By Steve Wright
Go and grab one – any one – of your South Park DVDs.
No, really. I’ll wait.
Now, put it in and watch any random episode. What happens? First, you get the little guitar riff to bring you into the sleepy town of South Park. Then, more likely than not, two or three characters make some comedic exchange, and away you go.
Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve just experienced the start of THQ’s South Park: The Stick of Truth. You know, more or less. You may have put on some random episode or something that doesn’t follow the norm, but you know what I mean. Stop being a nitpicker.
True to the word of both Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, The Stick of Truth looks exactly like an episode of the TV show. We were quickly introduced to “the new kid” and his parents, recent arrivals to South Park; seamlessly, the new kid stopped having a conversation with his parents and was suddenly at the whim of the lucky son-of-a-gun with a controller. The new kid's starting mission -- therefore, your own -- is simple: make friends and become cool.
Most of the crowd in attendance at THQ’s hands-off showing laughed out loud (and frequently!) through the game's entire 20 minute demonstration. Most of our delight came from amazing one-liners, so I’ll let you experience them for the first time on your own. The feel of South Park has been captured expertly in this title, and whether they were jokes that you’d hear on the show, or digs specifically at video games and their mechanics, each jab was spot on.
(I seriously need to point out at this stage that I’ve scrapped about three paragraphs where I just sank into pure fanboy mode and regurgitated who said what in the preview, and how funny it was. Aren’t you glad I have a shred of professionalism left?)
As the demonstration progressed, we got to witness the title's adventure game-esque general interaction with the world around you, character customisation and the game’s RPG-centric battle system.
To explore South Park as the new kid, you basically just saunter up to objects and press “A” to interact with them. You can also engage in conversations using the same mechanic, and you’re also able to destroy objects around you with a melee button. As mentioned previously, the game moves seamlessly from cutscenes to gameplay, and if there weren’t on-screen “Press A”-type prompts, you’d never know if you were playing a video game or just watching TV (well, unless you were the one holding the controller…)
There are a ton of customisation options available for your character, from class selection all the way to novelty facial hair. The outfits we saw ranged from serious (a knight’s outfit) to a bit silly (a Mr Kitty battle tunic) and just downright strange (a battle monocle). Progressing through battles and the general storyline also provide character-building XP and special item drops like Cheezy Poofs to regain energy. Long story short, you’ll easily be able to make a South Park character that you can call your very own with a little tinkering.
As far as battles go, they’re very RPG-like with a turn-based beginning. On top of that familiar mechanic, each character has special moves that can cause more damage if their action buttons are timed perfectly. The same thing applies when defending; perfect blocks allow for counter-strikes. Every character’s set of special moves and secondary summon characters are everything you’d expect from South Park: we watched as Cartman rochambeaued a vampire child, only to have the new kid then call out Mr Slave to devour him using only his ass (just like he's done to Lemmywinks in the past).
You read that right. Whatever takes an enemy off the battlefield, am I right?
Anyone with even a remote interest in South Park should pick up The Stick of Truth when it arrives 5 March 2013 on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.