Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
This generation of consoles hasn’t had the best run for licensed tie-ins or traditional RPG experiences. And now, as it winds to a close, the two genres get one last chance in an odd-sounding hybrid. A South Park RPG.
How do you fit South Park into an RPG experience? Simple, just have the kids pretending to be on an epic adventure with elves, mages, wizards and warriors. Adults may know it as LARPing (Live Action Role Playing (like in the movie Role Models), but to the kids of South Park, they’re simply playing outside.
You play as the new kid in town and are able to create your own South Park avatar from scratch, which is an excellent way to get us in the game. For story reasons, it wouldn’t have made sense for us to pick one of the show’s usual four characters.
Cartman has recruited you to his side in the war against the elves for the titular Stick of Truth –yep, it’s just a stick on a velvet cushion. It’s twice as silly as it sounds, but the one-liners and ‘I’m going to hell for laughing at that’ moments come at you at a steady pace, ensuring near constant amusement. Parker and Stone’s presence can be felt throughout the game’s core and it’s such a relief that the humour and style has been nailed so well as this could have so easily been a bog standard RPG with South Park characters painted in.
The handmade feel of the show is faithfully recreated from the start. Walking sideways sees your little avatar awkwardly bob around and you get an early feeling that maybe everything’s going to be ok. While the visuals aren’t exactly pushing the PS3 or 360, they’re excellent throughout. The vibrant colours and crisp lines match the modern episodes and are a vast improvement over the show’s early years.
The town itself has taken some work to create as the writers admitted they never had a map for the town before the game. But with players needing to walk between areas, they had to consider where everything would sit. Turns out, they opted for a rather flat design of three streets, two residential and one high street with some extra areas on the sides. Brilliantly, Kenny’s family actually live on the wrong side of the train tracks – and have rented the garage out to some junkies for a meth lab.
Let’s get onto combat. To be honest, there’s not a huge amount of depth on offer, but you will need to use your skills and equipment wisely to win. The action is traditional turn-based, with just two of you against two-six enemies. Attacks vary depending on which class you choose –fighter, mage, thief or ahem, Jew. Opting for the fighter, I dealt melee attacks with anything from sticks, plungers or even a Staff of Major Boobage (a pole with golden tits on it). Ranged options include broken bottles, dodgeballs, snowballs and so on. While the moves remain the same, weapon attributes can vary significantly and can be further tweaked with the addition of weapon strap-ons (go on, enjoy a giggle) or patches for completing quests or rooting around in bags, drawers and chests.
These act as attachments for your weapons and armour, adding elemental properties to attacks like burning (extra damage per turn) or ice (slow) or they can add negative buffers like Gross Out (vomits every turn while limiting healing). Other patches may include extra armour points, HP leeching and so on. There are loads of these and that’s where most of the combat’s depth can be found.
Unusually for an RPG, attacks aren’t simply a click and forget conclusion. There are prompts to look out for where you time an extra button press to inflict additional damage or buffers. Mastering these techniques becomes essential later on for tougher enemies. Some QTE requirements are vague or inconsistent, like the three taps before the Roshambo ball buster, where you can effectively waste the turn if you don’t nail it, as the bonus stun effect requires a flawless technique. Minor complaints aside, these sharp prompts keep you feeling involved in the combat throughout and prevent it stagnating, an impressive feat when you look at the small number of skills and spells available.
You can only equip your own avatar. Swappable buddies like Butters, Princess Kenny and Jimmy all have their own attacks, spells and buffer support techniques for you to command and handily you can switch these members out even in the middle of a fight, albeit at the cost of a turn.
You can also learn a number of fart techniques powered by mana for individual fart spells or to enhance other attacks. I barely used these though because unlike your PP metre (for specials) it doesn’t regenerate after a fight, instead you must dive into your items. The Summons have been oddly implemented too, these powerful attacks see you call upon the likes of Jesus, Mr Hanky or Mr. Slave, but you can only use them once a day and not in boss fights. My first day lasted seven hours.
It’ll come as no surprise that missions are mainly fetch quests. Come on, did you expect a South Park game to re-invent the RPG mould? What makes them more interesting than the usual filler material found in the likes of Final Fantasy or Tales of Xillia is of course the fact we’re in the world of South Park. Fans of the show will be happier than a pig in poop, thanks to all the references. Where else will you help Al Gore track down ManBearPig, steal underpants for tiny elves, trawl through the sewers looking for pieces of poo (Mr. Hankey’s kids), hunt a penis-mouse for Jimbo and Ned or try to find a passport so you can sneak into Canada past the cocky block-headed border guard?
The dialogue is fantastically blue and raw throughout and you’ll have to be a fan of the show to let yourself go in the immaturity of it all, but there are a few sharp satirical barbs in there amongst all the fart jokes too. Considering how close to the bone some of the content is in the show, the game doesn’t try to push its luck much. Even Cartman didn’t give me much shit for trying the Jewish character out. A ginger one too. Maybe Kyle’s paid him to be nice again.
A quick note for European console gamers, a few scenes involving anal probing and an abortion minigame have been cut by Ubisoft (a pre-emptive strike against the censors?) and replaced with a screen with the EU flag, a facepalming statue of David and some text explaining the events of the cut scene. Anal probing and abortion don’t sound like something I particularly want to watch, even in cartoon form, so I’m not bothered in the slightest. Some of you will be, but that’s your beef.
What we should all have beef with is some of the game’s odd technical shortcomings. The frequent little loading screens disrupt the game’s rhythm and I can’t see why there’s a need for so many of them between areas. As I mentioned earlier, you wouldn’t expect the consoles to be working hard running these graphics. In some places, there’s no loading screen between areas, but you will get a few seconds of really bad slowdown as your little guy judders around the screen more than his purposefully crappy walking animation intends.
That’s not a lot for me to moan about though is it? That’s the great thing about South Park; you can just plough away at it all day, much as you would any decent RPG game. Being able to have multiple quests on the go at once means you’re never far from something to do, which is exactly what we want in an RPG. It would seem that South Park: The Stick of Truth was worth the wait after all.
- Nails the look and fantastic humour of the show
- Lots of amusing fan-pleasing quests to complete
- Combat is full of neat touches
- So many loading screens and some odd slowdown
- Not many new moves to unlock in combat
- I f**cking hate Mr. Hankey
The Short Version: Screw you guys, I’m going home to play my kickass South Park game. Read the full review for once you lazy sods!