The funniest RPG ever made
gameplay 90 / story 95 / graphics 95 / sound 95
Bring up South Park to people, and you’ll get a pretty mixed response. On the one hand, it’s one of the most irreverent, disgusting, most insulting TV shows ever to disgrace the small screen. On the other hand—which is the side I’m on—it’s a wonderfully written satire that refuses to pull punches or take sides on modern issues, instead allowing people to see just how ridiculous their actions are, and in doing so allows us to be better for it. And this is in spite of the gross, shocking, and often insensitive jokes the show loves to dish out. So why hasn’t a game of South Park that matches its level of satire and humor and makes it into a good game? Nobody knows, but one thing is certain. South Park: The Stick of Truth is the definitive South Park gaming experience. The humor is there in full force without censorship (well, almost), the gameplay is fun and in keeping with the general tone of the show, and most of all you feel like you’re a part of this insane little Colorado town.
The premise is simple: the boys of South Park are LARPing (Live Action Role Play) throughout town instead of playing video games—imagine that ever happening in these modern times. The humans, led by Eric Cartman, are locked in an epic war with the Drowe Elves, led by Kyle Broflovski. Their goal is simple: obtain and hang onto the Stick of Truth, which is quite literally a stick they found somewhere for the sake of the game. Whoever controls the stick controls the universe, and both sides are continuously fighting for the thing in a fantasy role-playing manner, complete with changing rules and various fantasy tropes. You play as the new kid in South Park, a silent character that you can customize to look as close to your South Park counterpart as you want him to be. His coming was apparently foretold because of course it was, and his arrival sets off a series of events into motion that only South Park would be as bold as to show.
To say anything more would be to ruin several in-show references for long-time fans of the series, as well as the clever and witty writing this game brings to the table. Written by show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, their no-holds-barred approach to satire and humor is no less apparent here than in their original creation. They poke fun at many video game elements, both the good and annoying, as well as a few pop culture references here and there. The story being told here is also well-paced and chock full of numerous laugh-out-loud moments that had me rolling and out of breath as I tried to continue playing the game. Some of the humor doesn’t always hit the mark though, but that’s mostly reserved for gross-out moments involving going inside body parts (no I’m not kidding) and some of the jokes I personally found a little insensitive (again, something to expect from South Park). Nevertheless, it didn’t detract from the overall experience we’re given here.
That’s not the game’s only strength, however. The art style and animation, as well as graphical quality, is on par with the TV show. Now this might be odd, considering the TV show has some of the worst animation quality in the history of TV cartoons–which everyone knows by now doesn’t matter–but that’s the thing. It makes it unique that the game so perfectly emulates the show’s style and atmosphere, making you feel as though you’re a part of the show. I won’t say much else, because if you’ve seen any bit of the show, you know what to expect in terms of how they animate the characters, how they create buildings and scenes, as well as how they voice act the various characters, whom I also won’t discuss because, again, there’s nothing I can say that the show can’t explain for you. Needless to say, these are memorable characters that each have their moment in the spotlight at some point or another.
I’ve said what I could on the visuals and story, so let’s get on with the actual game. The game is a turn-based RPG, and it’s a pretty standard one at that, at least on the surface. You control your character through the town of South Park almost in a side-scrolling fashion, with a few areas where you can go vertically in order to reach new areas or due to the path guiding you through. In each area you encounter, there are many hidden paths and secrets that allow you to find items such as armor, weapons, and various other collectibles. You manage these things in the menu system the game shamelessly just calls Facebook. Here, you can view your equipment, quest status for your various missions and side objectives, collectibles, and also how many friends you’ve made along the way, which can unlock permanent ability perks for every ten friends you make. Each piece of equipment has unique abilities that can benefit specific classes, such as higher armor for the warrior, a higher cash reward yield for the thief, etc. You can further enhance equipment by finding or buying equipment patches and strap-ons (not kidding about the name there), either through searching through drawers and chests or by taking them off fallen enemies.
The combat is basic, but with a surprising amount of depth to it. The game first has you pick from a selection of four classes. There’s the warrior, mage, and thief classes that each function in the typical manner they would in other RPGs, all with their own unique special abilities. There’s a fourth class known as the Jew class–which only South Park can effectively pull off–which functions much like a cleric class in that it combines status-affecting abilities with a high risk high reward system that gives you more power as you’re damaged. You take turns as you, your ally (you only get one ally to use in battle, but that’s more than enough for this game), and your enemies all do their best to defeat one another. You can choose between regular attacks, special abilities, items, summons, and magic. By performing timed button presses before attacking in a parody of the Paper Mario games, you can enhance your moves by either expanding your combo strings, delivering a harder blow, or making special abilities more effective. You can even call upon some of the characters you meet to assist you in battle as a summon, but they’re fairly pointless as you can only use them once per day, will not help you for boss battles at all, and they’re one-hit-kill moves that ruin the fun of the combat. I only used them to see what they did, and never used them afterwards, in spite of their hilarious animations.
The same principle also applies to blocking, which reduces the amount of damage you would normally take. Status effects like being poisoned get replaced with being grossed out, in order to fit in with the South Park universe, and it makes combat all the more humorous, especially when combined with some of the more silly and gross attacks you unleash. However, I would say that the default difficulty setting is a bit too easy, since it’s too easy to just beat your opponents with brute force instead of using the more creative attacks. Switching to the highest difficulty alleviates this by forcing you to debilitate your opponent before landing big hits, even if the game can still be beaten without you and your party ever dying. Defeating enemies net you experience points to upgrade your level. Every level up grants you an ability point to use on your special attacks to make them more powerful.
But it’s not only turn-based combat at play here. Throughout certain areas, you’re greeted with environmental cues such as glints on cracked or unstable items. By using certain items, like your ranged weapons, or by harnessing the power of your farts (more on that later), you can create new pathways for you to travel through. If enemies are in your way, these environmental hazards can be used to get rid of them, thus avoiding unnecessary combat. It’s a good thing this passive-aggressive style of combat gives you the same number experience points that regular combat nets you, so as to avoid the problem of killing enemies for no reason other than to get rid of an obstacle and having no reward for it in the process.
The magic in this game is done through the use of farting. You, as the new kid, have this insane ability to control your farts, and this makes them somehow more powerful and useful in battle. You consume “mana” (mostly gas-inducing meals) to power your farts, and can use different types of farts against your opponents, all of which inflict the gross-out status and can deal massive damage in the trickier fights. You can even use your various fart abilities to take out environmental roadblocks, and even light enemies aflame from afar. I used it all the time, in and out of combat, as it’s both useful and mildly amusing to witness.
The side quests in this game are pretty numerous, but normally don’t amount to much aside from a few sort of useful rewards. You have the occasional fetch quest and monster hunt, which can often be pretty funny if you’re privy to the joke the quest is setting up. From a mechanic standpoint, it’s pretty much the same as any other RPG, made only unique by the type of humor at play. You’ll get a good laugh and get some experience along the way, as well as the possibility of making new friends, but don’t expect much of a challenge for some of these side missions. It also doesn’t help that the quest management system is pretty vague in how it helps you. It only gives you your objective, as well as the general location of the quest on your map, but other than that it offers little feedback as to how far you’ve progressed aside from an icon that appears and disappears in a flash on the main game screen itself.
You can even collect items throughout your adventure. There are more customization options like facial hair, new hair styles, facial features, and dyes to color-customize your equipment. These are always fun to mess around with, as you can do at any point in the game without the characters really noticing, which adds to the fun for some odd reason. There are also collectible chinpokomon figures (from the popular Pokemon satire episode) hidden all throughout the world. There are thirty of them total, and some can be pretty tricky to find, forcing you to use all your exploration abilities at your disposal to find them all.
The game can take anywhere from ten to twelve hours on average to complete, which is pretty short in comparison to other RPG offerings. That time will only matter if you consider what you’re getting for the money. A lot of the more blatant jokes don’t always hit the mark, some of the dialogue gets repetitive at times, and the quest management could’ve used a little more thought. Other than that though, I see no reason to skip this game. The most hardcore South Park game would be ridiculous not to buy this game for their memorabilia collection. It might not change the mind of someone who dislikes the show, but this game isn’t meant for them. It’s meant for both RPG players and fans of the show. It’s crass at times, but it also has its brilliant moments in both gameplay and humor. Get this game if you enjoy good doses of either thing. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
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