Way back in the distant time of December 2011, we were first teased with a glimpse of South Park: The Stick of Truth, an RPG that would potentially be one the few cartoon-to-game translations of this generation to excel beyond the norm, to become that rare licensed game that actually captured the source material perfectly, down to South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (themselves being hardcore gamers as well) being personally involved.
Cut to now. After numerous delays and issues with the game's production (which were even poked fun at by the show itself), The Stick of Truth's tale of the legendary New Kid in South Park and his role in the war to gain the Stick's power can finally be told with the game's release last week. Does it live up to the standards set of by both the show's legacy and the years of hype? Grab some Snacky Cakes and proceed forth to find out...NSFW material ahead, though, so proceed at thy own risk.
The Hella Lame Bits
2. Certain Control Issues And Bugs
Despite coming from the same company responsible for such RPGs as Fallout: New Vegas, The Stick of Truth seems to actually share more of its DNA with the Paper Mario games, believe it or not. Several parts of the combat & specific in-game events revolve around getting timed button presses just right in order to pull something off successfully, and while we'll get into more of that later, there are definitely some moments where it just doesn't work as well as it should.
One of said moments seems to have become infamous amongst gamers already for being tediously difficult, a moment in which you have to resist an anal probe going up your ass (you knew this was a South Park game, right?) by pressing the S key repeatedly in order to fill a meter. It's a part that's already been criticized as near-impossible and one of the game's major annoyances, but what ticked me off even more were the moments where you learn new ways to use fart magic. Every case is the same: You're given instructions to hold down the left mouse key, press A and D in order to find the correct frequency, at which point you press the right mouse key. More or less to me, that translated more as "mash A and D in different combinations and pray you stumble on to a ritual that summons the frequency somehow in order to get through already so you no longer have to hear the same three lines over and over again godammit." And the insulting part is you don't even castthe spells that way (save for one), so it just feels like a pointless exercise.
But this pales in comparison to accessing your inventory in battle. More than a few times, my partner has fallen & I had to use a Revive potion (a.k.a. "taco") on him, but I couldn't see it in my inventory screen. Now, one could think you would just have to scroll down or click the obvious arrow signs in the screen to get to the rest of the inventory, but the arrows just appeared to be for show. So how do you scroll through your inventory? Click on one of the items in the inventory, then use the arrow keys to navigate through it. Note that this is never told to you at any point. The only way I found about it was by asking around how the inventory worked, and finally I found someone who would explain how it worked to me...if I gave him three-fiddy.
That's when I realized that these kinds of controls only make sense to the minds of giant lizard monsters and the like, and not actual human beings, so I had to figure this out through trial and error. Now, you may have deduced through my sophisticated lingo back there that I was playing the PC version of the game, so in fairness, I don't know if the console versions are actually better or not. And given how buggy the game is reported being (an Obsidian game with bugs in it? Noooooo, really?), I can't even say if that was an error or not as well. Either way, that should not have been. Outside of that, though, the only bug I ever encountered was a graphical glitch that I solved by simply reloading, but again, there is no excuse for so many bugs. And sorry if this was lengthy, by the way, but this game doesn't have much wrong with it, save for the fact that...
1. It's Short
...Well, for an RPG, at least. For those of you who saw the Fallout connection above and envisioned a massive 30-hour quest or so, well, prepare to be disappointed a tad. Not that we expected a game that takes place in a small town which prominently features such a massive amount of penises and cramming to be a gigantic, sprawling epic (well, some of us may have), but it really does feel like it ends too suddenly. Three in-game days pass, and poof, it's over. A mere fifteen hours and it's done, and that's even with all of the side quests handled as well. I can't seem to find any notable post-game content (yet, at least). And this all springs up on you after insane amounts of customization and strategy when it comes to decking out your kid in equipment and weapons, meaning just as you've felt you mastered it all...it's over.
I keep getting the sneaking suspicion (especially after looking at earlier trailers) that some notable chunks of the game sadly had to be cut out after THQ went bankrupt, or possibly via other circumstances. All of this leaves the game feeling fun, but a bit hollow. Like it could have and should have been a whole lot more. Speaking of fun, I suppose I should actually begin talking about the good parts already, so let's go...
The Freakin' Sweet Bits
5. It Nails The Show's Look And Feel
Maybe you chalk this one up to the show's simplistic style being easy to recreate, but it certainly does capture the look of the show perfectly. One of the key components of a successful video game adaptation is to actually make you feel like you're a part of the show/movie/etc., and The Stick of Truth basically is a playable episode of the show in every way, right down to the familiar banjo twang as a game you loaded begins. All your favorite characters and voices are present, and despite some repetition of their lines now and then, get it all just right. Characters even walk around with the same "bobbing" motion like in the show. It does a lot to convince you that you are deep in the center of the South Park universe, and it succeeds. Though not as well as...