Long ago, ancient tablet devices foretold an epic quest in which a newcomer to a small mountain town in Colarado would bring balance and save the world.
As “the new kid” in South Park, it falls on you to make as many Facebook friends as possible and unravel the mysteries around the construction of the largest Taco Bell in the United States. There are fetus battles – not one, but TWO – interactive abortions, celebrity makeovers and even Canadians. Don’t wait for a sale; if copies aren’t already flying off the shelves at local retailers, don’t expect that to last.
The March 4 release of “The Stick of Truth” came as a relief for both fans and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone due to several hiccups in the game’s development process. Initially developed by THQ, an initial release date for summer 2013 was scrapped thanks to the company’s bankruptcy claim.
Ubisoft took the reins for the game’s rights, canning gimmicks like Xbox Kinectivity in favor of putting the release date on schedule.
Preorders for “The Stick of Truth” opened late 2012, giving a year and a half of anticipation to fans hoping this wouldn’t become a second “Duke Nukem Forever” fiasco. In the words of Eric Cartman during the episode “Black Friday”: “When you preorder a video game, you commit to paying for something some assholes in California haven’t even finished working on yet. Do you know what you get when you preorder a video game? A big dick in your mouth.”
So many things could’ve gone wrong in this game. I thought of the critically reviled “South Park” for the Nintendo 64. After the first ten minutes of gameplay any unease I had for “The Stick of Truth” vanished undeneath a masterfully-written adventure faithfully animated in the same cutout style the television show uses.
It’s hard to believe “The Stick of Truth” is a video game. The faithful animation coupled with its plot written by Parker and Stone give it the look and feel of an epic “South Park” episode. Even in a completely self-referential game the writers hid Easter eggs all around the world. Clever players can decipher clues within the game to find “Lord of the Rings,” “Game of Thrones” and even the precocious Satan-worshipping woodland critters from the holiday episode “Woodland Critter Christmas.”
Does the game have every single episode referenced at least once? No, it doesn’t. But who can expect a single game to contain 17 seasons of television? That being said, there are certain things I came to expect from this game. Where’s Imaginationland? Or even Hell? Replacing my face with a cutout of David Hasselhoff’s is a great gimmick, but I’d gladly trade it for a chance to have Santa, Luke Skywalker, Morpheus and Jesus by my side while I fight my way through the army of the damned. This aside, the story in “Stick of Truth” is definitely worth the price of admission.
The combat style is turn based, but unlike similar-style games like Pokemon and Penny Arcade’s “On the Rain Slick: Precipice of Darkness” III and IV, “The Stick of Truth” uses quicktime events to make each of the four playable classes unique. Unfortunately, replayability suffers a lot in this game. I beat the main story and most of the side missions in eight hours, and discounting an interest to see the special moves for the Jew class – I played a mage my first go-round – the combat would be too repetitive in the long run for more than one restart.
Overall, “The Stick of Truth” is rather unique in today’s industry. Not only does it perfectly reflect the cartoon, the point-and-click adventure makes “Grim Fandango” and “Monkey Island” proud progenitors. It’s rude, offensive and so graphic Australia had to censor large portions of the game before rating it – but if anyone wants to make a video game out of the most widely controversial public television show today, there’s no sense doing it half-assed.