Hit and miss nature of South Park: The Stick of Truth

I’ve recently completed South Park: The Stick of Truth. It was an enjoyable game and for the first time felt like a South Park game – no doubt because it was the first one involving the South Park creators. Surely therefore as a fan of the show it would tickle my funny bone and have me laughing my head off throughout? Well not so much…

A lot of the humour on the game was referencing episodes or other funny moments from the show. Some of it had me chuckling away (such as a certain someone in Stan’s closet) but it also meant that at times it felt like a re-run.

The plot was a bit crap to be honest. It felt a little rushed, not making the most out of the many arcs that they had. I got the impression that they wanted to expose you to a huge range of the stories and highlights of the past 17 or whatever years of South Park yet the game end-to-end wasn’t as long as I expected. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not someone who complains about games being short (and South Park TSoT isn’t that short!). If anything feeling like I’ll actually experience the ending before my 80s does appeal. However there’s obviously so much that they wanted to expose us to but never really did all that they could with aliens, goth kids, gnomes, crab people etc etc.

It also irked me a little bit that so many of the jokes unique to the game were toilet humour. Don’t get me wrong, it can be funny and has always been a big part of the show but there’s a limit to how much you want in a 2 hour play session, plus more importantly South Park as a show has evolved so much throughout the years to involve more satire and wit.

The highlight would have to be the abilities of the characters, especially Princess Kenny. Getting impaled by a charging unicorn certainly made me laugh, as did the throwback to the movie with Cartman electrocuting enemies through creative swearing. The downside here is that you tend to repeat the moves a lot so eventually the “spark” gets lost. Of course you could swap your characters more frequently but the downside here is that to be at your most effective you want to learn the abilities of your buddy to have an effective approach and swapping all the time doesn’t help this!

Oh yeah – nearly forgot. This was of course a video game with you know, gameplay and what not. If you’re not familiar with the game, it is effectively RPG-lite with turn based combat, quests, stats and what not. It works quite well. At first as someone who finds RPG games too complicated, it was a little overwhelming. After a short while I got the hang of it, but I felt that because the game moved at a fair pace they could have given you more time to play about with abilities. There weren’t all that many fights against crappy guys where you can maybe experiment a bit more and try out different things. After all, you don’t want to get to a tough boss fight and try out a new move only to find out it is useless! More diddy guy fights would have given more opportunity to play about with gear as well.

You actually unlock a load of things throughout the game. Playing with all the different weapons can be pretty fun, although because you were getting new kit very quickly I never really felt “settled” with gear. If you want to really get the best out of your ever changing equipment then you’d end up spending more time in menus than playing. Whilst that may not be too abnormal for fans of the stats orientated RPG games, given the main appeal of The Stick of Truth is going to be dialog & exploring South Park this feels a bit unnecessary.

Similarly clothing items had a gameplay effect but often you’d visually want to “fit in”. For example when joining the gnomes, why not grab your gnome outfit and a pick axe? Oh yeah – its not quite as good and in 20 minutes you’ll be done with that section anyway. If they’d further explored the different sub plots and characters then all the different outfits would have been more fun to collect and muck about with.

I think what frustrates me here is that they’ve created some great systems with the plethora of abilities for the main character and the buddies as well as magic, weapons, outfits etc yet there’s not enough gameplay to really try everything out. I reckon that my second playthrough will be much better in terms of trying out the various combat methods, but of course the story experience won’t be the same. I was expecting that having completed the game that I would spend the next 8 hours of gameplay completing side quests but I had everything available wrapped up within half an hour to an hour… which was a bit disappointing!

So in summary, it is a cool game and one I’d recommend playing but it doesn’t quite achieve what it maybe could have been. There’s not enough battles to explore all the combat options and for a game based on a comedy show, well it has its moments but isn’t the funniest game that you’ll play.

/dev

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