South Park is no stranger to the digital world, having appeared in five video games since the show debuted in 1997. Now, nearly 17 years since the pilot aired, we’re given South Park: The Stick of Truth, an RPG set in the small Colorado town. You play the new kid, someone unfamiliar with the children of South Park and, because you don’t speak, you’re soon branded with a simple moniker: Douchebag.
You can guess who decided you’d be called that.
Douchebag’s parents give small hints as to why you’ve all moved to South Park, but never blatantly explain the reason, opting instead to send you outside to make friends with the neighborhood children. It’s here that you’re introduced to the two warring factions: the Drow Elves and the humans of the Kingdom of Kupa Keep, or simply “The KKK”. This faction is lead, of course, by the Grand Wizard, Eric Cartman.
Cartman explains that the reason the two sides are warring is simple, they each want to possess the Stick of Truth, for whoever wields it has absolute power over the universe. It’s from there that Douchebag accepts the responsibility of trying to get the Stick back from the elves with help from the first of many party members, the faithful Paladin, Butters.
It’s clear the kids are roleplaying, but like the episodes when their imagination takes them to other realms, the quest for the Stick of Truth is no different. As Douchebag and his party member -- you’re allowed only one other -- make their way around South Park, you’ll begin to notice familiar landmarks. Despite this being the first time that the town has ever legitimately been mapped out, it doesn’t feel foreign. If you’ve got even a passing understanding of the television show, you’ll feel comfortable in each area. Rather surprisingly, these areas have their own aesthetic to them, while seamlessly blending in at the same time.
The combat system is most easily described as “actively turn-based”. While most turn-based RPG’s simply let players sit on one side of the battle or the other, here you’re tasked with learning a particular timing for each of your moves. The timing and button presses vary based on the class you’re playing and the skill you’re using, creating a system that seems jarring upon introduction, but soon is comfortable and players will quickly begin to take advantage of it.
Defense works in a similar way, though is far easier. A button prompt will pop up when it’s time to push “A” and if you time it right, you block a large portion of the damage. Simple.
Players familiar with the Final Fantasy series will also recognize the Summon ability. After completing a number of side missions, particular characters make themselves available to you with the ability to insta-kill every enemy on the screen. Jesus Christ, Mr. Hanky, and others will appear once per day to lend a hand in your most dire hour.
Unfortunately, you can’t use them on bosses and you only get one use per day, each. With the game spanning only three days and not really presenting any great challenge, they’re really only included in the game as a nod to South Park enthusiasts. And truly, the whole game speaks to that on some level or another. Factions exist that you may be asked to recruit or to battle, like the goths, the kindergarteners, and the girls, while others make simple cameos or act as quest-givers. Mrs. Broflovski, Al Gore, or Mr. Mackey are prime examples of quest-givers that are clearly included as fan-service.
The magic system is also worth noting, if for no reason beyond the fact that you’re using farts. Yes, your magic is gas. Because Douchebag has such brilliant control over his colon, he’s able to learn the first bit of magic early on, the Dragonshout. An obvious nod to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, your Dragonshout throws a dangerous cloud of gas at opponents, exploding brilliantly and causing massive amounts of damage.
When not in combat, Douchebag has free reign to interact with his surroundings and is often required to use his Dragonshout or other gas-based attacks to clear a path. This is accomplished by hurling the farts toward open flames which, obviously, explode in brilliant displays that would make Michael Bay jealous.
Farting into fire isn’t your only interaction with the environment, either. Often you can open drawers for additional loot, or even use the bathroom to drop a deuce. Those shitnuggets are then collected and used in combat to cause damage over time to your enemies.
I’m not making this up. You throw poop.
Clearly, the humor of South Park is inherent within South Park: The Stick of Truth, and why wouldn’t it be? It was written by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators. It’s that humor that saves the game from being a complete letdown though. The setting, one we’re all familiar with in at least an informal way, is easily recognizable. The art is designed specifically to mimic that of the show and, with these two particular features together, helps patch over what is average gameplay mechanics at best.
Like the show, The Stick of Truth isn’t about what package it’s delivered in, but rather about what’s inside. The juvenile humor, including a brilliant take on Canada, and mockery of society as a whole act as bridges in between combat that doesn’t offer much in terms of difficulty and level design that is simplistic. Oftentimes you’re left wondering if the game intentionally responds a particular way, or if it’s the folks behind it having a 12-hour long laugh at your expense.
Either way, you’ll learn some great new curse words.
Overall score 7.5 out of 10