Showing posts with label South Park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Park. Show all posts

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Review - South Park: The Stick of Truth

South Park: The Stick of Truth
Available on Sony PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360

South Park has had numerous video-game adaptations throughout the lifetime of the show, such as its initial 'First Person Shooter' game on the Nintendo 64, or the lesser-known PSone game Chef's Luv Shack which blended a quiz show format with the game's iconic characters. There was also a South Park Rally game which attempted to replicate the success of Mario Kart, but was met with minimal success. It wasn't until 2009 that the show's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, came up with the idea of a South Park RPG that would be set in a living, breathing South Park and look exactly like the TV series itself. However, the development was fraught with issues, and while there were other South Park games (Let's Go Tower Defence Play, and Tenorman's Revenge) released in the interim, it wouldn't be until 2014 that the long-awaited RPG, The Stick of Truth, made it into stores.

The game allows you to create your own 'new kid' visiting South Park, who gets quickly embroiled in the town-wide live-action role playing that the boys of the school are involved in, becoming 'Douche-bag', one of Cartman's loyal assistants against Kyle's army of elves. However, things begin to escalate when aliens begin abducting town-members, underpants gnomes begin abducting underpants, and that a crab-person? There's a fun blend between the fictional game that the town's kids are involved in and the very real extraterrestrial threat that is engulfing the small Colorado town, as the two plot threads intertwine towards a dramatic conclusion.

As with the TV show itself, the game offers a witty satirical look at the videogame industry, most notably the overuse of Nazi Zombies in games such as Call of Duty by including the enemy type in this game for no discernible reason. There is also reference to the over-exploration featured in traditional Japanese RPG’s with certain houses having ‘surprises’ in store for unexpected visitor. Alongside this commentary on the industry, the game feels like a love-letter to the RPG industry with the whole of Canada designed to look like an old-school 8-bit RPG, reminiscent of the early Final Fantasy games on the NES, with pixelated backgrounds and a ‘world map’ to explore.

As well as references to videogames, the game is packed full of in-jokes related to the TV show’s seventeen year history with hundreds of ‘junk’ items that can be collected and sold on for cash that represent some of the most obscure moments from the programme’s past, such as Cherokee Hair Tampons or the Okama Gamesphere. Long-term South Park fans will get a massive kick out of collecting some of these random items – personally, I ended up carrying ‘Honey Boo Boo’s Pig Heart’ around with me for the majority of the game, despite it having no discernible use.

Vocally, the game is pitch-perfect with all of the characters voiced to the same quality as the TV show, even obscure characters that only appeared in one episode. This attention to detail really helps create an immersive feel, leading you to really feel like the new kid in the town of South Park. Even the storyline feels like a typical South Park episode, blending common themes seen in the show, such as gross-out gags, wild conspiracy theories, alien invasions and a sinister government agency acting in an increasingly irresponsible manner, whilst the kids are unaware of the true global (and universal) implications of events around them.

One of the boss battles - the dreaded Penis Mouse!

Gameplay – The game feels like a blend of Final Fantasy and Zelda, placing equal importance on the tactics used outside of the battlefield with the actual turn-based battles. Using a well-placed fart (don’t ask!) can give your characters a massive advantage when entering a tough battle. The turn-based battles have a reasonably detailed list of moves (although it doesn't quite match up with the same level of detail seen in some JRPGs) but there is a heavy emphasis on interactive quick time events, with button-bashing, timed button pushes and rotating thumbsticks required to optimise attack and defence strategies.

Graphics – It literally feels like you are controlling the events of an episode of South Park, with the character models represented just as accurately as in the HD broadcasts of the programme. While detractors of the show’s animated style might find ways to complain, this is the most authentic looking game based on an animated series that I've ever seen.

Achievements/Trophies – There’s nothing too tough here and it is entirely possible to get a complete set of achievements after a few playthroughs and siding with different factions. There are also some humour-based achievements that require you to dress your customisable character in a certain manner against enemies. I particularly liked the Breaking Bad themed achievement, where you must dress your character as Heisenberg before taking on some meth dealers.

Longevity – There are wealth of collectibles (Chinpokomon, friend requests and equipment) for the hardcore completists out there, with achievement rewards associated with each list. Unfortunately, there isn't much in the terms of side-quests and the actual main story quest can be completed in a relatively short time, if you ignore the other items and optional battles.

In conclusion, this is a perfect game for fans of the show, or JRPG fans looking for a hugely irreverent take on the genre. It feels like an attempt to bring the genre into the mainstream by focusing on the non-battle aspects moreso than experience grinding, item customisation and countless mini-quests. It also tries to distance itself from the stereotypical RPG by removing ‘random battles’ and adding an element of interaction to the turn-based battles, rather than letting it become selecting attacks from a series of menu screens. While it is a joy to play and one of the best games of the year, so far, those with a sensitive disposition and aversion to penis mice, the F-word and fart jokes should probably stick to the safety of Zelda or Final Fantasy.

Score - 9.5 out of 10

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