South Park: The Stick of Truth Review: South Park’s Greatest Hits
You’ll discover Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo in South Park: The Stick of Truth. If you explore, you can find the crab people, too. And the Satan-worshiping Woodland Critters. The Goth kids, Philmore and the preschoolers, the Prince of Canada, the PTA, Mr. Slave, the visitors.
You’ll discover Faith+1 CDs, Antonio Banderas blow-up dolls, the Mexican staring frog of Southern Sri Lanka, and a whole ton of other random references to the show that are junk items you’ll eventually sell.
You’ll likely hear every song ever created for “South Park,” except those that were made for the film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, which I imagine can be chalked up to rights issues. Cartman’s song about minorities at the water park, Chef signing “No Substitute” and “Love Gravy” from the “Chef Aid” album, even the Sexual Harassment Panda theme song.
The Stick of Truth could be a multi-part episode of “South Park” with zero effort: it hits all the right marks of tone, jokes, presentation and absurdity
The point is, there are a lot of references in South Park: The Stick of Truth. When your TV show has been on air for — oh my god — 17 years, and you’re making a video game for its fans, you can’t avoid packing it full of in-jokes and referential material that will make long-time viewers squee (and cringe) in recognition.
All that history and all those references, however, are South Park: The Stick of Truth’s greatest downfall, because the game plays more like “South Park’s Greatest Hits” than it does a fresh piece of content all its own. Developer Obsidian and the show’s creators and writers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, spend so much time sending fans to familiar territory that they rarely cover new ground, and the story itself suffers.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fan service game, and if you’re not a fan of “South Park” and that show’s humor, you’re probably not going to enjoy it. But despite being overly referential, Obsidian and Parker and Stone accomplished what they set out to do — make a game that feels like playing a TV show. In that way, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a resounding success.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Platform: PC (reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Venturing into South Park: The Stick of Truth feels like playing the TV show. That seems to be the ultimate goal of the project, the thing fans wanted the most, and to the developers’ credit, the game absolutely nails the feel of the show. The famed blocky cardboard cutout animation persists throughout the material, and the original story — that of a new kid coming to town and joining the show’s regulars in a huge role-playing game of Cartman’s humans at war with Kyle’s elves over “The Stick of Truth” (a stick) — feels like it fell right out of an episode of the show.
In fact, I think the highest praise I can give The Stick of Truth is that it could be a multi-part episode of “South Park” with zero effort: it hits all the right marks of tone, jokes, presentation and absurdity.
As the New Kid, who Cartman quickly dubs “Douchebag,” you venture through almost everything that’s ever appeared on “South Park.” You have the run of the town virtually from the outset of the game, and while you’re given a series of tasks mostly related to playing in the live-action role-play going on with the other kids, you’ll also encounter tons of side quests. These include a series of hunting missions from Jimbo and Ned, some Manbearpig-hunting jobs from Al Gore, and the requirement to “find Jesus” in a literal round of hide-and-seek with the Son of God.
In a lot of ways, the gameplay for The Stick of Truth is a beautifully realized way to make a game out of the show — perhaps because “South Park” lends itself so well to video game ideas. The LARPing aspect has you battling other characters with various weapons and spells, which takes place in turn-based battles and feel like a mix of real combat and kids playing pretend.
In each fight, you choose your attacks, executing on them with well-timed mouse clicks or button mashes. You’ll also have a buddy on your team for much of the game from the main cast of the show, who can back you up with additional special abilities and attacks. Each represents a different class of character with their own capabilities (you also choose from four classes, but they’re not remarkably different and all can use the same equipment).