“Who knew a game doesn’t have to have mind-blowing graphics to be GOOD?”
DEVELOPER: OBSIDIAN ENTERTAINMENT
Earlier this week I discovered that fellow Nerditis writer Alexander Diestler had broken into the game desk and filched the idea to write a review for this game from my idea box. I also discovered that he was assisted by the Nerditis’ Intern, who apparently didn’t take too kindly to being treated like a doormat by the staff, particularly myself. Rest assured that they have been dealt with swiftly and in the proper manner as per the Nerditis Handbook to handle this kind of situation, which involves a wooden pommel horse and a lot of leather strap-ons.
If you can’t handle that joke, then you are hopelessly unprepared for what “South Park: The Stick of Truth” has got in store for you. Among the list of offenses are such gems as: abortion jokes, nazi zombies, shoving a prepubescent child up a grown man’s anus, nazi zombie aborted fetus (fetii?), allusions to pedophilia, anal probing, and of course, fart jokes. Lots and LOTS of fart jokes.
And you know something else? You will enjoy every last minute of it. I mean, who knew a game doesn’t have to have mind-blowing graphics to be GOOD?
The Stick of Truth follows you as a newcomer to South Park, who apparently was hinted by your in-game parents to have moved to the quiet mountain town from your old neighborhood due to an event that you have apparently forgotten. Brushing off the “amnesiac hero” cliche, your father kicks you out of the house to make new friends and you immediately encountered Paladin Butters the Merciful being attacked by a (kid in an) elf (costume). In no time at all, you’re dragged into a conflict between the elves and the humans fighting over an artifact called the Stick of Truth, one that is said to bestow the powers to control the universe to whoever wields it. Naturally, it got stolen by an unknown party fifteen minutes later, you know, like a good RPG plot wont to do.
The visuals of the game were crafted to look identical to the show, insofar as to saying that it almost felt like watching the show itself instead of playing a game based upon it. A dash of sandbox/free-roaming element is added for good measure, where you are free to roam the whopping three rows of streets that makes up the fictional town of South Park, Colorado right from the get go. And then, there’s the battle system.
Dear GOD, the battle system!
To say that the battle system is adapted from the Paper Mario series is both correct and does not come close to doing it any justice whatsoever. While it’s true that the players are still required to press a bunch of buttons after selecting an attack to actually execute it, Nintendo would’ve done a spit-take if they ever saw Mario pulled out a baseball bat to smack the opponent about the face before following-up by smacking them on the ground until the bat breaks. Juvenile humor is the name of the game here, and while you might say “Aww nooo!” when your hero kicked some poor kid in the nuts, you wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to his buddy who had just shot you with an arrow laced with barbed wires.
The insanity is upped by the summon spells, where you can either summon Jesus, an overly flamboyant gay man, an Asian stereotype, and a talking piece of feces. True to its nature as a South Park spin-off, there is something amusingly puerile in watching Jesus open fire with a machine gun at your hapless victims, or when Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo conjures a literal shitstorm as a nod to Disney Fantasia’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence. But my favorite has GOT to be Mr. Slave, who gleefully exclaimed “This could be fun!” before SHOVING AN ENTIRE ELEMENTARY KID UP HIS GODDAMN ASS AND CAUSING HIS MATES TO RUN AWAY SCREAMING!!
But you will forgive them for it. Oh yes, even with all of the offensive content and the child-endangerment issues, you will forgive Obsidian and South Park Studios for pushing the envelope so far up our collective asses you can taste the paper. Why? Well, for the very simple reason that you have never had this much fun since you played Star Wars and swinging your plastic lightsaber toys at your mates.
With all of the epic grandeur that happens in the plot and setting, you would often times forgot that the Stick of Truth is, well, just a regular stick, actually. And that is EXACTLY the point that Obsidian seems to be driving at, tapping into that part of your brain that you had as a kid where you would put on your mom’s red drapes and run around believing that you are Superman. That is the major difference between adults and kids: adults see kids donning pots and pans on their person as “pretending” to play Dungeons and Dragons, but kids honestly BELIEVED that they ARE Sir Glaxor the Gallant of Dellriven during such play time, and it is here where Obsidian triumphed with this game.
Everything in the game has been set up to invoke that childlike wonder we once had when we play pretend, from the overworld BGM to the special effects that played during certain attacks and special moves. Obsidian even went so far as to remove the overworld HUD that normally appears in this type of games, although they can be summoned with the press of a button, to further improve the immersion of the player into the game. In that regard, the dev team had managed to not only replicate the look and feel of the show, but also provide an opportunity to suck us in to those days of our youths where imagination is the only CGI technology that we need to have a good time.
Well, that, and bashing our mates with dangerous objects, of course.
All in all, the shortest way possible to describe this game is to paraphrase creator Matt Parker himself when describing the show: cynical and profane, but with an underlying sweetness to it. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we have ourselves an entry for the coveted “Game of the Year” title, which is pretty unusual to happen this early in the year. Bravo to Obsidian, South Park Studios, and Ubisoft for unleashing this dirty little gem unto the unsuspecting gamers.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to kick a nine-year old in the nuts.
VERDICT: Five out of Five Crushed Balls