Friday, January 15, 2016

Video Game Review: South Park: The Stick of Truth (Xbox 360)

South Park: The Stick of Truth (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Genre: RPG
Platform Played For Review: Xbox 360 via Xbox One Backwards Compatibility

"From its visuals to its audio, from the witty writing to the direction, Stick of Truth is a superb recreation of the show."

The New Kid moves to South Park, lacking memory of his peculiar past. His parents send him to play outside, where he quickly befriends Butters and joins Cartman in the Kupa Keep...

South Park: The Stick of Truth is a role-playing game. You play as The New Kid – quickly dubbed "Douchebag" by Cartman. As Cartman prepares to show you the almighty Stick of Truth, Kupa Keep is attacked and the stick is stolen. From here, you go on an absurd quest to retrieve the Stick of Truth – more than once, at least. This wild quest includes school raids, abductions and UFOs, government agencies and a huge Taco Bell, as well as the wonderful cast of the series. Your quests, main and side, will take you through iconic South Park locations to meet and aid hilarious characters; your journey will perfectly spoof and poke fun at some of the most popular video games. So much more happens in this plot, but I don't want to spoil it. I played with barely any knowledge prior and the story brought a glowing smile to my face. The ending was hilarious, too.

South Park is faithfully recreated in video game form... and it's hilarious!
In terms of gameplay, South Park is a fairly basic RPG. You move freely through a 2.5D recreation of South Park. Battles are activated by a character's action – if you hit an enemy in the main world, you get the first hit, and vice versa. The turn-based battles take place in separate arenas. You can use melee attacks, long-ranged weapons, special abilities, and even magic consisting of creative farts. Outside of the battles, you can also use abilities, including your ally's powers, to reach different places; these include a teleportation device planted in your butt and the ability to shrink. Regardless of the class you chose, you can fully customize your character with different armor and weapons, then customize your arsenal with special patches that add new attributes. It has some meat to it, but is fairly basic.
The environment constantly changes, keeping the gameplay on its toes.
In a sense, the basic gameplay is welcomed and unfortunate. On one hand, it is a very easy game to play. If you're a fan of the show and have barely touched any video games in your life, you can pick this up and enjoy. On the other hand, the gameplay is shallow and becomes repetitive towards the end. I found myself using the same attacks and abilities because I simply didn't feel compelled to change. However, despite the lack of variation, the game is always bolstered by the superb writing. If it weren't for the story, this game would have been boring before the final act. The writing is simply splendid. Every time I felt tired, something hilarious would occur to keep me going – to vault the game over its gameplay limitations. The arena environment would change, like battling while your parents are making sweet love, or the world would change, like exploring a spaceship or Canada. The flaws were finely covered by the writing.
Too far? I think it's just right...
As for presentation, the game is magnificent. I was amazed by the visuals. You really are playing an extended or multi-part episode of South Park. The show and the video game are nearly indistinguishable. The music fits perfectly with the tone of the game, matching the epic RPG-vibe. The voice acting is what you'd expect from the show – great. The Stick of Truth is written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Eric Fenstermaker. Like the show, the game pushes boundaries with its story. Some people may think of it as 'too far,' but I thought it was just right. The uncompromising writing, at least in most uncensored regions, is one of the main reasons the game kept me hooked. From its visuals to its audio, from the witty writing to the direction, Stick of Truth is a superb recreation of the show. It is the definition of faithful.

Overall, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a superb video game. I'm usually not a big fan of turn-based RPGs, at least I haven't been since the 90s, but The Stick of Truth hooked me from beginning to end. There wasn't a single session where I didn't smile or laugh out loud. The gameplay can be a bit too simple and repetitive at times, but the writing always kept me on my toes. Just when I thought the flame was extinguishing, the story poured more gasoline and reignited my engagement. I didn't play this game when it originally released, I actually bought it on sale for $9 for my Xbox One. But, I will be buying The Fractured But Whole on day one. If you love South Park or role-playing games, and you're not afraid of going 'too far,' you'll love The Stick of Truth.

As a final note, my playthrough was approximately 10 hours long. I played the game on my Xbox One thanks to backwards compatibility. There were a few issues during cutscenes, such as poor audio syncing or shuddering frames, but those issues were far and few between. The game ran very well, otherwise.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Cartoon violence and gore, sex and nudity.

[Screenshots captured on Xbox One and used for review purposes only. I do not claim ownership to the IP.]

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