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South Park: The Stick of Truth Review: Come On Down To South Park
If you are a fan of South Park and video games, your entertainment choices have been fairly uneven. The N64 had a decent FPS, and while it offered tons of fan service, nothing else about it was particularly memorable. Since then, a number of smaller games, including everything from quiz shows to tower-defense titles, have come and gone, but nothing that has really done the show justice. If you are a fan of South Park and video games, The Stick of Truth is the game you have been waiting for.
The opening hours are a joy. You play as the new kid in town, and after a quick detour into the simple, yet fun, character creation system, you pick your combat class. The Fighter, Mage, Thief and Jew (think cleric) classes all offer unique abilities and gameplay styles, and it warrants separate playthroughs to experience them all. Your parents are anxious to “christen” the new house, so they send you out into the sleepy mountain town to make some friends. Almost immediately, you encounter Butters, who introduces you to the game all the kids in town are playing.
Despite the humor and immaturity of the show (which are both here in full force), The Stick of Truth is a very good RPG, with deep combat mechanics and a wealth of strategic options. At first I was sad to learn you can only have one party member at a time, but you can swap between them on the fly (even in combat), and it works well within the parameters of the game. Weapon customization, perks, skill trees; it’s all here, and a joy to explore. Different weapons and armor carry a vast array of unique skills and cosmetic designs, and I was constantly looking for ways to optimize my loadout.
If you aren’t familiar with the show, it would probably at least behoove you to watch the Black Friday trilogy of episodes, but superfans (like myself) will be amazed at the number of references and callbacks to the show’s 18-year run that Obsidian has managed to sneak into The Stick of Truth. If you have ever seen a character, heard a song or noticed a recurring bit, chances are it made it into the game. I couldn’t help but chuckle at hearing “Something in My Front Pocket” while inside a shop, or trying to open Stan’s closet only to hear Tom Cruise say that he’s never coming out.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s fingerprints are all over this game, and that is what makes it special. In addition to providing all the actual voices, their influence did wonders for nailing the series trademark sarcastic, over-the-top humor. Like the show, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Randy Marsh goes through some particularly horrifying (and graphic) moments, and the game absolutely nails it when it decides to break the fourth wall. In addition to providing the familiar South Park laughs, the video game references and jokes are even better. Usually, I hate self-aware jokes (Oh look, he is making fun of a valve puzzle while doing a valve puzzle), but I laughed out loud at some of those jokes done here. I urge you to try to shirk your duty of fighting the (perfect) last boss, as it is worth the laugh.
Everywhere you look there is another joke or something to do. Classic memorabilia is scattered everywhere, and most every main character can be found eventually. Some, like Mr. Hanky and Jesus, can even be summoned into regular battles, and just wait until you obtain a passport and visit Canada. Parker and Stone translate their humor perfectly to gaming, and if you really want to know what they think about their TV awards, well, just take a trip into the sewers of South Park.
Perhaps more than anything though, Obsidian makes travelling around South Park a blast. Gated-off areas beg you to come back later with enhanced powers, but most of the town is open to explore from the beginning. There are a small number of sidequests to accomplish, but a ton of clever environmental puzzles to beat. Seeing a hard-to-reach treasure chest, or finding a hidden Chinpokomon, is a rush, and these are spread liberally around the town. I wish the town was bigger, because scouring the environment was one of my favorite parts of the game. As is, there is quite a lot to see, but an efficient fast travel system removes much of the time spent journeying (if you so choose).
The game’s length has been talked about a bunch, and you can draw your own conclusions there. I did everything but mop up the last few collectibles (which I could have done thanks to the handy map), and clocked out at about fifteen hours. The multiple classes and a hardcore difficulty help a bit in this regard, but there is no denying I was hungry for more, which is also a testament to how much I enjoyed playing it.
Still, I wouldn’t let the length deter you from picking this gem up. It would be a good and hilarious game if you had never even heard of the show, but for fans it is a must-play. In the words of the immortal Les Claypool, “Come on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine.