When you hear about a video game based on a TV show, more often than not the first thing that comes to mind in shovelware. It’s easy to make a quick game to try and cash in on the popularity of a popular property, and South Park is no exception. In its earliest days, companies were looking to cash in with games that even the shows creators regret being a part of. It wasn’t until recent years that the creators would try again at an attempt to make a South Park game. The result of their hard work is South Park: The Stick of Truth, a game that first appeared on last generation consoles, but has recently been ported to the Nintendo Switch. By now most gamers know this is a good game and that it overcame the TV shovelware curse, but now you can play it on the go!
You play the game as the “New Kid” who has just moved to South Park. In an attempt to go outside and make some friends you find yourself caught up in a war between two factions: the humans (led by the Wizard King Cartman), and the Elves (led by the High Jew Elf Kyle). You’ll spend your time completing quests for both factions and trying to find your place in this war. You’ll travel all across South Park, interacting with memorable characters and living out some of South Park’s most iconic moments.
Much like the show, one of the shining factors of South Park: The Stick of Truth is its biting and relevant humor. The game has its fair share of crude adult jokes, but what really drives the funnies home is the fact that it’s now in game format. The humor is very self-aware and breaks the fourth wall by acknowledging you’re playing a video game, and it takes as many chances as it can to parody gaming tropes. These include the popular JRPG standard of your character being a silent protagonist to you getting in trouble for walking into other people’s houses. Besides making fun of the gaming genre, it also does a great job of incorporating South Park’s humor into the gameplay. What other game would have you outfitting your characters with crude clothes and weapons or having to fight your way through Nazi Zombies in an abortion clinic?
At its heart, the game is a turn-based RPG, which has the interactivity you would find in a title like Mario and Luigi: Super Star Saga. The combat relies on short interactions with each attack, like pressing a button at a certain time or spinning around the analog stick as fast as you can. There are a variety of special attacks you can execute depending on your class and level. You can choose one of four different archetypes to play as, each with its own combat style and abilities. There are also battle partners that can fight alongside you, which you will acquire as you progress the story. These partners also have special attacks and abilities that are useful for a variety of situations, including solving environmental puzzles you come across while traveling around the town.
It would be a real shame if I went through this review without giving a paragraph dedicated to the game’s main mechanic, farting. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen an episode of South Park, farting is the most important mechanic in the game. Throughout your journey, you’ll learn a variety of techniques to truly master the art. From cupping your farts and tossing them a distance, to farting at such a high frequency the walls start to break, you’ll find it to be a vital tool for exploration. This plays an important role in combat as well, as it’s the closest thing to magic this game has. While it seems like a joke at first, farting becomes such a natural aspect of the game that you kind of forget the silliness of tossing them at opponents to make them sick.
While the gameplay is fun for what it offers, it is severely lacking due to the game’s rather easy difficulty. Like most RPGs, when you start the game you are put at a severe disadvantage against your opponents. Your weak stats, lack of abilities, and beginner knowledge of the controls make the first few fights seem rather difficult. However, as soon as you start unlocking abilities the game’s difficulty takes a nosedive. Soon you’ll be breezing through fights left and right, with bosses being mere pushovers. The game does not balance the growth of your abilities, so it’s very easy to gain some very powerful moves early on. Once you’re able to explore the full world freely, you can also work your way to earning some very powerful weapons without having to progress through the story, meaning that by the time you continue the story your already leagues ahead of where the developers thought you would be in order for it to be a challenge. This makes the combat feel less tactful and cheap.
Another big issue with the game is how short it is. You can complete the main story within a few hours, minus the exploration and completing a few side quests to level up your abilities. Once you complete the main story, that’s really all there is besides going back to complete some unfinished side quests. Even these are few and far between so they don’t take up much of your overall playtime. There are collectibles hidden throughout South Park that you can search for in an attempt to 100% the game. However, there is a chance that you might miss an item on your quest in an area that you can’t return to later in the game. You can easily lock yourself out of getting that completion score, forcing a do over if you really want to find every single item. That’s not enough to warrant a replay, and really once you’ve seen the entire story there’s little incentive to go through it again.
I didn’t play the original game when it was first released, so I can’t compare this version of the game to the other ports. However, there were a lot of issues I stumbled upon in this version of the game. I encountered several audio issues, like the battle music cutting out for no reason and characters speaking to me despite being nowhere close to where I was. Some events ended up breaking, like one scene where your parents catch you out of the house past your bedtime. What’s supposed to happen is as you leave your friend’s house, your character freezes and your parents grab you to take you home. What happened to me is as I was leaving the house, the parents came in through the door like ghosts and the game loaded me outside. Then I was able to move as the parents kept walking towards me. I had a bit of fun walking from screen to screen as they chased me but that was definitely not supposed to happen. While most of the bugs I encountered were harmless, there were a few times my game had crashed. It all started with my first encounter with the Nazi Zombies roaming the world and after crashing it would randomly do so again when I ran into more of them. I wouldn’t say it happened often, but it happened a lot more than it should have.
There are also a few smaller problems that hinder the experience of the game. As you go about your quest, you will collect a large assortment of items. These items don’t have a purpose other than you being able to sell them for money. It’s bad enough there’s no crafting system that could put your piles of junk to good use, but the game already gives you enough money, making everything you collect just feel useless. I am also playing the European version of the game, which if you don’t know is a very censored version of the game. A lot of inappropriate, but rather fun, mini-games were cut and was instead replaced with still frames. While a funny jab at the censorship, it does make you feel like you missed a lot of fun to be had with the game. Despite these issues, South Park: The Stick of Truth is still a blast to play and one that is worth owning on the Switch if you missed it the first time around on other platforms.
South Park: The Stick of Truth Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 7/107/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 5/105/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
This is a South Park game done right. You have the crude adult humor mixed well with the overall fun gameplay. The game suffers from a variety of smaller issues, but excels at providing an amazing experience for fans of the show.