Monday, 17 March 2014

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

The rude and raunchy RPG will make you laugh, cringe, and want to relive all 17 seasons again and again.


With over 200 episodes and an iconic animated movie under it's belt, the satirical South Park seems the perfect candidate to poke fun at the ever-growing gaming community. For those who aren't a fan of the show's crude and cruel portrayals of topical social issues and political correctness, The Stick of Truth is exactly that; no anti-Semitic joke is left unsaid, no turd left un-flung. But for long time fans of the show, the game not only lives up to the franchise's name sake, but also creates a hilarious RPG experience that any roleplayer can enjoy.
You play as the New Kid, or Douchebag for short, having just moved in to the chaotic town of South Park in the midst of an all out imagination-fuelled war between the kids of your new neighbourhood, who've clearly been watching far too much Lord of The Rings. It's not long before you're dragged into the mayhem, mastering your fart techniques and giving your all to protect the titular Stick of Truth - a weapon that can supposedly control the universe.
The game really feels like you're playing an episode from the show, with the iconic cut-out animation style transitioning perfectly into the video game world, without feeling out of place alongside the gameplay mechanics. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone bring their usual wit and social commentary along with them, making a game that is both a parody of the medium and a well rounded gaming experience.
What’s more, the game is an open-world homage to the show’s 17 year history, featuring the entire town to search and explore. You’ll have a hard time not coming across an Easter egg of some sort, from Tom Cruise hiding in Stan’s closet to some familiar furry creatures hanging out in the forest. It’s a solid 12-14 hours of inside jokes, references and offensive humour that pulls from 247 episodes worth of comedy gold. Even for those who aren’t familiar with the show, there’s plenty of jokes that work without needing any context, so you won’t be missing out on the punchline.
The comedy doesn’t stop there, with the game taking tropes from the RPG franchise and making them their own. You choose from four classes to play as, whether that be the football helmet-wearing ‘fighter’ who relies on baseball bats and crotch shots to make their way to victory, or the hilarious Jew class, who uses a Circum-scythe to give him enemies a bleeding debuff. It’s an experience that’s not only well thought out by the creators, but brings you back to your own childhood of thinking up imaginary worlds – except this time with katanas and broken beer bottles. The classes are however very similar in move sets, with no additional abilities unique outside of combat, so most players may feel obliged to choose the latter for their playthrough, due to it having the only class-based achievement in the game (discovering Jesus as a Jew no less), and being the most creative character type.
There’s still a vast amount of customisation to be had with your character though, having practically hundreds of different costume pieces and weapons you can equip with special ‘stickers’ to give you that extra boost in combat. Who doesn’t want to battle with a glowing pink dildo that gives your enemies shock damage? It’s a nice layer of complexity to an otherwise basic system.
The battles themselves are very typical of the genre, following a turn-based pattern and relying on mainly timing your button presses just right. It’s a system that’s fun at first, though can become tedious after you’ve unlocked all your abilities.
You don’t fight alone however. After earning their friendship through a fictional Facebook, you can choose between several of the show’s characters to join you on your quest. Each can be swapped out at any point in the game, and all feature unique abilities true to their character – the fair maiden Princess Kenny is revived if killed in battle, whilst High Jew Elf Kyle can kick his adoptive brother Ike at his enemies. Some characters’ moves are more useful than others, but each has their own unique dialogue throughout the open world, so it’s worth swapping them around every now and then to hear what comical one liners they have to say.
Though the main story is a tad too short, and boss fights become basic once you’ve levelled up enough, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a game that is both fun to play and fun to watch. Regardless of how repetitive the combat can become, there’s plenty of charm to the game that masterfully builds upon the show’s foundations, creating a game that is one of a kind to the genre. Just don’t forget to bring your towel.
Score: 8/10