There have been at least 5 South Park games released on various platforms since the late 90s, mostly to mixed reviews. Can the new RPG South Park Stick of Truth finally break their mediocre games curse?
Setting the Scene
I picked up my copy as a physical disc for Xbox 360 (its also available for PS3 and PC). I wish it had been available for next gen systems, just to give my PS4 something to do, but it doesn’t really have any new features that could be improved with new hardware: it’s not like the South Park art style needs updated graphics hardware. I was really annoyed that there wasn’t even a book with the disc. At least give me a map of what button does what so I don’t have to keep googling it as I am learning the game! Damn kids and your downloads, get off my lawn!
The most recent season (Season 17) of South Park sets up the game. It has a three episode penultimate story arc that parodies Game of Thrones and the video game console wars in an epic Black Friday showdown. You don’t necessarily have to watch these episodes to play the game (I didn’t realize that was a thing and watched them after I played) but they do set it up really well and add to the jokes.
Entering the South Park Universe
The game basically amounts to playing through a 12ish hour episode of the show. There are many references to old episodes and lots of pop culture skewering just like the series. I am a South Park fan, though haven’t kept up with watching regularly since the seasons were in single digits. This wasn’t a problem for getting the jokes, and they brought back a lot of really old references, so I felt like I got most of the inside stuff.
In Stick of Truth you play as The New Kid and join forces with the usual cast of characters from the show. Each kid has chosen a character identity from wizard (Cartman), elf (Kyle), paladin (Butters), to all the other cliches from RPGs. As with most things South Parks its hard to distinguish where the line between parody and homage truly is.
As New Kid, you get to build your own South Park style image. There were enough options for skin color, hair, etc., that I probably could have made a South Park version of myself. While you can create a character that looks like a girl and give her a feminine name, the story line forces you into a male once you exit the character creator. For my character, I made the South Park equivalent of Trent Reznor. Pro-tip: I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about what to name your character.
You also choose your class up front and have the options for Fighter, Mage, Thief, or Jew. This determines what special weapons and abilities are available to your character. I played through as a Jew which granted special abilities like circum-Scythe, Jew-Jitsu, and the Plagues of Egypt.
Sights & Sounds & Systems
Probably one of my favorite aspects of the game was the audio. Both the music and sound effects were superb. They totally ripped off the Skyrim quest notification noises. For the score there were plenty of old favorites to be heard throughout the game like Chocolate Salty Balls, Montage, Kyle’s Mom, and Taco Flavored Kisses (which is now permanently embedded in my brain). They also seem to have all the original voices (which I guess isn’t too hard since most of them are Stone and Parker). Chef even makes an appearance, so they must have been able to cobble together his dialog from old episodes.
The art style is the same as the show as well. Mostly cartoony but every once in a while full resolution art is hanging in the environments. My favorite was the ad for David Hasselhoff’s nose in Tom’s Rhinoplasty.
The menu system for the game is basically a Facebook parody. You get achievements for gaining friends as you traverse South Park and they post to their walls and you can see it in your feed. Kinda neat but you could only passively interact and not post anything (wait come to think of it I wish a lot more people in my own Facebook feed had that problem!)
NO KITTY, THAT'S A BAD KITTY!!!
While the game was mostly a lot of fun, there were a few things that annoyed me.
The map was a nice way to see the layout of South Park but I didn’t feel like the markers for missions and other points of interest really stood out. This sometimes made it difficult to figure out where you were supposed to be going next.
To explore South Park, you enter all the various homes and businesses in the town. Most of the homes have a bathroom and it took about 3 hours before I remembered where the heck the door out of the bathrooms were. It just didn’t seem like the right angle/place you came in. There were also a few bugs, late in the game, where some of the battles no longer had music playing in the background.
Another annoying aspect was the game kept changing my damn clothes (not sure if that’s a bug or a reference to an episode I didn’t see). Your clothes amount to armor so you choose them for abilities. There were at least 3 or 4 missions that changed my clothes on me and then I had to go through a bunch of menus for 5 minutes to redress myself. One time I even lost my black eye, which I had given the character when I created him. WTF?!
The gameplay style is fairly traditional RPG. Its definitely skews to the on rails/short length side. There are a few optional side quest missions like collecting all the Chinpokomon toys (my fav was Velocirapstar) or capturing Man Bear Pig for Al Gore.
As with the story, the game play often makes fun of popular game franchises. You can tell the guys at Obsidian and South Park know their video games. I had to look up what Riposte was as its part of their battle system. Woohoo insult sword fighting a la Monkey Island. There’s also a “Hot Coffee” mission as an homage to the infamous Grand Theft Auto Easter Egg. To befriend the goths you need to learn to “dance” and similar to DDR there’s a beat match mechanic (with Guitar Hero sound effects if you miss notes) as you drink coffee and smoke cigarettes in time to their music. My favorite slam was their piss take on Bioshock’s audio logs.
The battles are setup so you can use magic, weapons or special abilities. The magic system is based on learning different farting techniques like Dragon Shout or Cup a Spell. These are kinda of a PITA to first learn but once you have it down its not so bad (again an instruction book with my disc would have been nice!). Farts are basically modelled after the Dragon Shouts in Skyrim.
Most of your enemies each only have 3 or 4 attacks, which are funny the first few times but get old after coming up 5 or 6 times in the same turn based battle. I’m pretty sure “Re-prioritizing Task List” from the gnomes arsenal is my own personal best weapon in my real life day job though!
In true South Park fashion this game is not for the politically correct or easily grossed out. In fact, there’s a hidden achievement called Too Far that I don’t think goes nearly as far as the alien abduction, Mr. Slave, or bedroom missions. Much like South Park, this game is only to be enjoyed when the kids are in bed.
So Should You Go On Down to South Park?
This is by far the best South Park video game I’ve played. It’s basically an interactive episode so I really enjoyed the story and jokes. The battles got a tedious after a while but I guess happens with a lot of RPGs.
If you like South Park just run out and get this now. If you hate South Park, you will hate this game. If you are somewhere in between you’ll probably enjoy it as long as you can stomach the over the top stuff. It's solid but with some bugs, so I’ll give it our second slot with Price Drop.