Games We Play: South Park Stick Of Truth
Games based off of cartoons are a dime a dozen- “Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom”, “The Simpsons Video Game(s)”, “Family Guy: Back to The Multiverse”, Scooby Doo games, Transformers, the list goes on.
South Park, the controversial show by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, has had a few games, usually receiving mixed or negative reviews (the exception being South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play, which was praised for it’s humor and challenging gameplay).
The latest game in the line up is “South Park: The Stick of Truth”, in which the story itself was written by the creators themselves. The game, developed by Obsidian Games, and originally published by THQ, ended up in development hell after the publisher filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and liquidated their assets, with many developers and publishers buying THQ’s intellectual properties (IPs). Ubisoft purchased the IP of South Park: the Stick of Truth, and after further delays was released on March 4.
The game was tied in with the “Black Friday” trilogy of episodes, and announced the release of the game at the end, with Butters mocking it due to the numerous delays.
The game’s story plays like an episode of the show (which is nice since there won’t be a new South Park episode until “late 2014”). You play as the new kid, who after walking a block outside his new house, is pulled into the boys of south park’s newest game, a knights and wizards-esque game, in which two factions (the humans and the elves) are fighting over the stick of truth, a stick that in the game allows whom ever wields it to be the master of the universe.
The children’s game eventually pulls in aliens, the United States Government, underpants gnomes, and the citizens of South Park. Your character, whom you can customize at the beginning of the game, is silent due to Parker and Stone not liking talking protagonists and wanting the player to identify with the main character. Characters that appear are Eric Cartman, Butters, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Randy Marsh and the return of Chef (a character that hasn’t been in the show for quite some time).
As a role-playing game you pick from one of four classes (the type of abilities you have, your strengths and weaknesses and what kind of equipment you can use) the classes in The Stick of Truth are:
The Fighter- focuses more on melee attacks and mid-to close combat weapons such as swords or flails.
The Mage- uses magic and special attacks to make up for the lack of strength
The Thief- focuses on damaging the opponent with status effects, such as bleeding or grossed out.
The Jew- the class described as “High-Risk, High-Reward” and makes you stronger as you are closer to death, and earns you some interesting remarks from Cartman.
The gameplay in combat is similar to the Final Fantasy series, except you’re a bit more involved. The battles are turn based, you pick what you are going to do: attack, use a power move or magic, (use an item once per turn no matter what you decide to do) and you are able to defend or counter attack when you yourself or a member of your party is being attacked.
Abilities are special moves that can deal more damage than normal attacks, and are usually specified by your class. Such as the fighter using the hit and run, a move where you hit a baseball at your opponent and proceed to beat him/her with the bat until it breaks, or the Jew using Plagues of Egypt, an attack that summons the catastrophes Moses inflicted upon the Pharaoh in the Old Testament.
Party characters have Abilities as well. Kyle uses “Kick the Baby”, an attack that kicks his little brother Ike at the enemy, and Butters uses “Professor Chaos”, in which he becomes his alter ego and you choose the effect of the ability (such as an area attack or mass healing) through a roulette spin wheel (that’s still fairer than Candy Crush’s spin wheel).
Because this is a game based around swords and sorcery, your character can perform magic, regardless of the class you choose, however it’s not the kind of magic you are familiar with. Magic in the Stick of Truth is… farts, you attack people with different kinds of farts. However, you are sworn to abide by the Gentlemen’s Oath by Cartman before learning your first spell: “you must never fart on anyone’s balls” a concept that is repeated before and after you learn a new spell.
The spells include: the dragon shout, your basic spell, the cup-a-spell, you throw your fart at an opponent from a distance, the sneaky squeaker, a silent fart thrown to distract an opponent, both in and out of battle, and the Nagasaki, a fart capable of breaking down walls.
Out of battle, you can explore the entirety of South Park, from Tweek Bros. Coffeehouse and other various shops around town, to the school, residential areas, and a “Taco Bell”. Around town you can interact with the various residents, break things, look for hidden items,such as chests, or collectible items, such as Chinpokomon.
Certain areas will be blocked off, some can be knocked down by hitting or firing an arrow at it, others require you to use a party character’s special ability to get through (such as Princess Kenny flirting with an opponent to get him to leave his post, and then knocking them unconscious). Some however will require using spells to get through, or using an area ability, such as an alien transporter stuck up your player’s anus or using gnome dust to shrink down to gnome size to get through tiny areas.
This is a South Park game, there is some VERY crude humor, strong sexual themes and even moments of nudity (it’s an M rated game based off a crude show, why would you expect any less from Stone and Parker). However some countries have taken to making the creators censor some of the more “offensive imagery” in the game.
Stone and Parker said that they would willingly censor six scenes; however the rating boards in certain European, Asian countries and Australia requested more be censored in order for the games to be passed. Certain cutscenes and images that were censored include: anal probing, Nazi imagery, abortions and fetuses. The countries this affected were Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, Austria, and Taiwan, however this is only on the PlayStation and Xbox versions. The Steam and PC versions were left uncensored, due to the game being digital download.
While the over-censorship was something the creators resisted, they submitted the censored versions in a fashion only the creators of South Park could, which allowed them to mock the whole ordeal. Censor cards were put in place over the questionable scenes and explained what was going on. In Europe, the card is of an annoyed thinking man in front of a flag, while in Australia, the card is of a crying koala bear.
The fact that the game plays like an episode of the show is one of the saving graces of the game. the humor and story-line are exactly like an episode of South Park. Many of the items and weapons you find around town are very crude and are things you could find in almost any home, like a dildo sword or methamphetamine and a crack pipe. If you have played Final Fantasy or Paper Mario before, you know how the turn based battle mechanic can get tedious and boring, especially once you reach the really high levels.
However the fact that you can control your party mid combat so you can counter-attack or defend, keeps you on your toes, and actually makes you pay attention to the battle. The fact that the game is self-referencing, such as Chinpokomon or the fact that it is a game that you are playing, adds another level of amusement to the game. An example is during the tutorial, when you take some time to do something, Cartman will say “Don’t let it bother you that there’s a game to be played.”
Another example is when you are captured by the elven army, the elf who takes you says “you can come quietly or fight us, but I warn you: fighting this fight at this point in the game is a complete waste of time and you might as well skip it and just come with us” leading to the option to either just go with them, or fight them.
What falls short in the game lies in the combat, not in how the combat mechanic, or how it is structured, but the monotony of fighting after a certain point. If you have ever played Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts, you know that after a certain point in leveling up, your just so overpowered that random encounters with enemies are more annoying than a challenge. For example you can just spam one move over and over again to get the battle over with, trying to get to that next boss, knowing you are not going to get a real challenge until you get there.
So as a whole, South Park: the Stick of Truth is an enjoyable experience. While combat can be tedious after some time; the game more than makes up for it in story, humor, and over the top adult content.
I give the game an A-, and if you don’t find yourself playing this game remember:
NEVER fart on a man’s balls.