South Park has had an incredibly odd journey to get to where it is. When it launched in the late 90’s it seemed to be nothing more than Simpsons for the next generation, with all the horrific jokes and black humor pushed up to 11. However, the amount of rip-offs that formed in its wake hoping to cash in that failed after one season proved that there was something more here; at its core South Park is a deeply anarchic, surreal show with a grossly subversive view of the world that is sometimes just terribly terribly accurate. It definitely isn’t a show for everyone, and I really do understand that, but with this legacy built up behind it for 17 seasons now, it seems incredible that not only did we get a game based on that, but that it was so true to the show and at the same time was a very good game in and of itself. It boggles the mind.
The Stick of Truth is animated in the exact same style as the TV show, and allows the player to put their created character (dubbed “the New Kid” by everyone) into that world as a new inhabitant of South Park. There, they soon make friends with the local kids, who are engaged in an extended role playing battle over control of the powerful “Stick of Truth.” The way the fantasy world of the kids and their battles interact with the real world is somehow so wonderfully hilarious on many occasions. The player chooses a class, from Fighter, Mage, Thief or Jew (no, I’m not kidding) and from there joins in the plot, which gets pretty epic its true.
For the first time South Park as a town has been laid down in a physical form, and it is all free for the player to explore. Literally every corner is filled with some reference from the show, and these call backs make it extremely fun to explore every nook and cranny. This obviously means long time fans will get more out of it than others, but the entry point is still open to new players to experience, and it will still be very funny for them.
Combat takes the form of a Paper Mario style turn based system; actions are selected in turns, but to complete them, they require specific button actions, like swinging a hammer by spinning an analogue stick, or pressing Square just before an attack to block it. It makes the combat much more intuitive, and the array of options and customization available to moves and weapons keep things very fresh for experimentation.
There’s a great deal of depth in the game, with a wide array of sidequests and optional missions to complete that will bring you into contact with the numerous weird inhabitants of South Park in interesting and funny ways. A mechanic is involved in making friends on FaceBook (in game, not in real life) that happens when quests or actions are completed, and filling up this app and reading the messages in game is a lot of fun. The game itself perhaps suffers from being a bit too easy after a point, and the plot can feel a little short, but at the least you can get 10 hours out of this game, if not much more if you mess around exploring.
The Stick of Truth is an amazingly funny game that is also a good game. It is one of the best licensed games ever, and is also a labor of love by people who really knew the source material that they were working with. If you don’t like South Park, you won’t like this, but as a game on its own, it’s definitely worth a play or two.