There were a lot of concerns leading up to the release of South Park: The Stick of Truth. Could the game meet the lofty expectations set by the TV franchise it’s based off of? After all, if you were to gather up successful game adaptations from movies and television shows, you could easily fit them in a broom closet. Add in several delays, the original publisher going bankrupt, and legal disputes, that cause for concern becomes quickly warranted. Consider this, though: Matt Stone and Trey Parker were able to incorporate several enjoyable musical numbers into the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Surely they can weave the same magic into a video game, right? Is there enough magic to make Stick of Truth worth the wait? Will all South Park fans fall in love with the game? Will Professor Chaos’ plan for world domination come to fruition? The answers to all of these questions come….
Now: They can, for the most part, it depends on their enjoyment of turn based RPGs, and no.
Let’s face facts: South Park: The Stick of Truth is essentially a ten or so hour episode of South Park. Before you start to worry about that, I’d have to ask why you think this is a bad thing? Has the show sunk in quality from time to time recently? Absolutely, but as 6 Days to Air demonstrated, when Matt Stone and Trey Parker are burnt out from other projects, the series suffers. Book of Mormon took a lot out of the duo as the documentary showcased and I’d be willing to bet Stick of Truth did the same. Despite these issues, when the duo is on the top of their game, as they were with both The Game of Thrones trilogy and season finale The Hobbit.
That’s the exact case here. Everything you know, love, and have come expect from the TV show can be found in the game: the look and feel, cast of characters, environment, overused jokes, it’s all here. Because of this, it’s the first time I can ever recall being okay watching a game instead of playing it. Just when I think the game stops being funny and starts being serious, jokes come from out of nowhere left and right. It’s an overall enjoyable experience from start to finish, even if some of the best jokes you’ve already seen in the game’s trailers.
Oh, that’s right; this is a video game that involves gameplay. In summation, you could call South Park: The Stick of Truth “Paper Mario: South Park edition.” You’ll explore environments, investigate “dungeons,” loot chests, and do battle with familiar companions. Combat is turn based and gives you the options to perform several actions, whether it’s using an item, special ability, magical fart, or attacks. Using your abilities/magic/attacks will result in an on-screen cue to be performed. Nailing them down perfectly will result in bonuses. Again, this is nothing new to those who have played games such as Paper Mario before. It’s almost as if the gameplay was flat out copied and pasted, refusing to push the boundaries South Park’s stories do so often.
As you’ve no doubt realized from promotional footage, Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Princess Kenny will join you at various times during your adventures in combat, but they’re not the only ones. Two additional surprises will be available at your pleasure as well. Truth be told, though, once Cartman was available he was the only character I used in combat.
That one little detail sets off a cavalcade of issues concerning Stick of Truth’s gameplay. There’s nothing wrong with it, per say, but its imperfections come racing forward when they’re added up one by one. Why don’t we do just that now?
- The game is far from being helpful when you learn new abilities. There were far too many times where I was doing the correct on-screen commands, but I wasn’t solving the puzzles properly. I’d consult the manual for help, but, you know, those no longer exist.
- While technical hiccups weren’t common, I did lose about 15-20 minutes of gameplay during the beginning of the game when the game loaded a checkpoint over a save. I’m not sure if this is a recurring theme because I never turned the game off again due to paranoia.
- Controlling the directional arrow during combat can be nightmarish due to its high sensitivity.
- The difficulty curve is completely out of whack. Things start out simple, get really difficult during the first night in the story, then mellow out a little bit before bosses start completely challenging you again until they finally become a pushover during the climactic battles.
- The “animation” that happens before a battle begins is straight out of the 1990s.
Does this make me hate the game? Far from it; it’s just annoying to be laughing hysterically one minute and then becoming a grumpy gamer the next.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is at its best when it’s not a game but instead an episode of South Park. The gameplay, while enjoyable, is imperfect. Everything has been done before and the issues combine to create a very schizophrenic experience. Thankfully, the humor, narrative, and presentation more than make up for it.
For the most part, anyway.