Friday, 14 March 2014

Review: South Park The Stick of Truth (PS3)

Gonna have myself a time

South Park, a small mountain town which has been through many different events but now the biggest war has split the town in two. The quest for the Stick of Truth. You are the new kind and are thrown into this imaginative war created by the kids if South Park but as this adventure plays out, you find out this story is a lot bigger than the imagination if a small child! As the series has shown many times before, the children of South Park's innocent games lead to world chaos. This time the Nazi Zombies are back for vengeance and you thought the game industry had had enough of this genre.

The story is told out like any normal episode and this is great for the fans but if you have no idea what South Park is, or never watched a single episode, you may find yourself lost at time. It is not necessary to watch the show to understand what is going on, as just like the show it parodies real world events. But what will be lost is that there is no real character development in the game as all the main characters have been developed within the show. Fans will understand the quirks of certain characters where as I newcomer might just find it plain silly. The art style follows in the game and this help emulate that you are actually taking part in an episode of the show. You feel like you are right in the middle of the chaos as it unfolds and it may look cheap but this is the charm of South Park - in some sequences they even manage to squeeze in the Anime characters from the episode “Fun with Weapons”.

It is amazing how the writers manage to squeeze so much into a single 22 minute episode and it is no surprise the amount of content there is in the Stick of Truth. There are many cult references for you to find including many from the show itself. It is in all good humor, but as the creators found out prior to release, that’s some of the content is deemed to offensive and had to be censored. This could have been the games downfall as some gamers will stay away from its crude humor and the stereotyping which takes places throughout the game. But, strangely enough, this is why the show, along with the Stick of Truth, I so popular. Viewers love the idea of how brave, or many stupid, the content is and this is why the game feels right. Like I mentioned before, every aspect of the show has bled into the game and you can tell that that Matt & Trey have had full contact with every step of the development.

What the Stick of Truth brings to the table is that it allows fans the chance to finally explore the town in which they have invested many years in. You can go into every hours, shop and landmark. Seriously, there is not a place you cannot go - you even make it into an alien space craft and then chasing gnomes in your wall cavity. Fans of the series will believe we when I say that!

Even if you are not a huge fan of turn based combat, this is a game you should not push to the side. The charm of the show and the detail of the weapons and abilities will help you through the early parts. By the end of the game you will forget why you hated them in the first place. I mentioned that this is a story played through the imagination of the children and it really shows in the world. The weapons are items found around the town in which they have duct tapped together. There are items from their parent’s garage. Kyle’s main weapon is his dad gold club and his ability is using a leaf blower. There is even a fast travel system which uses Timmy's wheel chair like a horse and carriage. The best part of the world created is that everyone who is not part of that world, such as parents and the girls, just except it and carry on with their lives. This is all down to good writing and creating a vibrant, believable world!

I have talked a lot about the world which has been created but behind this fantastic world is the heart and soul. That is a good old fashioned "SNES era" RPG. As I mentioned it uses turned based action and boy does it works well.
You can tell that Matt & Trey controlled the look and feel of the game, whilst leaving the rpg element to Obsiden. This is a game company who has many years of rpg games under its belt and it feels like they have looked back on them to help them create an enjoyable and simple but tactical system. Early in the game you have you basic attack system. You attack, the enemies attack and then repeat. Very simple for the first half but things get twisted when buffs and de-buffs are introduced. It turns into a whole different game. You find yourself planning attacks in advance and the key thing is to know your enemy. What are their weaknesses, what are their patterns?

There are many different items which can be equipped by your character. These include weapons, both near & far range and your entire outfit. All items have different effects upon the player or enemy either when used or just worn. You will find yourself spending a lot of time, at different points in the game, mixing and matching the best items. The outfits are split into three sections and you can get a matching “uniform”, but sometimes this might not be the best combination for you. It may look pretty but when it comes to battling, it might be your downfall. This leads onto a huge failure for this part. There is no ability for you to save your current outfit. This may sound silly but there are certain points where the game changes your entire gear load out to suit the story. This happens when your title gets upgraded and when you go to bed at night. So, once the cut scene has carried out, you will be left with an inferior load out and you will have to spend more time going through all your gear to select what you had moments before. Trust me, this may sound like a tiny flaw but there are sometimes when you find yourself in a battle straight after this change and it is rather annoying.

The items you equip can be further altered by using the games upgrade system of “patches” and “strap on”. These items are not introduced to you at any point and you will be picking them up as set on your quest, not knowing what they are for. These upgrades can be attached to slots in all equipment and they add certain buffs to that item. There are various buffs on offer and if used correctly you can easily create an over powered set up. This, in turn, can make the game very easy. I found myself defeating bosses within a few attacks. This may sound like fun but it does not give you the opportunity to fully enjoy all which is to offer. The best way to experience the game is to make yourself weaker but this defeats the whole point of a leveling system in a RPG.

The turn based action works well on a whole but there are few issue which can lead to some frustration during battle. The first big gripe is that the battle system is missing two key action. Those are “Escape” and “Defend”. There is sometimes in which you enter a battle where you are really unequipped for it. You will only find this out when you enter the battle and it would be nice if you could escape, reequip yourself and then enter the battle. It would also be useful for if you find yourself close to being defeated and you just need to get out of there. You could just be defeated but the auto saving is hit and miss. It saves very often but not when you customise, so you may be placed in the correct place (just before battle) but if you changed anything after the save, it will be lost.

Defend would have been a great feature as sometimes you may just want to skip your turn as you cannot do anything constructed. A perfect example of this is when an enemy is “Riprosting”. This means that you cannot successfully carry out a Melee attack. The only way around this is to use a ranged weapon. Your characters can accommodate for this, but some of your battles buddies only have a Melee attack. So the only way to get out of your turn is to attack the enemy and loose some of your health.

Another issue with the battle system is the combat wheel. The way in which your actions are present to you are all around you, so to select them you have to use your direction buttons to move the invisible cursor over that said action. The problem is that it is really over sensitive and you may find yourself selecting the wrong action. There are a few issues with the blocking mechanics and some of the abilities. They both require you to be pressing certain buttons at a precise time and you find that sometimes there is a slight delay in the button commands, so you will miss the action.

A great part of the battle system is the variety of action available through your buddies. You can only have one with you at a time but you can switch to others on the fly during battle, but part way through the game you will find that you will always stick to one buddy as they suit your play style. The magic of the game comes in the form of farts or Dragon Shouts. These can be used either during battle or aid you whilst traveling around the world. They can be used against a naked flame to help you defeat enemies without even going into battle. This I found very useful because if you reduce the number of enemies in the world, when you come to battle they will already be knocked out. Speaking of the world, the map is not utilized to its full potential. It is hard to work around the map when you are giving a new quest. Within the quest menu you can choose to view on map but it does not give a real view in relation to where you are. The final view of the map it too zoomed in so you will find yourself having to scroll across the map often to find out where you are and where you need to go.

For a game which is not heavy on the graphics, it does suffer from some technically issues. The main one being that the frame drops at points and this sometimes happens during battles. Another issue I found was that during some scenes the voice overs had to play catch up with what was happening. This can cause voice cross over on certain and becomes confusing.  These issues only apparent in the console versions - the PC version runs a lot smoother.


If you put all the issues aside and just play the game for what it is, you find yourself having a laugh whilst doing so. With a main story which will only last you 10 hours and only a few hours of extra content, it does seem lacking especially for an RPG. Remember though, this is based upon a show which is only 22 minutes long, so too much exposure might be too much.
South Park fans should rejoice as this is the game they have waiting years for. It is true to the show. It boasts a creative RPG system but does have a few technical issues which cause light frustration throughout the game and is quite short for its genre type. It falls short on some details which you would expect from an RPG and lacks in length. For the amount of times this game has been delayed, you might expect a little better. Other than that, The Stick of Truth is a fun adventure and should not be missed by any fan of the show.

Who Should Buy This?
  • Fans of South Park
  • Players after a steady, easy RPG experience
  • If you want a real good laugh 
Who Should Avoid This?
  • Hardcore RPG veterans
  • Players looking for a deep RPG experience
  • If you are easily offended
  • And maybe the Canadians.....

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"But most of all, don't ever fart on a man's balls......."

Note : This review was written based upon the censored PS3 version of the game.  The PC version has less technical issues & is not censored

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