Game Review: South Park and the Stick of Truth (2014)

Acting as a follow up to the “Black Friday/Game of Thrones” episodes, South Park and the Stick of Truth is about the typical South Park crew after they decide that they need a break from video games and electronics, which leads them to decide to create their own LARPing game…. Bet you thought my Knights of Badassdom review was totally out of nowhere and had nothing to do with anything , did you? Now, unbelievers, onto the last meaty bits of the description. You play as the new kid to South Park, who, when forced to go outside by his parents, is coerced to join in the massive, Lord of the Rings-esque LARP session by none other than Eric Cartman. With his (and a handful of other familiar faces) prodding, you are immersed in the epic (from a 4th Grader’s perspective) power struggle over the eponymous Stick of Truth.

What Works:

As a fan of old-school RPGs, I loved the Paper Mario-esque combat. Throughout the game, you are completely intended to be immersed, be it with time based RPG battles, or unskippable and often hilarious cut scenes. The game looks like you’re literally controlling an episode from the series. There are cameos or more from pretty much every South Park character, even the one’s you would not expect. As per usual, there is some immensely clever, if occasionally risque and almos always raunchy, writing. They even lovingly  poke fun at tropes that are often over featured in games, like Nazi Zombies, as well as ridiculously difficult QTE’s (quick timed events) There are tons of collectibles, including Chinpokomon and numerous clothes and weapon types. But, for long time fans like myself, the game feels like a quadruple length, feature South Park movie, for better or worse…

Yup, Kenny maintains his Princess Kenny alter-ego from that Game of Thrones episode…

What Doesn’t:

The game, to me, is caught in an odd paradox in regards to length. It’s short enough, at roughly 12 hours, to allow a second or possible third playthrough, but it’s also way too long to actively appreciate it for the full length. I found early on that I got burnt out after about an hour to two of playing, I’d gotten burnt out on the experience and the humor. Don’t get me wrong, I love South Park, have for years, but if you watch/play for several hours on end, the laughs, guffaws, and chuckles become more infrequent, and less strong. So, if you are going to get this game, I recommend you follow those odd health instructions that come on game manuals, and take a break every hour or so.

The hilarious (if sacreligious) Jesus summon.

Though, as I mentioned before, the game is short, it seems like the character levelling system is especially so. Levelling ends at 15, which, if you like to try and finish every side quest before the end like myself, leads to a lot of treading water and sameness in character weapons and stats by the end. Surprisingly, certain teammates rarely got used because they were no fun.Stan and Jimmy are the worst offenders, with Stan constantly bugging you the player to hurry up nearly two seconds after your turn starts, and Jimmy, poor, awesome Jimmy, being the victim of constant repetition of unfunny dialogue.  Speaking of the teammates, it would have been nice to have the combat have more variations beyond “Press A”, “Quickly Press Random Button” and “Mash Random Button”. Another thing I wish was in the game was proper customization to what we, the players exactly want our avatar to look like, especially in regards to weapon types. After a trip really far north (desperately trying to not spoil everything), my onscreen character acquired a hockey stick that would inflict Slowed (this games equivalent of Frozen) with every strike. I really liked that weapon, and would’ve liked to have my character keep that weapon until the end bosses, since my Barbarian type character was rather unspecialized, only trained to inflict defense down and grossed out debuffs on enemies. Probably the worst problem of this or any other comedy game, repetition kills and rekills any joke you’d have thought was funny, especially when it wasn’t in the first place. Unfortnately, there is little reason for replayability if you max out your character by the end or find all the collectibles. Sure, there are 3 other classes you can choose from, but the combat’s just solidly good, not great, so I wouldn’t recommend trudging through a minimum of 11 hours just to hear the same jokes.

Final Score:

Good

If you’re a fan of South Park, you’ll like this game. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But you can see the whole game was a labor of love for the fans, and if you can rent it or get it for cheap, I would recommend checking it out if you have a spare weekend and a little spare money. 7.5 Canadians Blamed out of 10.

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