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South Park: The Stick of Truth review

Excellent
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AT A GLANCE
  • Fantastically funny story
  • Deep customization options
  • Visual style that makes it look just like the show
  • Gameplay is a little basic
  • Combat gets repetitive by the end

You want me to say that South Park: The Stick of Truth is good, right? That's why you're here. You want me to tell you that despite the fact that it changed publisher mid-development and was subject to a number of lengthy delays, the game's funny, so it's probably worth playing as long as you're a huge South Park fan. But I'd be lying if I told you Stick of Truth is simply "good"--it's actually awesome. Seriously, you guys.

You play as the New Kid, tossed into the chaotic town of South Park in the middle of a massive live-action role-playing game fueled by the imaginations of kids who have watched way too much Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. It's basically an all-out war, with children fighting over the titular Stick of Truth (yes, the one from the end of the Black Friday trilogy), an artifact that allows the wielder to "control space and time."

Playing The Stick of Truth feels like mainlining two or three seasons of the show, both thanks to the fantastic animation--which looks exactly like the cut-paper style the show has used for nearly two decades--and the ridiculous script, which is written by series' creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The duo bring the same sense of humor to the story that they have for the past 200+ episodes, mixing together the inherent hilarity in kids being mean with social commentary and video game criticism. It feels incredibly authentic.

What's on offer here is an open-world South Park to explore, with a solid 12-14 hours of inside jokes, obscure references, and humor that pulls from 17 TV seasons' worth of social commentary and offensive humor. It's insane how much of the game seems to exist simply to elicit a laugh. Hell, you'll have trouble walking five feet without finding something that'll make you chuckle, be it the healing containers of crème fraîche in Randy Marsh's refrigerator or the many copies of The Poop that Took a Pee that all South Park Elementary's students seem to carry. Even if you haven't kept up with the show, the jokes are given enough context that you won't feel like you're missing out on the punchline.

Aaaaaand it's gone

Developer Obsidian has a history of developing strong games, but it also has a reputation for technical problems. For the most part, South Park: The Stick of Truth is relatively stable, with very few bugs to complain about. That said, two members of GamesRadar's staff hit different game-crashing areas in the PC version that required them to load up an earlier save of the game. Others said they made it through without any hiccups, though, but it's something to look out for.

The comedy doesn't stop when the cutscenes end, either; it permeates every element of the gameplay. Basic RPG tropes are given a South Park twist. You can choose from a variety of goofy classes to play as, including a football helmet-wearing warrior whose special ability stuns enemies via a series of kicks to the nuts, or the Jew, who gains a special scalpel for circumcisions (giving the enemy a few stacks of a bleeding debuff). Even combat has a silly element to it: yes, you're fighting to save South Park from a pretend Elven horde, but you're doing so in mock battles where a bunch of kids beat each other up with foam katanas and broken beer bottles. And flaming dildos. And bottle rockets. And real katanas. Alright, it gets kind of violent by the end, but it's also really funny.

There's a surprising amount of depth to the whole experience, too. There are tons of weapons and armor sets available to equip, which can be further enhanced via "stickers" that, say, add shock damage to your hammer, or increase the defensive capabilities of your glittery pink gloves (which you can change the color of, if you want). Sometimes it gets confusing exactly what impact the upgrades have--and in my game they'd randomly unequip themselves--but they add a nice layer of complexity to the otherwise basic system.

Battles themselves take the form of a turn-based RPG, with a few wrinkles that make it a little more action-oriented. During combat, quick-time event icons flash right as you go to attack or block; by hitting the correct button during these prompts, you'll do more damage or mitigate incoming attacks more effectively. It's a simple but engaging system, though you might find it annoying to continually have to time button presses once you reach Stick of Truth's final stretch.

You don't just fight alone, either. In typical RPG fashion, you choose between several different South Park characters to fight beside, each of whom have their own suite of special abilities. Some are more useful than others, but the ability to swap between them at any time makes it feel like you've a bigger party than you do. The different characters are important in the world, too--they follow you around, commenting on the different things you come across. Sometimes this leads to funny interactions (Butters has a story about being bullied at nearly every location, whereas the other characters have stories about bullying Butters at nearly every location), and other times it'll actually help you navigate the world faster. Honestly, I found it damn-near impossible to decide who to bring with me, just because I knew that if I had Jimmy with me it meant I was missing out on funny Cartman jokes, and visa versa.

Thankfully, you'll have plenty of reasons to explore areas again thanks to secrets and side-quests. Though you'll finish the main story in the span of 10 hours or so, there's plenty of extra stuff to find around South Park. Typically this is the point in a review where I'd list them, but part of the fun is in the surprise of "wow, they brought back that character?" so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Though some elements of South Park: The Stick of Truth are poorly explained, and you might find yourself growing tired of the combat by the end of the 12-hour journey, Obsidian's RPG is an absolutely fantastic, surprising experience. It's great for those willing to favor story and comedy over innovative gameplay--and still a damn fun time for anyone interested in a light, open-world RPG. Instead of a game trying to be South Park, it actually feels like you're playing South Park, and playing South Park is… well, it's pretty fucking kick-ass.

More Info

Release date: Mar 04 2014 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Ubisoft, THQ
Developed by: Obsidian
Franchise: South Park
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Violence

Stick of Truth is South Park's Arkham Asylum--a triumph of a licensed game that manages to fit in line with the franchise while paving new ground in gaming. In this case, the new ground is dick jokes--still, innovation is innovation.

This game was reviewed on PC.

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46 comments

  • brian-thorburn - March 18, 2014 7:03 p.m.

    My guess is he/she didn't leave much of an impression at the pta meeting either.
  • SpadesSlick - March 4, 2014 12:17 a.m.

    Hey Coop I am curious if you had any significant glitches or bugs in your play through as I see a couple of other review sights complaining about them (not surprising considering the developer). Glad to hear that the spirit of the series was maintained though, definitely can't wait to get this one.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - March 4, 2014 12:24 a.m.

    Can't speak for Coop, but I also played through. At one point, hit a game-breaking bug, which I only overcame by reloading a checkpoint from an hour prior and playing through a section over again.
  • SpadesSlick - March 4, 2014 12:49 a.m.

    Was this with the day one patch? I seem to have some great luck in being able to get through glitchy games alright (unless it happens to be Battlefield....) so I am not going to hesitate but it is certainly annoying that the possibility is there. Also thanks for answering Ryan.
  • The_Tingler - March 4, 2014 8:09 a.m.

    Probably not since the day one patch only goes up today with the game's release. The only problems I had was my character vanishing in the occasional cutscene (three times maximum over the entire game), and my item upgrades getting unequipped from weapons and armour now and again.
  • Artea - March 5, 2014 9:39 a.m.

    The game is not glitchy at all - it's very polished and bug-free. Not too surprising considering Obsidian was finally given a decent amount of time to make this, which is probably a first for them.
  • GOD - March 4, 2014 12:24 a.m.

    Hmmmm so in true RPG parody fashion I wonder if it has several post game bosses that are stupidly hard... there are too many possible bosses they could use for that. Now if only I had time to play this.....
  • GOD - March 4, 2014 12:26 a.m.

    Also, it's good to see that all the delays seem to have been worth it. I was worried this was one of those delayed until it gets ruined kind of scenarios.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - March 4, 2014 12:27 a.m.

    No stupidly hard bosses that I ever found :D
  • GOD - March 4, 2014 12:34 a.m.

    To be clear I didn't mean something story related that was stupidly hard, but an optional boss like Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts who is just there to be cool and ridiculously strong. Like a secret Mecha-Streisand boss ;D This works out well for you though, because now you don't have to worry about finishing before Dark Souls 2... unless you're already playing that too.... you dirty snitch you better not be....
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - March 4, 2014 12:38 a.m.

    Guess you'll find out on March 11, 9am PST ;)
  • StrayGator - March 4, 2014 12:45 a.m.

    How would you compare it to Costume Quest?
  • The_Tingler - March 4, 2014 8:07 a.m.

    Better in every way, and I loved Costume Quest. The fights are more involved, the jokes are more relentlessly funny, the structure is less repetitive, it's 4-5 times longer and there's actually an ending.
  • universaltofu - March 4, 2014 12:54 a.m.

    Sweet.
  • Swedish_Chef - March 4, 2014 12:57 a.m.

    S")$SYHUE:7G54$@DF
  • Swedish_Chef - March 4, 2014 12:58 a.m.

    SORRY THAT WASN'T ME IT WAS A SPOOKY GHOST!!! IT'S ECTOPLASM!!!
  • Kermit1970 - March 4, 2014 2:07 a.m.

    You forgot to mention that it's been censored in the EU
  • The_Tingler - March 4, 2014 8:05 a.m.

    Why would he? He's American, playing on PC where it's not censored even in Europe, plus that has nothing to do with the quality of the game.
  • Apollus08 - March 4, 2014 4:21 a.m.

    God I can't wait to get this game after work. I'm gonna play till my eyes bleed
  • CitizenWolfie - March 4, 2014 5:01 a.m.

    I'm REALLY tempted to get this, but with MGS:GZ and Infamous: Second Son out on the same day two weeks later (so I've read), should I go ahead and get it or save my money for the other two? I'm a huge South Park fan but it seems the sort of game that Sony will be offering free in about 8 months on PS+ (although Infamous is just as likely)

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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