are a lot of loading screens and the visuals get a bit skittish when transitioning from one part of the town to another. Hardly a deal killer, but it can feel a little disruptive from time to time.

Maybe this just says more about me and my sense of humour, but I had a fantastic time with the game. Being "the new kid" and trying to fit in is also a theme a lot of people can relate to, and finding humour in it is probably the best way to look back at our experiences of it. Our own reality is probably a lot less exciting than what you find in snowy South Park, but The Stick of Truth provides an excellent forum for some social commentary while giving you an actual game to play. The RPG elements hold up their end of the bargain and the production values lifted right off of the show will make any fan of the series feel right at home.


- Nick H
 US Editor
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