South Park: The Stick of Truth (2014)

Southpark: The stick of truth is, at it’s heart, a game about larping. That’s “Live-Action-role-Play”, if you’re not in the know, and it’s on the sheer “metal as swords” power of larping at we’re looking at it today. Because larping is epic as shit. And don’t say you haven’t fucking done it. If you’ve ran up and down your street with a stick at some time in your life, pretending to fight dragons (and our latest reader demographic statistics show you’re doing that RIGHT FUCKING NOW) then you’ve larped. And the only difference between that and wearing a wizard-cloak and hurling fucking dice fireballs in a wood is like-minded people and money. Which makes taking the piss out of Larpers just as infective as any other insult that’s based around their access to creativity, disposable income and Friends.

All of this means, of course, that Southpark must be the richest mountain town in the universe. It’s certainly the most epic.

I’m going to start this review with a disclaimer. If you don’t like South Park, you won’t like this. There’s nothing here for you. Everything about this game, and by extension this review, is going to be crammed full of that same grotesque, irreverent, antagonistic and needlessly crude stuff that the typical episode of this show is and therefore, is in this game.

They’re one and the same. A quick glance at a screen-shot (and I mean any screen-shot) should give you the first similarity. I don’t know if you can say a tv show animated with craft-paper and glue has a engine, really, but if so, this game is built in the same engine. It’s identical. (although now I come to think about it, it’s probably it’s like everything else, including my social life, passions and sex life, in that it’s probably entirely computer generated these days).

South Park is much like porno, I imagine, in that what once was paper has now gone digital.

Anyway, I’m not going to review South Park: the TV show. Unless you’re a Nordic warrior brought forth through time via a magical raven or the will of an elder god, you know what South Park is. (And if you are a Nordic warrior brought forth via a magical Raven and the will of an elder god, feel free to ignore all but this. We meet at the last wax of the moon on the hill of the fallen hammer. Bring the foot of a honest man, the ear of an ass and a sprig of Balder’s-bane. And a brolly – it’s going to be wet out).

Sadly the spinoff, named "Co-Stan the Barbarian"  was discontinued after it was revealed the studio only owned one fire affect. And the fact that they replaced with women with Sparky probably didn't help either.

Sadly the spinoff, named “Co-Stan the Barbarian” was discontinued after it was revealed the studio only owned one fire affect. The fact that they replaced the women with Sparky the dog probably didn’t help either.

Just be sure, as far as grotesque humour is concerned, it’s all there. (Unless you bought the European console edition. In which case the abortion jokes have been, not unironically, taken out before they could be carried to term) The plot, though, is reassuringly ludicrous. You start off as the new kid, a stranger to South Park with a dark history and an inability to say anything at all. The neighbourhood kids are all enjoying a town-wide larping session, and Cartman recruits you for the Humans to fight the evil drow elves, lead by Stan and Kyle. If you’re familiar with the show you might already have realised the twist, but don’t worry. The thread of this story winds as messily and irregularly as a your mom’s well-used anal beads. Right away you’ll be asked to choose between one of four classes. These are mage, warrior, thief, and Jew. Now, the first three are, let’s be honest, less than notable but there’s the fourth and, frankly, I’m not touching it. It’s not up to me to decide whether that’s offensive or not, but according to the team its a class based on “high risk and high reward”(and if that just sounds like a more offensive title for “Bezerker” then maybe you should go play something else, ya fuckin nerd). As a class though, it does line up well with South Parks entire approach to humour. You’ll either love it for it’s daring, or hate it for insensitively shitting on something important to you, just to make an apparently unrelated point. It’s as predictably invasive and insensitive the rubber fist in your mom’s dresser drawer (and if you found that joke even a little offensive, it’s probably not for you).

"So yeah, told my mom I was eating babies, just because "duelling with farts in an abandoned school" is something you never really live down

“So yeah, told my mom I was eating babies, just because “duelling with farts in an abandoned school” is something you never really live down”

I’ve been talking about the humor, quite simply, because there isn’t actually a whole lot else. The combat’s as two dimensional as the world, which is the real weakness of the game. There’s just so much of it, and aside from 5 special attacks there’s absolutely nothing in terms of depth. Once you figure out the best weapon in the game is freely available in the weapons shop, there’s not even the fun of having an interesting or unique character. This is a game that falls into the trap of having an optimum path, and it drowns in the fucking mire.

And that’s when every thing’s working. Oftentimes on my play-through characters and backgrounds didn’t bothered to render, or flickered bothersomely, leaving some scenes surprisingly noisy ghost-towns and others looking like the work of an overworked sub-system of the matrix. I actually thought it was going to end up a plot point for a while, just for the sheet lunacy of it all, until I found just how many bug reports were getting posted about it. All in all, it’s as stable as a epileptic at a roller-disco, and leaves pretty much the same tarnish on your soul as laughing at that joke might.

Which brings me, neatly, to the handle of today’s hammer. It’s fucking boring. There’s not a single joke in this whole show that’s not either been done before differently, or, more often, been done exactly the same. And if you thought today’s review relied heavily on the same, tired, easy joke, than I can only promise the game is a thousand times worse.

Like your mom.

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