STAFF REVIEW of South Park: The Stick of Truth (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

South Park: The Stick of Truth Box art I feel I need to start out this review with a warning, just like how the show itself begins. This review is going to be M-rated for a simple reason, The Stick of Truth is so full of adult content that it would be impossible to describe it fully without doing so as well. That being said, this is probably the most politically incorrect, inappropriate, and blatant offensive games I’ve ever played… and it was awesome. Prepare yourself for testicles, terrible language, abortions, farts, frontal nudity, drugs, watching your parents have sex, alien probes, dismemberment, Nazis, and sex toys, to simply name a few of the controversial topics off the top of my head. If you’re a South Park fan, this is nothing new to you at all; if not, you’re in for quite a shock and surprise.

To say that The Stick of Truth has had a troubled and rocky development would be an understatement. Originally set to be published by the former THQ, Ubisoft picked up the rights to the game and is developed by Obsidian Entertainment, best known for Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol, and Dungeon Siege III. To say that The Stick of Truth has been delayed would also be an understatement. Originally due last year, then delayed till December, then finally delayed until this final release date, nobody could blame you for being cautious about the release, as not a lot of information has really been given about the game overall. To be honest, I was a little skeptical of what to expect, not only because of the troubled development, but also the numerous delays.

To be fair, South Park fans have never had a truly staller branded game, as there were even some truly terrible ones a little over a decade ago for older consoles. As the saying goes, “Fool me once…”, so honestly, I went in with low expectations and not really sure what to expect. For those that are also suspicious and cautious, you can rest at ease, not only because of my opinion, but that this isn’t your typical licensed game that simply uses the name to sell itself. The Stick of Truth has been personally overseen by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, having their input, scripts, and even voiced by them as well. For those like me that may know of Obsidian’s buggy games in the past, I can reassure you that I only ran into one simple sound bug throughout my whole playthrough. The Stick of Truth is full of charm, feels exactly like a real episode of the show, and completely full of fan service, pop culture references, and of course, farts... so many farts.

You play as a new kid in South Park that you create as you begin the game to look however you like, though this can be changed with a quick trip to Tom’s Rhinoplasty store. Your parents moved to South Park to escape your past, which is shrouded in mystery, and your first order of business according to your parents is to go outside and make some new friends. From here on you’ll run into the staple of South Park characters and eventually become friends with Cartman, Kyle, Kenny, and Stan, among many others you’ll recognize from the show. If you watched the three part epic from the current season about the console wars, The Stick of Truth directly takes place within that setting. The kids of South Park are having a massive role playing game across the whole town and you’re now the newest recruit of Cartman’s human faction whom are currently in possession of the Stick of Truth and must guard them from the elves that Stan and Kyle lead.

Once you choose a class to control during the course of the game, ranging from Mage, Thief, Fighter, and Jew (complete with Jew-Jitsu), yes, Jew is a playable class. As the newest member of Cartman’s Kingdom of Kupa Keep (Yes, you are now a part of the KKK), you will need to make sure the Stick of Truth doesn’t fall into the enemies hands, as it’s a supreme artifact that holds incredible power. I don’t want to delve too much further into story specifics, as it’s an absolute delight to experience free of spoilers. Your goal is to become… cool by making friends on Facebook, or else you’ll simply be known as a loser, and no fourth grader wants that.

The goal of The Stick of Truth was to look and feel like it was an actual episode of South Park. According to the show’s creators, this is a lot harder to accomplish and originally anticipated, which may account for the numerous delays. Astonishingly, Obsidian managed to pull it off and playing The Stick of Truth actually looks like you’re playing an episode of the show as there’s no HUD (while not in combat) and your character bounces around while walking just like how the TV show looks. You’re able to explore South Park freely and can move around the three or so blocks of the main city area on a 2D plane, but can move freely around the environment. While you do have a map to show what’s located where, and there are intersections every few houses or buildings, it can be a little clunky to get from point A to point B, even when you’ve unlocked the fast travel system where Timmy wheels you around.

What makes The Stick of Truth stand out from other licensed games is that it’s full of things, big and small, that are simply there to do fans a service. Every item, weapon, character, and line of dialogue is going to make any fan of South Park smile. To be honest, aside from a few of the newer episodes, I’ve missed the past few seasons for the most part, but there was so much content put into the game that even I could reference from being from the show. Small details such as going into your friends closets and seeing items from past seasons like Cartman’s Awesome-O suit and Beefcake shirt is just a small example of how Stick of Truth was clearly a labor of love. You can even scower South Park to collect all of the Chinpokomon as well. It would have been easy to ‘half-ass’ this game, but it’s clear that a lot of thought and time was put into it to please the fans in every way.

Mechanics wise, Stick of Truth is an RPG at its core. Once you start a battle fights happen in turns. You can use normal attacks based on the class you picked from the beginning, or use special “PP” powered abilities that do much more than simply attack. As the game gets progressively tougher, you’ll have to strategize what skills and items to use when as there are a few sections where you’ll randomly hit a major spike in difficulty if you weren’t taking the time to do any battles that came along your travels across the city. To make things slightly more interesting and skillful, your attacks and defense are also enhanced based on how well you can time your button pressed when you’re attacking or about to be attacked. You’ll attack for a base amount of damage, but if you time your button presses just as you hit, you may be able to attack more times or for a much more devastating attack. The same goes for defense, as you need to hit ‘A’ just as you’re about to get hit to mitigate some of the damage, which is a necessity as you near the end of the tale.

To also make things more personal, the costumes and itemization is quite fun and encourages you to experiment with different costumes and patches that add extra abilities or enhance existing ones. So while as the Fighter class I liked my costume pieces to have armor or health, it was fun to try on something that not only looked silly, but allowed for a completely different strategy when it came to combat. The battle system and costumes do take some getting used to, and even though there is a plethora of different armors to wear and try, you’ll most likely find the few that you like and stick with them until you see a large enough stat upgrade, though it’s quite fun to dress up as something that looks completely silly, or as a girl.

While the level cap is low, which is level 15, you’ll most likely only hit it at the very end of the game unless you grind or fight every battle you come across. You’ll also get to have a companion beside you in combat, each with their own special and unique abilities. You start out with your first friend Butters, but eventually gain access to using a few others that have their own strengths. I was able to complete the game with simply using Butters as my battle companion for the majority of the game, but I can see certain character loadouts that would be better suited for one of the others instead. Unfortunately you’re unable to customize your allies, visually and with items and will solely rely on them for their abilities. How you chose your equipment will play a larger role in the latter half of the game as you’ll learn to make use of bleeding effects, having to cut down enemies armor before being able to damage them, so it all depends on how you will play your character and what strategies work best. It should be noted, that quite a few times I would check my inventory to change something only to notice my perks were stripped off of my weapons and armor randomly, and this happened quite a few times without any reason I could figure out.

As you get to explore the small Colorado town, you’ll be opening any door, box, or drawer that is possible, indicated with yellow handles, to loot anything you can find inside. In most games you would be looking for treasure and gold, but this is a South Park game. Once you’ve acquired vibrators, piles of poop, pubic hair, dolls, and other completely random items that are sure to offend you (make sure you read the item descriptions, as they are also hilarious), you can then visit one of the shops and sell them to add to your pocket money. With your money you can then purchase new weapons, armor, consumables, costumes, and more.

Gas is a powerful weapon in the land of South Park, and farts reign supreme when it comes to magic. As you progress to become cool and make friends on Facebook, you’ll eventually learn new magic abilities, each in the form of a different style of fart. In combat, your magic can do a great deal of damage, but you’ll actually be using it more so when you’re exploring the town. Farts allow you to do special things and progress to areas you normally wouldn’t be able to. If there’s a barricade blocking your way, you may need to throw one of your “Cup-A-Spell” farts in a certain direction towards an open flame so that it blows up the barricade. The second half of the game relies on more puzzle based areas where you’ll have to figure out how to progress, or take out enemies easily without having to engage them in battle (but you still get the XP for doing so, so it’s encouraged). It would have been simple to easily make this a simple button press, but instead, you’ll “feel” the fart so much more, as you need to hold the Right Stick downward to build up your gas, aim with the Left Stick, then unleash it by pressing the Right Stick up again. It’s stilly, but it makes complete sense oddly enough.

The Stick of Truth has the South Park vibe and feel down 100% without a doubt. You feel as if you’re actually playing an episode of the show as everything looks and sounds authentic. Surprisingly enough, as a game, it’s actually a quite decent RPG as well. As I mentioned above, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect given the developer, the delays, and the small trickle of information. I was more than impressed. For those curious, my first complete playthrough was ten hours, almost exactly, and that was with all but two side quests complete (damn you Kindergartener’s that are hiding and that I can’t find!). Now that I know all of the solutions to the puzzles and where to go for everything, the next playthrough as a different class should take a good chunk of time off that, as it’s going to be much easier and quicker once you know what to do. I’ll also mention that there are some awesome achievements to unlock, and I suggest trying to get some of the more ‘unique’ ones, as they are absolutely hilarious.

I really only had three main issues with The Stick of Truth, neither of which I would say is a deal breaker, as the pro’s vastly outweigh the cons, but here’s the problems I had: 1) More than a dozen times I would check my inventory only to see that my strap-ons (perks) were somehow taken off without my knowledge. 2) Twice I had a cutscene where the subtitles were going but there was no voice sound accompanying the mouth movements. 3) Lastly, even once you get used to the map and inventory system, it’s still utterly a pain to use and clunky. There’s no easy way to see what armor pieces are an upgrade (weapons show easily though) and having to scroll through your whole list of items if you don’t sell anything can be a chore every time you want to switch items. The same goes for the map, even though Timmy offers quick travels to set spots, it’s just clunky to use the menu system in general and certain key points will still have you running around to get there.

That being said, the things that Stick of Truth does well vastly outweighs the issues I had. The multiple classes encourage multiple playthroughs (as do the two factions which can alter story quests), a ton of weapons and armor to choose from (ranging from awesome, to silly, to what the F…). The story is so completely off the wall, it absolutely fits within the South Park universe. Some of the stages are so out there, that I don’t think I’ll ever forget them (two words: Parents’ Bedroom). And lastly, the animation and voice acting is so spot on, and the conscious decision to not have a HUD really brings you into the game that you may at times think you’re playing an episode of the show, it’s that spot on.

If you’re not a fan of South Park, you’re most likely going to be grossed out or completely offended, and while its RPG core mechanics are sound, it takes the South Park humor appreciation to really fully enjoy The Stick of Truth to its fullest. The fan service in Stick of Truth is incredible, as even Season 1 is referenced, all of which the hardcore South Park fans will no doubt giggle at. South Park: The Stick of Truth is offensive, crude, absolutely M-rated in every meaning of the word, and looks just as crappy as the TV show does; that’s what makes it so great. This is how you properly do a licensed game along with pleasing the hardcore fans, and if it means we have to wait a few more years and delays for a sequel, I’ll be more than understanding. Now go out there and respect my authority by purchasing The Stick of Truth mmmmkay?

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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