It’s not very often that I can give a full review of a video game. When you’re in the business of giving critiques, completing a work to its fullest extent is expected, but in truth, it is rarely ever the reality. On my nerd-plate alone in this veritable geek-feast is the fourth book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (along with starting the first season of Game of Thrones), the last chapter of Bravely Default on the 3DS, a Pokemon X/Y competition with Cole, a cosplay to work on for WonderCon in Anaheim, the first season of True Detective, and a stack of comics and graphic novels to finish reading from last November. It takes an uncommon combination of storytelling, mechanics, and charm to pull me away from my geek-duties, but I have to admit, it does happen at times.
It definitely happened when I picked up South Park: The Stick of Truth.
South Park is a pretty derisive topic when it comes to the nerd community: some have enjoyed it since it began, some never bother with its vulgarity, and some graze about its table edges, popping in and out of the dinner line to view an episode on occasion. Out of all of these fans and non-fans, most people have to admit: South Park has assuredly evolved with the times, and is unrelenting in its portrayal of pop culture. At times obscene, at others extremely relevant, South Park is a household name that has a certain weight and expectation behind it.
Needless to say, I was beyond excited when I heard that Ubisoft and Obsidian were not only working on a South Park game, but a South Park game that was RPG- and Fantasy-based. It was a pop culture Thanksgiving that I thought I was experiencing, and even though it was fraught with delays and setbacks, it was something that many in the gaming community were clamoring and hungry for. I would have to say that I was one of those clamor-ers, even going as far as speaking about it fervently in one of previous podcasts.
As always, I like my vegetables before my ice cream. Also, I think that was at least three food puns, so I feel like I’m subliminally telling myself to eat.
The game was only about fifteen hours long. To many of the uninitiated that may sound like an acceptable amount of time to do anything, but the fact is that even in bite-size play periods (seriously, is there a sandwich around here?) that only amounts to a few days. I admit, I’m a little bit of a completionist when it comes to quests and side quests, and the time listed above takes that into account. For a price tag of $60, fifteen hours may have not been worth the purchase to many on-the-fence gamers.
There were four classes to choose from, three of which many Fantasy fans would have been familiar with, and one that was a Monk/Death Knight/Paladin class that represented the Chosen People. Although their movesets and styling were a great mix of Fantasy tropes and the South Park universe, they eventually melded together in a way that wasn’t differentiated. In essence, the moves may have had creative names, but their inner workings and synergy were so similar to each other that it didn’t really matter what class you played with, even if you have a specific play-style.
The customization and the creativity, charm, and filth that you would expect from the people who had a kid feed another kid his own parents. Instead of poison, allies and enemies are inflicted with Gross Damage, where if they perform an act that is absolutely disgusting, their enemy would physically wretch, causing damage to their health points. Also, mana is usually reserved for the casting of magic, which is true for this game as well. Instead of casting plumes of frost and fire from the aether though, you’re casting farts and flatulence from the anus. This game didn’t just receive an M rating, it earned it at every step of the way.
Ubisoft and Obsidian also did an amazing job to keep the tone and the feel of the show as well. It was extremely apparent that these developers did their homework, because it feels as if you’re playing through a few episodes of the shows. It digs deep in order to remind you of the nostalgia of its first seasons (like collecting Chinpokomon throughout the games), and also shares laughs with the player about many inside jokes about the shows (Cartman never calling your character by their actual name, for example). The developers gave fans the experience of walking through the streets of South Park in a meaningful and over-the-top fashion, and its very apparent that many people on staff were huge fans of the show.
In my opinion, the strongest asset that the game held was its perfect balance between absurdity and trope. I had to battle against aliens with probes, ginger hall monitors, Nazi zombies, and even the elusive ManBearPig, but all the while in a turn-based system with RPG-inspired elements. The story felt epic and large in scope, while constantly reminding player that this tale was a childhood fantasy played in a few afternoons. Alien ships crash landing in a small Colorado town was comically offset by product placement ads for Taco Bell. The comedy was unrelenting in that sense, where things were so subtle or so “shoved-in-your-face” that players had no choice but to laugh at the inappropriateness.
South Park will no doubt be a subject of comedy study for the next generations, clearly portraying the bread-and-butter for the structure of a joke. This game is no different in its enjoyment factor, and as long as you are not easily offended, I highly recommend giving this game a playthrough. So make some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the sheer bravery of a licensed game that never pulls punches on any topic, even themselves. It follows a very recognizable yet inventive plot, where the good guys are great, and the bad guys get their just desserts.
Okay, now I’m certain I desperately need to eat something.