South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fantastical universe built on a foundation of realism: "In terms of a fourth-grade boy, magic really is farting," producer Nathan Davis proclaims. In the Obsidian-developed, now Ubisoft published role-playing game, that foundation is the essence of your character's power.
Choosing to align with either Cartman and his human faction or with Stan, Kyle and the elves they command, your customizable character will offer his mysterious command of flatulence to defeat his enemies and recover the fabled 'Stick of Truth.' Known throughout the land as "the new kid" (and, yes, even as the "Dragonborn"), your character wields special abilities based on the bodily function – such as "cup-a-spell," cupping foul smelling attacks and throwing them toward enemies and the environment for massive explosive damage.
It's the most South Park game you'll ever play and, with its absolute perfect mimicry of the show's art style, it's the most loyal adaptation the series has seen in video games. Throughout the game, players will ally with familiar characters from the South Park universe, allowing them to pair up with series alum to defeat enemy forces – controlling their actions in combat. As your roster of friends increases, all level up with the protagonist – focusing the decision to switch partners on their abilities and not their levels based on use. Combat is turn-based with timed button presses increasing the power of each attack or dampening the damage of each aggressors strike (a mechanic RPG fans will know well from games like Super Mario RPG). Combat also offers combos: players can begin attacks with one button and transition to using magic (read: farts), mixing and matching the two skills until their attack timer has depleted.
South Park: The Stick of Truth features your typical slate of role-playing game features: loot in the world including new gear that changes the way your player looks, the ability to make decisions to craft your players story, and more. Each of these elements, however, is decidedly injected into the ideals of the South Park series. For example, since your character's ability is based on baking brownies, eating burritos is the obvious way to refill your mana meter.
Despite its focus on devastating butt thunder, South Park: The Stick of Truth has its charming moments. In one scene during the hands-off demo, Butters was ordered to heal the protagonist during a battle in the hallway of South Park Elementary. Butters' magic healing ability consisted of walking to the player character, giving him a pat on the back and promising, "I got your back bro." I burst out laughing.
The game's menu is based on a social media tool – actually called Facebook in the game, though we were told the name would likely change. In the menu, you can check in with allies and view missions and modify weaponry by adding items known as "strap-ons."
At the end of the demo, the protagonist is left in the middle between his allied human faction led by Cartman and the elves, led by Stan and Kyle. Though, in this game, Cartman was the leader the protagonist swore allegiance to, you are able to switch sides at any time. After doing so, Cartman – as you would imagine – was quite perturbed.
"I thought what we had was real, douchebag," Cartman cries, before another battle begins, ending with the two characters in an epic fart battle. A fiery shot of vulgar vapor streams out of both characters, creating two crashing waves. Mashing buttons and pushing back Cartman's wave is the only way to succeed and while we don't get to see the results, we know that whoever wins ... everyone in South Park Elementary is going to lose.
Other than being gastrointestinally expressive, I didn't recall much chatter from the main character. The story and dialog in Stick of Truth revolves mostly on the world around him, with the narrative penned by the guys at South Park studios and voice acting from the original cast. The look of Stick of Truth is so loyal to the series that the transitions into in-game cutscenes barely registered. It was all seamless. In terms of its attitude, the game doesn't hold back, with one-liners and ideas that would be comfortable in the most controversial episodes of the series. And though there are plenty of ladies to team up with and battle in the game, South Park: The Stick of Truth only allows players to create a male hero. Probably not a bad thing.
Davis says that South Park Digital approached Obsidian to work on the game nine months before the developer had ever signed on with THQ as its publisher. After the downfall of THQ, Ubisoft acquired the game's publishing rights – a transition Davis says has been mostly seamless. If South Park: The Stick of Truth maintains its current loyalty to the series, fans of the series shouldn't be worried about having the franchise's trademark poke at society muted.
Even though I haven't watched an episode of South Park in years, I found the demo to be entertaining. Nevertheless, the entire experience is soaked in the asinine and childish humor the series is known for and that may be a difficult pill for RPG fans with no interest in the franchise to swallow. With the television series in its 17th season, however, there are plenty of fans South Park: The Stick of Truth can appeal to.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is coming to the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 later this year.