South Park: The Stick Of Truth review

South Park: The Stick Of Truth is a surprisingly deep and fun adventure game

Reasons to buy
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    Funny dialogue

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    Deep mechanics

  • +

    Great storytelling

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Lack of clarity

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    Quick Time Events

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Have the developers come up with a game that matches up to the show? Find out in our South Park The Stick of Truth review

Traditionally, South Park games don't review very well. This is probably because, in the past, a lot of the video games set in the “quiet little white-bred redneck mountain town” created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone felt thin in comparison to their source material. It may sound like a strange complaint, but what was missing from earlier South Park games was depth.

The South Park TV show graduated from cheap shocks to biting satire quite quickly and very little of that intelligence was seen in the tie-in games. Instead, the games, then suffered from a problem that the show remedied a long time ago; foul-mouthed children and bowel movements aren't enough in themselves to keep the masses entertained.

South Park The Stick Of Truth: Plot

It's great that Parker and Stone – who acted as consultants on this game – and Obsidian, the developer behind Fallout: New Vegashas addressed this problem.

South Park The Stick Of Truth has all the requisite bad language and bottom-feeder gags but it also has a deeper set of mechanics than one would expect from a tie-in game. It's also the closest any developer has come to making an episode of the South Park TV show into an interactive experience.

The game centres on a mute kid who meets up with Cartman, Butters and the rest of the local urchins, shortly after their arrival in South Park.

Cartman is engaged in a long-running Live Action Role Playing (LARP) session with Kyle and some of the local kids in which he and his human allies are defending The Stick Of Truth from Elves.

It's not long after the kid – to whom Cartman bestows the memorable moniker, Douchebag – joins the game that the elves manage to make off with the Stick Of Truth. What follows is an entertaining romp through South Park in which pretty much every character that's ever popped up in the series has at least a cameo.

South Park The Stick Of Truth: Features

South Park Stick Of Truth is essentially an RPG that borrows elements of its structure, mechanics and lore from a wide array of titles. Players pick a class and gather tons of trinkets, weapons and pieces of equipment (Borderlands) and the game's plot helps itself to established tropes from sword and sorcery RPGs (Skyrim, Dragon Age: Origins).

The game's combat is a mash-up of the turn-based fighting in Final Fantasy with an emphasis on timed blocking. As with most other RPGs, there are talent trees players can unlock by using XP.

The players pick from four different classes – Fighter, Thief, Mage and Jew (which is basically a Monk class-type) – and each class has its own path of progression. The experience of playing with them is different enough that the game warrants a second play through using a different class.

Every battle won and quest completed earns the player XP, which they can use to increase the damage caused by special attacks. They can also make friends with other kids in South Park – some of which require them to complete a quick fetch quest – and these open up Perks (buffs and abilities).

South Park The Stick Of Truth: Combat

These come in handy in battle, where timed special attacks can really make the difference between victory or death. Most enemies the player comes across will deploy boosts and reflection powers, so players need to pick the right attack for the job.

It's also worth making sure armour and weapon levels stay on a par with the character's level and that they keep a healthy stock of snacks to revive friends, heal themselves, and boost their attacks.

Attacking and blocking hinges on timing button pressing with prompts. This is a bit fiddly to begin with, but once you get the hang of it, it chimes nicely with the jerky in-game animations. The only major frustration is the game's blocking mechanic, which even if perfectly timed hardly ever prevents all damage from a strike.

Players are also taught how to wield fart magic early on – yes, really – which can stun, knock over, confuse or gross out enemies – the latter ability causes the target to lose health and puke for several turns.

Players pull off attacks with some of the friends they've made. Each friend has a different set of abilities, but they're controlled using the same rhythms and beats as the player's character. Players can swap between allies on the fly at any stage, allowing them to change up attacks if one ally proves to be a bit useless against the enemies they're facing.

South Park The Stick Of Truth: Censorship

The player's buddies all come fully equipped with their abilities unlocked. Well, at least we think that's the case. Since the player has absolutely no ability to tinker with the equipment and skill load-outs of the NPCs, we have no way of knowing if the game does this sort of thing internally.

It's a bit perplexing that given its RPG roots, The Stick Of Truth doesn't offer the player the option of customising their buddies in anyway – especially when it allows them to deck their own character out quite extensively.

The other confusing aspect in this game is tied up in Ubisoft's decision to cut key scenes from this release. In a couple of instances, scenes – involving abortions and anal-probes – have been replaced by screens that just describe what the player is missing.

In a way it's funnier, but the idea of censoring a game as frequently in your face as this one seems a bit like slamming the stable door after the horse you wished to contain is frolicking in a field several miles away.

South Park The Stick Of Truth: Verdict

That having been said, South Park TSOT is fun to play throughout in spite of its peccadillos. The key here is the fact that the developers who made it clearly have deep and abiding love of the source material, which is reflected in every frame.

They nail every single detail; every thing from the show's outrageous personalities, its in-jokes and its lo-fi visual style is present and correct.

Even a brief exchange with a bank teller will likely prompt a wry smile in long time fans of the show. It may be damning with faint praise to call South Park: The Stick Of Truth the best South Park game ever made, but that doesn't make it any less true.

South Park The Stick Of Truth release date: Out now

South Park The Stick Of Truth price: £30.00

Nick Cowen

Nick Cowen studied Classical Civilisations and English at the University of Witwatersrand and joined T3 as Editor at Large, writing about subjects including video games, gaming hardware, gadgets and consoles. You'll also find plenty of content by Nick on about video game industry events and shows.