South Park: The Stick of Truth never tries to excuse itself.
Sometimes game development seems like a rocket-ship blasting off into the unknown. It starts to feel like the only reason games end up with interesting narratives at all is because of writers who hold onto the core of their story for dear life while major themes and plot beats are ripped off into an abyss of cuts — an inevitable reality in multi-year projects. It’s easy to be cynical about the whole process, especially when you look at how some major narrative franchises, like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy, plummeted in quality during the last console generation. Between budget and time constraints, it seems all too often like games are forced to choose between telling stories and being games.
The Stick of Truth is inspiring because after its lengthy and turbulent development it manages to be uncompromisingly South Park. It is a game written to support the medium; it never asks its audience to ignore poor pacing or subpar writing due to the obvious challenges of adapting a television show into a game. It isn’t padded, it doesn’t reuse environments, it is every bit as detailed and content rich as an episode of Comedy Central’s acclaimed late night cartoon — and it just so happens to come packaged up in the form of a great game.
In the vein of other South Park episodes, like Good Times with Weapons or The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers, The Stick of Truth is about the boys playing pretend and fighting to save the world. It is a role-playing game, because what else could it be? It’s a game about bored 10-year-olds wandering around a mountain town. Aside from explaining why these kids can use magic in battle, the game’s role-playing tropes are used to reinforce everything going on in the narrative. Watching the world shift to fit the kids’ interpretation of their fantasy adventure is the game’s biggest reward, one that’s made even more exciting by how legitimately satisfying it is to explore the town of South Park.
It’s a game that manages to find humour in everything, from its collectibles to its music. South Park’s writers have never shied away from their fondness of video games, but in The Stick of Truth they use their opportunity to act inside of the form to satirize games in new ways. To repeat, this isn’t a Matt Hazard satire, this is Matt Stone and Trey Parker having the time of their lives riffing on Skyrim because they love The Elder Scrolls. It is worth saying that having a rapport for South Park will go a long way here; it’s bursting at the seams with gags from the show, and exploring the town’s every nook and cranny is only satisfying if you have a desire to do that at all. There is nothing here for someone who expressly dislikes South Park — there are more jokes about things going into (and coming out of) asses than you can shake a stick at. It may be for South Park fans, but The Stick of Truth is made with as much love for games as any original content for in medium — it certainly doesn’t exist as a cheap licensed cash-in.
South Park: The Stick of Truth shocked me, and not just because of how far the game’s writers were able to push the ESRB, but because of how succinct the whole experience manages to be. It’s a 10 or so hour long experience that never drags. Moreover, it is a turn-based RPG whose battle-system somehow doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s laugh out loud funny and plain old fun. I’ve not detailed any specific scenarios, because I think the game is an anomaly; I find it hard to believe that South Park fans will ever have something like this again, and I want them to have the same grin running across their face that I did.
- Al Gore.
- It celebrates the show like Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Imagination Land.
- Sincere. I don’t think I can get tired of kids being kids. A few moments reminded me of Attack of the Friday Monsters!.
- So many different costumes to dress-up in.
- Great year for funny games.
- I didn’t encounter any bugs playing on pc.
- Trey Parker still has the world’s funniest voice.
- Having the battles be so few and far between is wonderful — it actually makes me want to try out the games many different classes.