The first “good South Park game” hit the market over three years ago and the first time I rented it through GameFly back in 2014 I might have already been over South Park. In fact I hadn’t sat down and watched much of it for the better part of a decade and that was the main reason I spent about 5-6 hours with The Stick of Truth and sent it right back in the mail. Of course I have an issue with hindsight, nostalgia, and completionist tendencies where I felt it necessary to purchase the follow up South Park: The Fractured But Whole and see if it was worth putting another South Park game to task for my own enjoyment. Well I didn’t follow shit when it came to The Fractured But Whole but it comes with a digital copy of The Stick of Truth. So, what the hell neither game is supposed to take more than 15-20 hours and I figured I could knock both games out in a few weeks.
After firing up the game and working my way through the intro I was reminded of how clever South Park can be around the edges. I have to say, if you’re like me and missed out on everything South Park since about 2006-ish but still caught episodes like “Human CentiPad” and such this easy-going turn-based RPG will be pretty solid fan service and a tingler for your nostalgic sense. It looks exactly like the show and the voice acting and writing are perfectly done. The game itself plays out like an extended episode of the show and even ends with show credits like an episode would. You’ll do quests for Al Gore and fight ManBearPig, you’ll help find Mr. Hanky’s kids in the sewer after they ran from a domestic abuse situation, you’ll even give Randy an abortion before killing a giant Nazi zombie abortion (it was Khole Kardashian’s, and that’s not *my joke*).
The Stick of Truth is a lot like Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door but with a far more animated and interactive 2D world. Every set piece on the map of South Park is full of interactivity with people, objects, collectibles and a very light amount of combat. The combat is turn-based and easily exploited because stacked status effects and copious amounts of cash earned from exploring make for easily found and powerful gear. As soon as I was able to find a throw-able beer bottle that inflicted burning, grossed-out, and bleeding that would hit up to four targets in a single turn I blazed through any combat. While you must choose between three classes at the beginning of the game none of them offer major differences outside of special attacks that use PP (power points). You’re also always accompanied by one of five buddies who are generally strong with effective abilities. I found myself sticking to Butters because of his healing spell, but you’ll have to switch between them to interact with certain environmental puzzles (ex: Someone is hurt, butters heals them.) I found combat far less interesting than the simple exploration and clever quests/environment design. To their credit, South Park Studios and Obsidian created an accessible fight system that is on par with Nintendo’s Mario RPG series’.
I think what this game boils down to with me is identical to my feelings about watching South Park in 2018: I just don’t really think it is -that- clever or funny. A lot of their best jokes or old moments couldn’t fit here because you couldn’t possibly get permission to fight Barbara Streisand or Mel Gibson in a video game. So, the game’s story doesn’t push the limit beyond giving a couple of fake abortions with QTE mini-games, quelling the homeless population, and the obligatory child molester attack (see: The Fractured But Whole review coming in a couple weeks). This is a game I could have watched a Let’s Play of and gotten just as much out of it simply because collecting costumes, switching gear & inserting gear-improving stickers on it, and actual combat aren’t memorable as more than show pieces to pad out what would make for a good three part episode for the show: You’re the new kid with the power to get Social Media friends quicker than anyone else, you LARP with South Park nerds over a magical stick, you’re abducted by aliens whose ship leaks toxic sludge that turns anything into a Nazi Zombie that speaks with actual Hitler quotes. You subvert the government, defeat lots of Nazi zombies, beat up Clyde, and then fart on Nazi Zombie Princess Kenny’s balls and that returns everything back to normal. It is a ‘Calvin and Hobbes times ten’ make-believe fantasy episode that is only fun while it lasts.
As an actual video game it wasn’t easy to explore after I’d just finished a very long and in-depth “actual” RPG. For how “casual” it was on Normal difficulty I still had some fun and I did have a few laughs so I wouldn’t complain about getting it for free packed in with another game that I got on sale for half price. I will say my inner hipster felt pretty self-conscious playing a game with trite humor and gross-out gags and ‘fart magic’ throughout. Though I was able to get over feeling like I was playing a dumb, pandering game for 13 year olds. I’m not too stuck up to have fun with this sort of thing, but I’m hoping that the sequel The Fractured But Whole does something more interesting with the actual video game part of the story. There is way more I could write about with this game and the story is totally worth going through if you’re a fan but I’d rather move on to other things the same way I wanted to move on to another game by the time this one wrapped up.
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