South Park: The Stick of Truth starts like any other role-playing game. First, you determine your character’s appearance, choosing facial features and hairstyle, and picking out an outfit and accessories. But then, after a bit of exposition, Eric Cartman asks you to type in your name.
“You entered Douchebag, is that correct?” he snickers, no matter what you actually type. “Are you sure you want to keep the name Douchebag?”
Go ahead, click the “no” button. “Very well, Douchebag!” Cartman replies. “You will now choose a class: Fighter, Mage, Thief, or Jew.”
Cartman’s over-the-top antisemitism, racism, and horrible behavior is a staple of the South Park animated series, and it hasn’t been toned down for this new video game, published by Ubisoft for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Windows PCs. The Stick of Truth jokes about Nazis, pedophilia, and aborted fetuses; it’s got to be the most disgusting and deliberately offensive mass-market video game ever made.
I loved it. You probably will too.
Just like the best episodes of South Park, The Stick of Truth combines low humor and high satire with a tightly-written plot. As the new kid in town, your character Sir Douchebag is dropped into the middle of a live-action role-playing game that’s divided Cartman and his cohorts, and you have to choose a side and prove your worth; meanwhile, extraterrestrial visitors and sinister government agencies skulk around causing a series of crises that threaten the town, and ultimately the world.
The Stick of Truth revels in fantasy role-playing game tropes as it makes fun of them: The story is filled with smart references to Dungeons & Dragons, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and even classic 8-bit RPGs. You have to complete quests (like recruiting the goth kids to your cause), cast spells (fireballs spurt from lit roman candles) and consume magic potions and buffs (healing magic comes from bags of Cheesy Poofs). And combat is mediated in the turn-based style of classic computer RPGs: “It’s like olden times,” Cartman explains. You have to wait your turn. I know it’s lame, but that’s how we’re doing it.”
The Stick of Truth was designed by Obsidian Entertainment, the studio behind of Fallout: New Vegas and Neverwinter Nights 2, in close collaboration with South Park Studios, which makes the animated program. So it’s both an excellent role-playing game and a true representation of the world of South Park: It looks and feels like an interactive, hours-long version of show.
That’s a very good thing if you’re a fan of South Park –it’s terrific fun to wander the town, meet all the characters, and catch all the in-jokes from 16 years of the show. But Obsidian’s involvement keeps the game from getting too insidery. If you don’t watch South Park you might not get all the references, but the game will still be enjoyable on its own.
As for me, I’m a big fan. I’ve watched South Park since it’s debut, and think every subsequent season has been better than the last; I love the South Park movie, love just about everything series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have done. That means I was right in the wheelhouse for this game –but it also means I had very high standards, and expected a lot.
This isn’t the first South Park video game —Cartman, Kyle, Kenny and Stan have appeared in five other titles for platforms including the Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation, Microsoft Windows and Xbox Live Arcade. But it’s the first South Park game that wasn’t simply farmed out to a developer, and the first that Parker and Stone actually wrote –and it shows.
The Stick of Truth is funny (I can’t remember any game with so many laugh-out-loud moments), outrageous (continually reaching new heights of the gross and offensive) and awfully smart –It’s the video game fans always wanted, and a hell of a lot of fun to play.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC (reviewed on PC)
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Released: March 4th, 2014
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