South Park: The Stick Of Truth
In an industry that is horrifically risk-averse South Park: The Stick Of Truth represents everything that could possibly go wrong in game development.
As a game licensed from a TV show, even one as consistently superb as South Park, it's difficult to do build a game that would do the show justice. With a show as popular as South Park, there's also the danger of attracting the ire of fanboys putting even more pressure on the developer Obsidian.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth has had a pretty rough journey. Original publisher THQ went bust in late 2012 and so the game was delayed. After it was picked up by Ubisoft who promptly delayed it again.
With all those delays it was beginning to look like the game had been lost in gaming limbo but, as it transpires, it was well worth the wait.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth is as much an exercise in playing make believe as it is about satirising everything that it can get its hands on.
The game begins casting the player as the new kid on the block trying to make friends. He's quickly embroiled in a game of make believe questing on behalf of Eric Cartman, grand wizard of the Kupa Keep Kingdom (or KKK for short) to recover the Stick Of Truth from the elves.
This is South Park to the core. Embracing childish innocence to ridicule everything but especially video games. Matt Stone and Trey Parker penned the game's outlandish story and their fingerprints can be seen throughout the game.
Their sense of humour has been captured perfectly from the the noises Cartman's mum makes when you spanker her with your sword to the daft little junk items like the Terence action figure with 'finger pull' action that you can find hidden around the game.
And it looks perfect too. It's just like playing through your very own interactive South Park episode. Obsidian has worked very closely with South Park Digital Studios to emulate their unique animation style perfecly in the game.
Getting the chance to explore South Park and meet all of the character from the Mayor and Officer Barbrady (or Buttbaby as Butters calls him) is a treat. The whole of South Park has been marked out from the home of Mr Garrison and Mr Slave to the Elementary School and the City Hall.
The central characters, Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny and Butters are all part of your party and can join you in battle against a host of weird bad guys from drunken hobos and smoking bullies to rabid rats and even a mutated virus.
The game uses an intriguing turn-based combat system that intrgrates some quick-time events to add a little bit of action and skill to battle encounters.
There's also some useful added effects. As well as the usual fire, ice, shock and bleeding effects there's the handy gross-out effect which prevents the affected unit from consuming healing items and causes damage from vomiting every turn. It can be activated in any number of ways from throwing your own faeces at your enemy to using an item with ginger pubes taped to it.
This is a game that is crammed with gutter humour although there have been some cuts made to the European version. Obsidian and the Soth Park boys managed turn this into a joke placing a comedy screen over the offending sections explaining what content was cut before carrying on with the action.
Obsidian has had a bit of a reputation for making great games that are somewhat marred by bugs but with South Park: The Stick Of Truth they seem to have been given more than enough time to make sure that the game is pixel-perfect. There's not even a hint of the kind of game-breaking bugs that have blotted Obsidian's previous big titles like Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol.
Playing The Stick Of Truth is a whole load of fun. Not only is it a great game it really manages to capture the spirit of play. Wandering around the city streets in some silly costumes and imagining that you're a great hero really captures the spirit of childhood even if you're battering your enemies with an exceptionally phallic alien anal probe.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth is very rare game indeed. Not only is it a great RPG but it is perfectly faithful to the TV series and finding a licensed game that is as good as this is a rare occasion indeed. Rest assured, if you play South Park: The Stick Of Truth you won't be saying "Screw you guys, I'm going home" until the game is well and truly finished.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth is out now on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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