Game Review | South Park: The Stick of Truth
Game summary: As the New Kid, discover the lost Stick of Truth, and earn your place at the side of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as their new friend. (IMDb)
I've played through The Stick of Truth a few times now and it never stops being an absolute pleasure to play through while still making me laugh out loud at some of the humour. And this is from someone who hasn't watched South Park regularly since the first few seasons - but you don't need to be a huge fan of the show to enjoy this game.
Yes, more than a few references might fly right over your head if you don't follow the show closely, and some of the biggest laughs may fall flat completely if you have no experience with the show at all, but the majority of the humour comes from the the very set-up of the game: kids playing as fantasy characters in an epic adventure.
It helps that you play as the (almost) completely unvoiced 'New Kid', who is given the character name of 'Douchebag' by Cartman - Grand Wizard of the KKK (Kingdom of Kupa Keep) - regardless of whatever you pick. All the characters have to introduce themselves to you and what their friendship with each is like, so it's pretty easy to pick up who's who.
The only real downside regarding your character is something that the second game, Fractured But Whole, fixed - you can only play as, and be referred to, as a boy in this game. Despite this, you can dress up and effectively role-play as a girl (much like Princess Kenny in-game), which is what I did as I plan to go through the sequel one last time sometime soon and 'out' my character as a girl anyway.
However you perceive your character, it doesn't really affect the gameplay, only some of the interactions between you and other inhabitants of the town. It has no bearing at all on the combat side of things, which isn't a surprise as the combat in Stick of Truth is more than a little simple - although I still prefer it to Fractured But Whole.
The sequel has a better system for combat, but is forced to introduce some irritating mechanics at some point to stop the player from blitzing through that game. It's fairly easy to race through this game too once you know what you're doing in battle, but that just gets you back to the very funny story and characters all the sooner, so can hardly count as a negative.
The combat is turn-based, with no time limit other than opponents taunting you about how long you're taking, so is relatively stress-free and very easy to learn for people new to this type of gameplay. One thing to pick up quickly is learning to attack your opponents first, or even using the environment around you to inflict damage on them before combat starts.
One area where Stick of Truth utterly outclasses the second game is the most important one, which is the central story. This game goes on just as long as it needs to and, even with all the side missions, never feels like it's out-staying its welcome. The story constantly presses forward, keeping things simple and stays funny for the entire length of the game - none of which are especially true for Fractured But Whole.
This does mean that the game can actually seem quite short once you've mastered the combat and can race through it surprisingly quickly on a second (or third...) play-through, but remains a lot of fun regardless. It's always better to leave your audience wanting just that little bit more rather than hoping for the end to come because it's been going on too long.
One last tip is to be careful about which version of the game you play. It's probably easiest for most to pick up The Stick of Truth on PC now, which has been uncensored since release. Yes, the console versions were censored depending on where you live, so make sure you can experience the full version as intended by the writers and developers.
Despite this, the funniest sequence (for me) was never censored anywhere despite containing extremely adult content that will go undescribed in this review to avoid causing any problems with search engines. Let's just say that you have an encounter with the Underpants Gnomes and you end up seeing your character's parents behaving in a manner most games would never depict!
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a very, very funny game that never stopped being entertaining. Even if you're not a South Park fan, most of the humour still lands and the gameplay is simple enough for players of most skill levels to pick up very easily. It'll maybe be a little too simple for some, but the terrific story and dialogue will more than compensate.