I don’t know how South Park does it.  It originally aired back in 1997 and remains funny through today.  I was all set to get The Stick of Truth when it came out back in April, but stayed away due to some bugs on the game’s release.  After a long, long stint with Destiny (can’t wait for Iron Banner v2.0) and a run with Super Smash Bros, I decided it was time.

I’m not going to beat around the bush — The Stick of Truth is one of the best games I’ve played all year.

Welcome to Kupa Keep, the human encampment in Cartman's backyard.
Welcome to Kupa Keep, the human encampment in Cartman’s backyard.

  • TL;DR: A solid RPG overlaid with South Park’s trademark humor that never stops
  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Score: 9.4
  • Hours Played: 11
  • What I Played: Main story and all the side quests I could find, mage class
  • Recommended?: Absolutely yes.  If you’ve enjoy South Park and RPGs, this is a game for you.

Drow elves are attacking the humans.  Cartman, the grand wizard of the Klan of Kupa Keep (yep) has tasked you, the new kid who just moved to town, with helping to recover the Stick of Truth.  Naturally, whoever controls the Stick controls the universe, so this is a mission of grand proportions.

South Park’s textbook humor starts out fast and furious.  When Cartman asks for your name, a text box comes up as you’ve seen in many games.  Cartman verifies that your name is Douchebag.  Regardless of how you answer, your name will be Douchebag.  Cartman, as I mentioned, is the grand wizard of the KKK who sits in a chair with many garden tools sticking out, an obvious nod to Game of Thrones.  There are four classes to choose from — Fighter, Thief, Mage, and Jew.  Maybe it’s the fact that it’s South Park, but references like these just never get old in the 11 hours it takes to beat The Stick of Truth.

A game can’t get by on humor alone, though, and TSOT is a very well-made RPG.  Combat is turn based with an action wheel — items, abilities, melee attack, ranged attack, etc.  Quick aside — ever since I played Super Mario RPG many years ago, I’ve been trying timed hits with the hope that another game would have them.  Well, my prayers have been answered as TSOT has timed hits for perfect weapon attacks, more efficient abilities, and blocking.  Timing these events are crucial to gameplay.  Combat really reminds me of Child of Light with your fighting partner that can be swapped mid-battle and rows of enemies (but no time bar).

Unlike when you were a kid, nobody in South Park busts out the “I had my invincible shield!” move when they get hit.

“Fighting partner”, you say?  Yep, you’ll always have a friend by your side in TSOT.  Butters, the mighty Paladin, is your first ally (and friend in town) who is both able to heal you and attract aggro from enemies.  I don’t want to give anything away, but there is a handful of other allies to be gained while playing TSOT, each with their own special abilities.

There are a lot of RPG elements in TSOT.  There are only three pieces of gear and two weapons to equip at any given time, but there are countless customization options like glasses, wigs, and weapon/armor modifications.  Status effects, like burn and bleed, are key to battle, while stances like riposte and reflect can completely nullify a portion of your abilities.  Side quests and collectibles can be found just about everywhere in South Park.  I had so much fun just running around looking for stuff that I didn’t advance the story for two hours when I finally got control of my character.

One of my only negatives with TSOT is the ability/perk system.  As a mage, there are five abilities to learn, one of which is learned so late I found it pretty useless.  Of the other four, I used one attack skill almost exclusively with a debuff skill mixed in only when a boss became too strong.  Perks are passive bonuses that can be learned in any order, but most of them aren’t that important.  Aside from the percentage gains to HP/PP and making revives bring you to full health, none of the perks are particularly necessary.

But farts are always funny, right?  Right.
But farts are always funny, right? Right.

Farts are funny.  Farts are also magic spells in TSOT.  Pretty early on, Cartman will teach Douchebag the ancient art of Dragonshout, a.k.a. farting on an enemy.  Magic is pretty effective in combat and while exploring South Park, but you’ll need to use mana recovering abilities or items to use it.  Mana doesn’t recharge over time or out of combat like HP and PP do.

Speaking of exploration, TSOT feels very large even though the whole town can be traversed end-to-end in just a few minutes.  I mentioned earlier that there are plenty of side quests that will require a lot of backtracking, along with areas only accessible with items or abilities earned later in the game.  By the end of the game, you won’t even have to pull up the map to know where to go, and that really helps draw you in as real inhabitant of South Park.  You can always use Sir Timmy’s fast travel services, as well.

Visually, you know exactly what you’re getting.  The tried-and-true cutout animation that’s been around for nearly 20 years.  It’s both cute and different, seeing a fantasy RPG with such a different graphical twist than the traditional max HD settings.  All of the voicework is taken directly from the show, so anyone you encounter sounds exactly how you expect or remember them.  Most of the music in TSOT is pretty over the top and medieval sounding, which works perfectly.

One area you’ll know well is the Giggling Donkey, a bar in town.

TSOT is very nostalgic, especially for someone like me who loved South Park but hasn’t watched regularly in years.  Doing missions for Jimbo and Ned, playing hide-and-seek with the kindergartners, chasing down Manbearpig with Al Gore.  I could go on and on.  TSOT also harps on standard video game tropes and points fun at them, like when a character says out loud that he is going to leave an audio recorder on a table for a while only to come back for it later or when an enemy group gives you the choice to fight them or go with them because there’s absolutely no way you’ll be able to defeat them.

In typical South Park fashion, the cursing never gets old and never feels forced or out of place.  Another thing that works so well simply because this is a South Park game is the fact that the characters are all children dressed up and playing around town.  You don’t truly have magic abilities, but the kids believe they do.  The adults never question what’s going on, letting you be as you play make-believe.  TSOT truly feels like a long episode of South Park, complete with the ending credits and theme song when the game is over.

My only other possible complaint with TSOT is it’s difficulty.  I mentioned earlier that I was able to basically use the same spell over and over.  I wasn’t even aware that there was a difficulty setting until I looked it up a minute ago, so I recommend bumping the difficulty up if you do play.

Difficulty aside, Professor Chaos doesn't take crap from anybody.
Difficulty aside, Professor Chaos doesn’t take crap from anybody.

South Park: The Stick of Truth caught me by surprise.  I expected to like it, since I used to watch South Park weekly and I’ve always enjoyed RPGs, but I didn’t expect to be completely hooked by it.  Once I started playing, I couldn’t stop.  The combination of animation style, humor level, and nostalgia work in perfect harmony to create a game that any South Park fan really should play.


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