Ubisoft's Gamescom demo for South Park: The Stick of Truth was a brief one. But in the few minutes it ran for, it provided swathes of evidence of the game's legitimate credentials, both as a truly worthy South Park game and as a video game in its own right. In fact, like Rocksteady's Arkham games--to make a superficially odd but utterly fitting comparison--Obsidian's RPG feels like one of those rare video game adaptations that's less an interactive collection of references and iconography and more an extended work of canon.
It's there right from the basic presentation, which never breaks from the series' 2.5D, 'looking into the room' visual style. There are no cel-shaded cheats or series-betraying 3D camera pans here. There's not a thing to make you feel you're not watching an episode of the show, aside from the obvious player control.
The TV authenticity continues through into the game's turn-based combat system, which, with its Paper Mario-style damage bonuses for well-timed button presses, plays out for all the world like an in-episode video game parody. With hilariously grimy South Park tropes taking the place of traditional RPG attacks and buffs--a QTE-boosted Roshambo is of course in there, as is a 'Shit Nugget' ranged attack--battle feels like watching a JRPG-themed spin-off from the legendary 'Make Love, Not Warcraft' episode.
With the game written by series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, its story sequences also have a powerful smack of the team's savvy cross-media satire about them. A particular favourite scene came after Stan and Kyle broke out of a locked basement ("Nothing a level 12 Thief can't handle!"), leading to a brilliantly fourth-wall breaking 'death scene' for Cartman, as the over-dramatic lard-arse repeatedly squeezed ketchup over his mouth in an attempt to make his seeming demise all the more poignant.
And it's incredibly refreshing to see that The Stick of Truth is in no way scared to deliver the full brunt of the show's brutally wrong sense of humour or way with dialogue. The demo ended with the boys on a quest to stop the bad guys from raping "Princess Kenny" to death. Even in a modern video game, that kind of writing takes balls (remember--never, EVER fart on them). Here's hoping they don't suffer any more developmental Roshambos before the game's winter release.
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