When I read the term “licensed game” I am immediately flooded with memories of horrible shovel-ware forced to market well before it was finished or perhaps it shouldn’t have been programmed in the first place. Then add on top of that a franchise like South Park that is prides itself on timely humor and the worries for another South Park game increases tenfold. All those worries are immediately assuaged in South Park The Stick of Truth.
Developed by Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout New Vegas, Dungeon Siege III) and published by Ubisoft, this is the perfect love letter to all South Park fans past and present. The game’s humor is poignant, but doesn’t rely on it to carry it. Instead, it digs out every humorous reference from the show, as well as many delicious potshots at video games and the industry as a whole, to deliver a completely satisfying laugh-out-loud experience. That said, this game is profoundly vulgar and purposefully offensive in ways that only Trey Parker and Matt Stone can be in the universe of South Park. They knew they were getting an “M” rating from the ESRB and went all out to exceed their limitations on television. This includes the gamut from profanity to poop humor to anal probing to actual depictions of sex. This game is not for children.
The story of The Stick of Truth is that you are the “New Kid” in South Park and you are immediately caught up in a live-action role playing game of a desperate fight for the Stick of Truth by the humans led by Cartman and the drow elves led by Kyle. While there is plenty to this main story to keep you occupied, there are also plenty of great side quests involving hunting big game for Jimbo and Ned, cleaning up the hobos for the mayor and it wouldn’t be South Park if you didn’t hunt the ManBearPig with Al Gore.
Underneath the hood of the references, hilarity and characters, is a solid RPG engine designed by Obsidian. It is a turn-based RPG with a timing aspect you have seen in games like Paper Mario. This means when you attack or defend, you can press the appropriate button in a timely manner to either increase the damage you deal or reduce the damage being dealt to you. Obsidian did their best to keep the combat feeling fresh, but it can occasionally feel tired and boring if you end up in a few battles in a row. My only other real complaint about the combat system is that when blocking, the indicator is the same but sometimes the animation clouds the indicator and it doesn’t feel consistent from battle to battle.
Overall, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fantastic game that satisfies both my love of South Park and my love of RPGs. The humor is spot-on from the writing to the art style to the items to the situations you encounter. I must reiterate, this game is not for children or the easily offended, but if you are a fan of South Park or the comedic styling of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, you should definitely pick this game up. Stick of Truth is a solid RPG wrapped up carefully-crafted story experience that will keep you entertained for hours.
South Park The Stick of Truth is available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC for $59.99. For purposes of this review, I played the game on the Xbox 360.
South Park The Stick of Truth Trailer