The long-awaited and much-delayed South Park: The Stick of Truth is finally here. Fans of the series have been kept waiting with bated breath, for over a year, after the collapse of its original publisher, THQ and several, subsequent developmental delays. The question is: Has it been worth the wait?
Fans of South Park have been left frustrated by previous game incarnations of the much-loved cartoon series. The Stick of Truth is South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s sixth attempt at creating something that qualifies as a credible, enjoyable and, frankly, playable game. To save face and avoid any further embarrassment, Parker and Stone have kept a close eye on The Stick of Truth’s development, writing the script, providing the voices and working closely with Obsidian Entertainment, to ensure the game remains true to the look, feel and dynamic of the show. The look of the show is crude, cheap and juvenile. The feel of the show is crude, cheap and juvenile. The dynamic of the show is the pursuit of crudity, cheapness and juvenility. To that end, I’m pleased to confirm that this game delivers on all three fronts.
The Stick of truth centres around the fictional mountain town of South Park, Colorado. There’s a new kid in town and it’s his job to make friends, be accepted and and become part of the exclusive team of juvenile delinquents that comprise the main cast of the show. You play the part of the new kid, a frustratingly-silent, non-event of a protagonist.
The general premise is based on the ‘Black Friday’ trilogy of South Park episodes, from Season seventeen. The kids of South Park are engaged in what can only be described as a Game of Thrones-esque fantasy re-enactment nerd fest, the likes of which are likely to guarantee their eternal virginity, unless you count the occasional anal rape, in which case, they’re getting no end of tail.
This game itself is, at its core, like every RPG that’s ever been made, only less engaging, less intelligent and with a few gags about shit, tits, dildos and abortion thrown in. The game begins with the new kid and his family moving into their new house in South Park, in order to escape from an undisclosed situation that they found themselves in, in their previous home town. The first task is to make some new friends, but there is time to have a look around your new home first, which offers some wonderfully-charming activities, such as taking a shit in the bathroom and subsequently collecting the turd, for later use as a projectile weapon. This effectively sets the tone for the game. There are collectables and items that can be picked up at every turn, from dildos and soiled tampons, to used needles and pubic hair. Some of these items can be used to aid progress, however, most are simply there to entertain and serve no purpose other than, in my case, to cement my immediate dislike of this diabolical excuse for a game.
From this point, it’s time to meet some new friends. Conveniently, Butters lives next door and Eric Cartman lives next door to him. Cartman is the self-appointed Wizard King, who oversees the protection of the Stick of Truth; a stick, which is presumably a wholly upstanding, honest stick. He runs his operation from his backyard, which he’s named the Kingdom of Kupa Keep or ‘KKK’, a joke that seems to have been lifted directly from Jim Davidson’s dustiest of dusty joke books. This, sadly, is one of the more intelligent gags that runs through the game. Under the Wizard King’s tyrannical command are the KKK’s workforce, one of whom our character must become, in order to progress in the game, which is lovely.
Sadly, this is where things go somewhat downhill, as the player soon becomes acquainted with the realisation that this game is nothing more than a glorified Point and Click adventure, only without a point. It’s a poorly-disguised Hidden Object/Fighting Game, with the occasional puzzle thrown in, which would only serve to challenge the Timmys of this world. To make matters worse, the fighting sequences are clumsy, boring, frustrating and occur every three fucking minutes. After an hour of play, it’s hard to decide between a cigarette break and a quick call to Dignitas. There’s more repetition in this game than in the Alzheimer’s Ward of the Parrot Lodge. Imagine having your eyes forced open with matchsticks, being tied to a chair and forced to watch endless Top Gear repeats on Dave, all day, every day, for the rest of your life. Now, exponentially amplify and concentrate that experience into one hour and you’ll still be nowhere near reaching the levels of repetitiveness that occur in this game. This repetition also extends to the soundtrack, which is about as varied as Amish Fashion Week.
The game’s graphics are actually very good, contextually. In this aspect, at least, the game’s been well-crafted and well-executed.
If you take a pessimistic approach to gaming, it’s all too easy to ask the question: What’s the point? However, a good game will take you to a new world, in which the experience of playing is its own reward. With this particular game, the only reward is the knowledge that playing it isn’t a legal requirement. So, the question stands: What’s the point?
I genuinely do enjoy watching South Park, as I do other TV shows. The problem is, if I were able to be a character in a TV show, it’s not likely that I’d opt to play the role of a silent extra, who adds nothing to the narrative and just gets in the way. Imagine being an actor, who’s always dreamt of being in Eastenders. Imagine his delight, when he received the call from his agent, confirming he’s been offered a role. Now imagine the speed at which that joy would turn to despair, upon the discovery that the role in question is of ‘Fox that rips open Kat’s bin and runs away with her tub of scrapings – Uncredited’. No one wants to be an unknown side character.
One, small consolation is that the far-too-brief and far-too-rare cut sequences are genuinely funny. However, that consolation soon fades, upon the sickening realisation that you’ve just paid £40 for an extended episode of South Park, but one that has a three hour commercial break for every thirty seconds of action.
It’s worth mentioning that Ubisoft EMEA has decided to censor some of the more controversial material contained in the game. A total of seven scenes have been removed from EMEA regional versions of the game. These include scenes of anal probing and and abortion mini game. This decision has caused internet forums to implode with rage. I, too am angry. I’m angry because I would prefer for the entire game to be removed from existence, forever..
Is South Park: The Stick of Truth worth the wait? If you’re a hardcore South Park fan, then you’ll enjoy this, but if you’re a fan of well-crafted, enjoyable games and you at least have enough brain cells for your head to rattle when you jump, you’re shit out of luck.