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South Park and role-playing games are both close to my heart so a South Park RPG should, in theory, be one of my favorite games ever. However, South Park: The Stick of Truth frequently made the RPG fan in me argue with the South Park fan.
South Park Fan: This game is like a super-sized episode of South Park. It's every bit as gross and funny as the show. Obsidian managed to throw in practically every character from the series, too.
RPG Fan: Would you actually enjoy it if you didn't already enjoy the show, though? The game relies on a lot of references to the show or movie. Would the AWESOM-O suit in Cartman's closet make you laugh if you hadn't seen that episode?
South Park Fan: A dedicated South Park viewer is definitely going to get a lot more out of the game than someone who doesn't watch the show. You're not going to be completely lost if you're a South Park newbie. There are plenty of funny moments, especially in the main campaign, that don't rely on prior knowledge. Some references will sail over their head but I bet it would make them want to go back and watch some older episodes.
RPG Fan: The bigger problem is that the game seems to just assume we know a lot of the characters. You don't get to engage with them on the side as much as you might in say, Dragon Age or Knights of the Old Republic.
South Park Fan: I appreciate the fact that they don't just dump exposition on you. It always rang false to me when NPC's dropped their life stories on you in other role-playing games. In Stick, you learn about the characters through their actions in the game. If you want to find out smaller details about the world, you can go explore. For example, you can take a glimpse into Cartman's mom's sordid past by looking through her room.
RPG Fan: The New Kid, the main character, barely feels like he's part of the game. They put almost no effort into fleshing him out. His backstory's almost nonexistent.
South Park Fan: I don't think they could've made him ever be as funny or interesting as the characters that have over a decade's worth of history from the show. Why even bother?
RPG Fan: They could've at least tried. I've got faith in South Park's writers considering how funny the rest of the game is. Maybe they'd have more time to round out the hero if the game wasn't only 10 hours.
South Park Fan: Oh, here we go with this role-playing gamer "it needs to be 40 hours so I can wallow in my own filth for a month" bullshit. Would the game really have been better with 30 more hours? They would've just padded it out with even simpler side quests -
RPG Fan: Those side quests were kinda balls, yeah.
South Park Fan: - or they would've just added a lot more combat. Five enemies per corridor instead of two or whatever. It would've killed the pacing of the story.
RPG Fan: A higher number of battles wouldn't be so bad if the combat was any good. It's way too simple. I used the same abilities for almost every battle.
South Park Fan: I was happy that they integrated some jokes from the series into the battles, like Butters' Professor Chaos alter-ego. They could've gone further with the comedy on the abilities, though. For example, they just have Stan swinging a sword and doing standard medieval RPG moves. Why doesn't he turn into Toolshed and use power tools on his enemies?
RPG Fan: The combat has some interesting ideas, though. The rhythm elements for blocking and attacking give the battles a little bit of a learning curve. I also liked the idea of enemies having defensive stances, like riposte or reflecting, that you have to overcome with certain abilities. Those stances don't come up that often, though. You rarely have to deviate from your normal attack rotation.
South Park Fan: Best thing I can say about the combat is that it's short and painless. It let me get back to the story, which is the sole reason I was playing in the first place.
RPG Fan: The developers give you a lot of opportunities to skip battles, too. They reward you for exploring the environment and finding a way to either avoid an enemy or wipe them out with a special ability before the fight starts. It's too bad that those special abilities are so annoying to perform.
South Park Fan: Seriously, fuck the controls for farts. It requires way too much analog stick work. It's not all that funny anyway. Farts are one of the tamest parts of South Park so I'm not sure why the developers were so committed to making them the center of the game.
RPG Fan: I also don't know why they were so committed to 2D visuals. It made movement so annoying. I spent a lot of time just humping walls trying to find the path through some areas.
South Park Fan: That I'm not going to agree with. Sure, the environments can be annoying but it's also true South Park. The game looks exactly like an interactive version of the show. A three-dimensional world might have been easier to navigate but it wouldn't be faithful to the series. The whole mission for the developers was to translate the show to the game and they accomplished that objective.
RPG Fan: "It's annoying but it's also true South Park" seems like a great way to sum up the game.
South Park Fan: Agreed.
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment