4. The Continuity Porn
Oh lord, where do I begin? How about I just put like this: I think it just might be very true that every singe episode of the show (well, up to a recent point) is represented in the game in one way or another. Now, I'm certain some dick with too much time on his hands will find a way to prove that wrong, but whatever the case, you get what I mean.
You can walk around the entire town and visit locations such as Tom's Rhinoplasty and City Wok, hear various songs by Chef and Sexual Harassment Panda being played over loudspeakers, collect various collectibles from battle such as Alabama Man action figures and Faith + 1 CDs to barter with in shops, use dodgeballs and combat staffs from the Breastriary in Nippopolis as weapons, makes friends with Damien and Mr. Hankey's kids on Facebook (bonus points for the Facebook-style inventory and menu screen, by the way)...and that's only scratching the surface. I once thought the old Virtual Springfield game was the height of interacting with a virtual TV world, but The Stick of Truth is just so much more. It is basically a South Park fan's wet dream...one only hindered by ending prematurely, as stated above. Like so many actual wet dreams.
3. The Exploration Opportunities
As stated earlier, the titular South Park is, to quote the film, a quiet, little, pissant, redneck, podunk, jerkwater, greenhorn, one-horse, mud-hole, peckerwood, right-wing, whistle-stop, hobmail, truck-drivin', old-fashioned, hayseed, inbred, unkempt, out-of-date, out-of-touch, white-trash, kick-ass mountain town!! And a small one at that. So it's incredibly impressive that there's a whole lot to see and do in it. Compared to most RPGs where you visit vast lands across great distances, here we have a bunch of kids playing make-believe around town, so exploring for once doesn't feel like trying to find the quest needle in the haystack of exclamation mark-headed people, but rather a fun stroll about town as you go about your (not-so-) childhood games.
While finding everything I mentioned above might seem like a collect-a-thon (particularly the optional part where you collect all 30 Chinpokomon), it definitely does easily lure you into wanting to find every secret quite easily, and it honestly feels pretty fun. Like I said, a joy of the game is just being able to walk around and experience South Park, and doing so leads to find little puzzles and environmental obstacles to conquer to reveal even just a little bit more of the town until the point where you know it like the back of your hand. By setting things in a small town, exploration somehow feels quite intimate yet big at the same time, and it creates a terrific journey all around.
...Well, except for the parts in the sewer. I know scatological humor is inevitable in a South Park game, but if I could go back in time, I'd find the man who first said "Hey, you know what would be fun? Running around a giant maze-like area designed to be filled with crap with bland, brownish colors where everything looks the same so you can't get your bearings easily!" and bash his head in with a hammer until he is eradicated from the universe.
2. The Combat Is Nice and Simple
As I mentioned earlier, The Stick of Truth has a lot in common in several area with the Paper Mario games, especially in combat. And considering that I think that The Thousand-Year Door was one of the best RPGs ever, this is definitely a good thing. Minus the inventory bit from earlier, combat is simple and turn-based, with some special maneuvers you can pull off with attacks to deal more damage.
The special attacks are a particular hoot, ranging from being able to summon Professor Chaos in battle to reign terror upon your enemies, having Jimmy sing a ballad about the enemy's mom to lower their defenses, or just the classics such as kicking Ike at their heads. Speaking of which, you can swap between partners easily in order to utilize each one's unique set of skills, as well as each one's unique bits of dialogue. And I haven't even gotten into the aforementioned weapon and equipment customization yet, which has you attaching stickers and patches to your combat gear to allow for certain effects. Would you rather attach a Zippo lighter to your wooden sword to deal more fire damage, or Buckyball magnets to gain more money from battles? The choice is yours.
There's not a whole lot else to say about the game's combat; it's just really solid, executed well, and of course, is just damn fun. Especially when you use a laser pointer to have Sparky the Wonder Dog chomp on a guy's balls.
1. It's Funny as Hell
So a game based on a animated comedy is obviously going to have to rely on a great sense of humor as a strong selling point. And where previous South Park games have faltered in this area, The Stick of Truth exceeds in spades. As a custom-made new kid having newly-moved to South Park, simply dubbed "Douchebag" or "New Kid" by everyone else, you are drawn into the fantasy war between the humans & elves (a.k.a. Cartman & Kyle) and get to experience first-hand all the twisted, insane glory that goes on like clockwork in this town. The game the kids play is a simple one about trying to wrestle the titular Stick of Truth from each other, but of course, things escalate quickly. And much like in classic episodes such as "Towelie," the kids couldn't care less about the bigger stakes; they're kids, and all that matters is their game. And in both cases, though...hoo boy, does it get quite funny. The dialogue is sharp and witty as usual, shots are taken at various video game tropes (Skyrim being a particular target...Obsidian pissed off at a Bethesda game? Can't imagine why!), the black humor nicely hits the ink bottle in a coal mine levels...it's all just a riot.
The only problem is that when a game's biggest strength is its humor and one of its biggest flaws is a short length, it's hard to share the funniest moments without spoiling anything. So as a compromise, I have collected some of the game's funniest and most audacious moments on the next page (yes, a second list of sorts within another list; please keep all Inception jokes to yourself). None of them are any real spoilers when it comes to the story, but nonetheless, there will be at least partial spoilers on the next page, so advance at your own risk.
But for those of you ending things right now, I guess I should answer the ultimate question...is South Park: The Stick of Truth a good game? Well, the obvious answer is "yes," but as mentioned earlier, it deserved to be a much better, much bigger game. So I guess I would still definitely recommend checking it out, if only to see all the crazy shit you wouldn't believe happens, but whether or not you'll truly get your money's worth may vary. But let it be known throughout the land that any game where you summon a magical talking piece of poo to summon a giant tidal wave of feces to take out a pair of hobos while dressed in a bear hat and wielding a vibrator...is definitely a game of the highest caliber.