South Park: The Stick of Truth Review (PS3)
Let’s get something out of the way. South Park: The Stick of Truth is absolutely uncensored (at least in America). If you don’t like South Park, or you get offended by farts, talking poop, performing abortions, monster fetuses, excessive use of the word ‘fuck’, ballsacks (lots of ’em), crossdressing, Nazi zombies, being called douchebag, religious humor, sexual misconduct, taking jokes too far and then going one step further, Jesus with a machine gun, or anything even remotely along these lines, then skip to my score below, subtract it from itself, and consider this game reviewed. South Park was not made for you and it is pointless to even read the remainder of this review. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind that one of the summon abilities in the game is a gay man taking an enemy into his ass for massive amounts of damage, then read on.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge South Park fan. As a fan of classic turn based RPGs, this game had me mildly curious, but I feared that some of the jokes would go too far. From previews, it appeared that farts would be too central of a focus, and while they are a main magical ability, they share the stage with plenty of other content so that it never feels like one joke is too overbearing. In fact, the balance of content in The Stick of Truth is one of its most impressive feats. During my 13 hour stay in the town of South Park, I was never overwhelmed or bored by any one feature or joke. Every continued beat was new, interesting, and funny, and it all felt varied right through to the end. I came to appreciate the genius of South Park a little bit more by playing The Stick of Truth.
You play as a voiceless new kid in South Park and your name is Douchebag, something you will just have to deal with. Even though you can fully customize your character’s look from the beginning, you will be able to modify it at almost any point, and at times, be required to do so – so it is best to not get too attached to a specific look.
I was extremely impressed with how the game looks and feels just like the TV show. The animations and style of the battle sequences, the open world town segments, and the cutscenes all flawlessly recreate the feeling of watching an episode of South Park. I was constantly in awe watching little Douchebag bounce down the street as I walked to my next quest marker. Far too often licensed content finds itself as a shadow of the work that it is trying to emulate, but The Stick of Truth is South Park through and through. The only issue that I could find with the visuals were a few dropped frames as the game would load new areas and checkpoint your progress. While noticeable, this was extremely minor and inconsequential when compared to the grand scheme of things.
With so much South Park, one wouldn’t be crazy for thinking that the actual game part of this video game would have taken a back seat to the bevy of irreverent humor that is offered. However, I’m happy to tell you that it did not. The RPG elements are perfectly blended with everything that South Park has to offer, and it is surprisingly decent even when held to normal RPG standards. Douchebag uses his Facebook page to track quests, view the world map, and equip the large variety of gear available.
Remember the customization options that I mentioned earlier? Every bit of gear that you equip will be reflected in your character’s appearance. That means that if the cheese hat is the best headgear that you own, your character is going to be seen wearing a cheese hat. But, as new gear and missions come along, you will constantly be changing your appearance up – so you won’t have to be worried about being stuck with ugly gear for too long. However, there is no way to organize your gear in the menu, so some of these constant changes can be really annoying when trying to get back to your go-to armor.
Gameplay resembles that of a classic turn based RPG, as you wander the town enemies appear around you and upon hitting them you are transported to a battle screen. Each battle is independent of the next, meaning that your health and PP (ability points) will refill after each fight is complete. The only thing that will not refill automatically is your mana, which is your fuel (gas) to perform magic attacks (farts), and for good reason. These attacks are extremely powerful, almost to the point of being game-breaking, and more often than not, made me feel like my character was overpowered for each situation.
The one thing about playing through The Stick of Truth was that without any need to grind, I was able to max out my character and breeze through most of the game. Having played as a Fighter class on the normal difficulty, there might be other levels of challenge available, but it could have used a bit more challenge on some aspects.
You can battle with a single partner which can add a level of strategy, but again, once I discovered some of the characters’ stronger abilities, especially in the last third of the game, I was defeating entire crowds of enemies without even giving them the chance to attack. Perhaps due to The Stick of Truth being so layered with content though, I didn’t consciously notice this issue until I was finished with the game and reflecting back on my experience.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a great game. Not because it is South Park. Not because it is a good RPG. But because the complete package is a solid piece of work that successfully marries the source material with one of the most beloved game genres out there. Peeling back each layer left me amazed at the scope and depth of the game. While a little on the shorter side when compared with most RPGs, The Stick of Truth is something that simply must be experienced by anyone who doesn’t mind dodging the occasional massive swinging scrotum mid-battle.
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