South Park: The Stick of Truth ReviewMarch 20, 2014
Obsidian and Ubisoft’s South Park: The Stick of Truth has spent a long time in development. At one point it was going to be published by THQ before the company’s downfall about a year ago, and for a time its fate was uncertain. But thankfully it did survive, and with Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s direct involvement, the game has turned out to be a phenomenal success. The Stick of Truth is essentially a 14-hour interactive South Park episode, and it’s absolutely hilarious. While the RPG gameplay elements of The Stick of Truth aren’t much deeper than something like Paper Mario, the expertly-crafted script will keep you playing until the credits roll. Simply put, this is the funniest game I’ve ever played.
The overarching story in The Stick of Truth is rather thin, and really just an excuse to squeeze in as many jokes, characters and references as possible. Not that that’s a bad thing – this variety is one of the reasons that the game never loses steam or feels boring. You play as the New Kid (you get to create him from scratch – you can’t play as a girl), whose family just moved into town. You can try to give your creation a name, but Cartman will instantly dismiss it and dub you Douchebag. Your father orders you to go make some new friends, and soon you’ll be wrapped up in a town-wide LARP session with Cartman’s Humans versus Kyle’s Drow Elves. Soon enough, you’ll be battling Mongolians, aliens, Nazi zombie fetuses, homeless people, and “Taco Bell security guards”. The New Kid is completely silent, and The Stick of Truth seizes every opportunity to illustrate just how awkward and dumb the silent protagonist video game trope is.
South Park: The Stick of Truth eschews the complexity of an RPG like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in favor of a more streamlined approach. This is a turn-based RPG, but you won’t be rummaging through pages of menus before each attack. The combat here is fast, fluid, and often quite humorous – and it’s easy to grasp even for those who’ve never played an RPG. Similarly, you won’t need to worry about inventory management or encumbrance – you can carry everything you pick up from the start of The Stick of Truth until its credits. There’s even an achievement for never selling any of your items. While some may consider the game a bit too easy, the difficulty level feels just right; if you were forced to grind and carefully plan each attack, it would definitely impact the game’s pacing and fun factor. While The Stick of Truth’s roughly 14-hour campaign may seem a bit short by RPG standards, stretching it out further likely would have resulted in a lesser product.
At the outset of South Park: The Stick of Truth you can choose a class – either Warrior, Mage, Thief, or Jew. Don’t spend too much time deliberating on your choice, however, as the differences between them are negligible and all classes can wield all armor and weapon types. In battle, you can call upon a few different Buddies to fight alongside you (alongside a few hilarious Summons), but in the same vein, it really doesn’t matter who you choose. You can stick with the same Buddy throughout the whole game with little consequence – I kept Butters for the majority of the proceedings for his healing magic. You can also have Jimmy, Kenny, Cartman, Stan, and others by your side. While hardcore gamers may feel a bit disappointed by the dumbed-down mechanics, at least fans of the show who are casual gamers will be able to enjoy the game just as much. There are a few narrative choices in The Stick of Truth, but in the end they don’t really matter – it seems as though none of your choices do, which impacts the game’s replayability.
Aesthetically, The Stick of Truth absolutely nails the show’s look. The 2D backgrounds and characters have the same charming, cardboard cut-out design as the show does, and to be honest it’s practically impossible to tell the two apart. That said, the 2D exploration takes a bit of getting used to, and it would have been really cool to see the whole town rendered in 3D. Still, South Park feels fully realized — every house can be entered, and every main character from the show is here. Stone and Parker provided a ton of great voice work. None of it feels phoned in, and you can tell that they really wanted to make a solid South Park game, and erase the memories of the terrible cash grabs that came before.
Overall, South Park: The Stick of Truth is one of the funniest games ever made, and certainly one of the best licensed titles. It’s obvious that the game was a labor of love for creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. While some may find the humor crude and offensive, even casual fans of the show will enjoy the clever, well-written and genuinely hilarious dialogue as well as the plentiful video game satire. Simply put, if you’re a fan of South Park, this is the game you’ve been waiting for.