I like South Park. I think this is a thing that comes as a surprise to most people, but I’ve always rather fancied the satirical nature of the cartoon, and its generally shameless abuse of preconceived societal notions. That said, I’ve not actually finished watching all episodes, because there are way too many of those. Nonetheless, when South Park: The Stick of Truth was slated for release back in 2013, I was one of those awaiting its release with increasing amounts of excitement.
So what exactly is the Stick of Truth? The premise is as such: you play a new kid that has moved in to South Park, and your parents tell you to go out and make friends. Soon, you run into Butters, who brings you into the fantasy live-action role playing game that all the kids (or rather, all the male kids) are playing. The humans are fighting the elves (kids wearing little elven ears) for the titular Stick of Truth, and the wielder will be able to control all of space and time. The entire game is peppered with plenty of references, inside jokes and satirical humour that is very much South Park in essence. The game is fairly inclusive – even gamers who aren’t followers of the show will recognise the comedy in the game, and there’s enough context so the player doesn’t feel like they’ve missed something.
You start off with joining the Kingdom of Kupa Keep (also referred to as the KKK), which is run by Eric Cartman, and you pick from four classes, Warrior, Mage, Thief or Jew. It’s probably been reiterated many times on boards and other discussions on this game, but if you’re playing Stick of Truth, it’s really, really worth playing as a Jew at least once. It’s not unlike the more traditional “War Monk” type of class, but its reinterpretation is interesting, to say the least. Furthermore, picking a class isn’t limiting in the sort of weapon that you can carry, which I found that to be great.
For a series that’s based so largely on absurdity and outrageousness, the fights are hilariously “normal”. Characters don’t suddenly gain magical weapons in their role play – for example, Butters’ paladin hammer is no more than a hammer found in a workshop, and Kyle uses a golf club and balls to strike enemies. Eric, a mage type, uses fire and ice spells that involve the use of a lighter and a can of aerosol-based spray, or lugging a huge tub of ice cubes. Magic involves a great deal of farting, and potions are no more than bags of snacks or cans of cola.
There are certainly some more outlandish abilities that you can unlock, such as a Jew character being able to unleash the plagues of Egypt on their enemies, but ultimately, most of the abilities used still hinge on some semblance of believability, and it doesn’t really let you forget that this is a bunch of make-believe fights that kids are doing with bits and pieces of rubbish lying around.
Combat is fundamentally turned-based, and also really easy to get through. Because the consumption of items and the use of special talents don’t count as a turn, you can easily whizz past even boss fights throughout the game. Still, the use of quick-time event and needing to carefully time your button presses makes the game a little bit more engaging.
Furthermore, during battle, you don’t get to have a small party of characters fighting alongside you. Instead, you’ve got just one partner, and during combat itself, you can switch between several of the South Park characters that you’ve unlocked. Each character is a different sort of class, with their own abilities that makes them unique. Stan, for example, is a warrior, and he’s also able to call on his pet dog Sparky to bite the opponent, while Kyle, the elf king, has an ability that allows him to call on the elven army to rain arrows on the enemy. Jimmy, the bard, has a song that would make the enemy shit itself. Literally. While changing characters in combat takes up a whole turn, it allows you to switch around to determine which works best for you across the different situations that you encounter.
Having partners is not limited to only combat. As you navigate the world, your partner would follow along with you and make comments as you proceed through the game. There’s an incentive to switching around partners, since their comments would be different. For example, walking past a spot, Butters may comment on being bullied here, while the others would comment on having bullied Butters there. Interactions aside, though, is that having the right partner is necessary in getting through certain parts of the game. Having Stan as a partner allows you to get his dog to pee on and, consequentially, destroy large electronics, while having Kenny would allow him to flash his princess chest at the guards to distract them.
Ultimately though, it is pretty easy to complete South Park: The Stick of Truth, and the puzzles that are around during world exploration typically don’t present much of a challenge.
So then, what actually is the playing value of South Park: The Stick of Truth, if it’s so easy? It’s hard to argue that the game has an exceptional plot, because it doesn’t, but playing the game produces that feeling of going through a massive South Park episode, and the humour is surely sufficient in keeping the gamer interested. While there are various plot points that caused a raised eyebrow and plenty of disdain instead of the intended hearty laughter, I found myself enjoying the game, nonetheless. The game prides itself as being comedic, which it largely succeeds at, and for players that favour having a fun time and a good laugh, this game would surely hit the spot.
Ratings: 3.5 out of 5 stars
by Chua Yuxuan
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