I knew about two hours into Stick of Truth it was going to be heinously difficult to review. It’s not bad, quite the opposite, but so much of what makes it good is surprise. There are some genuinely side-splitting moments that make the game worth playing, and it just wouldn’t make sense to spoil even a second of its bizarre, amazingly awful storyline in a review.
This is South Park’s magnum opus, essentially. More than a movie. More than any of the saga episodes thus far. It’s a ten hour long unadulterated South Park experience with some really solid gameplay beneath. You play as the New Kid, a jab at the permanently silent protagonist, and you move to the quiet little mountain town as Cartman, Kyle & co are in the middle of a fantasy war game over the titular Stick of Truth.
The gameplay itself is stellar. You pick a class – Warrior, Mage, Thief, or Jew – and set out on your epic quest to become cool There are reports of technical issues plaguing the console versions of the game, with some reviewers going so far as to say the game is unplayable, but there’s none of that on the PC version – across both of my playthroughs and twenty hours of gameplay I only ran into one glitch (my character got stuck on a ladder). Combat plays out much like Paper Mario, with turn-based attacks and surprising depth. All attacks are carried out with QTEs but these are pretty easy to come to grips with (mashing A & D to shake loose a swarm of rats, timing weapon swings for maximum damage, etc). There’s a huge amount of weapons and costumes to collect, all of which can be modified with strap-ons and patches – the best of which being a tuft of ginger pubic hair.
It’s a living episode of South Park. You create your own character from plenty of options – although you can only be a boy, in line with what I suppose you could call South Park “lore”. Naturally, cross dressing is an option, and in fact a requirement later on in the game. The entire town is there to explore with a small sewage system beneath it which contains a depressing look into the private life of Mr Hanky. You can visit Canada. You’ll see the inside of alien spaceships, and they’ll see the insides of you. And somehow, in the midst of all the probing, all of the nonsense, all of the Nazi paraphernalia, it still manages to capture a sliver of the joy of childish imagination. It’s just draped in perverse, brilliant adult humour.
The references must number in the thousands. In fact, the majority of the game’s scenarios and gags are lifted from episodes across the show’s seventeen season run. I’m a huge South Park fan, I’ve seen every single episode, and eventually it became painstakingly obvious that they weren’t just little nods and injokes here and there. The entirety of The Stick of Truth’s plotline is stitched together like some horrible Nazi-Zombie-Frankenstein from old episodes. It’s completely meta – god forbid This is a puny complaint, really, as it’s still incredibly funny – it would have just been a little better with some more original content. We all enjoy the odd reference here and there, but there are times where the game becomes a clip show.
The problem is, in my humble opinion, is that it doesn’t have anything to be angry about. There’s no topical subtext fuelling the humour, so whilst it’s a fun game with a lot of good jokes, it never really ramps up to the fantastic, incisive humour of the show itself, instead recycling a bunch of laughs. It’s all still funny the second time around (Or the fifth) but without a real topic to subvert, the humour kind of flails at times. Then there are the moments of pure genius. Like Canada. O, Canada. If you’ve finished the game and you’re still reading this review for this moment, you should take a gentleman’s oath never to reveal the nature of Canada to virgin Stick of Truth players. Any doubts as to the quality of the game should be referred to Matt & Trey’s almost obsessive dedication and heavy involvement with it’s development.
Minor gripes aside, you’ll still laugh, more than you ever have before at an RPG. Your jaw will still drop as you realise that yes, in fact, this game can get crazier than being shrunk, chasing gnomes through the walls, and fighting a boss beneath your shagging parents, only to be summarily swatted away by your dad’s ballsack. And where Stick of Truth might fail a little in terms of original content and the raw vitriol of the show, it shines everywhere else. Fun, fresh, rewarding exploration, collectables that are genuinely worth the time, and a combat system that stays fresh and relatively challenging throughout.
If you’re a South Park fan in any capacity, this game is a necessity. If you just catch the odd episode here and there for a bit of a laugh, it’s still worth buying – such is the quality of gameplay. Hats off to Stick of Truth for being one of those rare titles to come out of a long and troubled development with barely a thing to moan about.
Disclaimer: All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.