Let’s just get this out there: if you are in any way a fan of South Park, you’re going to want to buy The Stick of Truth.
It looks like the television show. It sounds like it. It’s actually been written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, so the juvenile, yet spot-on social commentary of the TV series is right there in game form.
Games that sit in development limbo usually look it; they’re usually a mish-mash of ideas, usually executed very poorly. Not so with The Stick of Truth. It’s taken a while to get to our consoles, first with THQ and now Ubisoft, but it’s definitely been worth the wait.
Only South Park.
The game is clearly fan-service first and RPG second, but it runs through the motions of the latter very competently. Classes are largely for show; you can pick up the equipment and the skills of any of the four available and chop and change throughout the game. Most actions require some sort of input to be effective; QuickTime-esque button hits will deliver harder blows, while joystick movement is a must to deal out (and learn) special moves and magicks.
For those willing to learn complex RPG systems, the combat can be quite challenging on harder modes; being a long-time South Park fan, I flipped between normal and casual difficulty because I really just wanted to see what happened next.
If you’re not really a South Park fan, you won’t pick up on the endless parade of in-jokes, which may make the game a little thin. Those familiar with the show will be delighted to hear of ManBearPig references, or have the sounds of Cartman’s failed boyband, Faith+1, wash over them as they explore homes and business in the little mountain town.
Hell, that aforementioned monitor delivery side-quest even has meaning if you know of Counselor Mackey’s history.
All up — and very true to the show — you’re either a kid pretending to be an epic fantasy figure, or somehow finding yourself with the actual fate of the world in your hands. It’s all clever, enthralling stuff. For the first time, you’re playing a 9-10 hour South Park video game that actually feels like South Park. Not a cheap knockoff. Not a cash-in. Right, proper South Park.
On the topic of things you have to see to believe, it’s quite jarring to have censored screens popping up, describing events that others in our real-life world are able to witness. That said, it’s delightful that those replacement descriptions have been written — tongue-in-cheek — by Parker and Stone themselves.
In the end, that’s this game’s saving grace: this is a South Park game that has undeniably been crafted by the devious minds you’ve come to know and love. If you’re a fan, this is a must-buy. If you appreciate the humour of South Park and love RPGs, it’s one to seriously consider. If the franchise is lost on you, you should completely avoid this game; after seventeen seasons of the show, you should really know to expect by now.
South Park: The Stick of Truth was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox 360, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.