Saturday, 8 March 2014

Whiskey Reviews: South Park: The Stick Of Truth... something something [censored in EU]

Platform: PC
Release Date: 7 March 2014
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft
Where to get it: Steam
Price: £39.99

Your amount of enjoyment from The Stick Of Truth will likely come directly from how much you enjoy the actual show.
That said, the game has solid mechanics of its own, completely nails the look and feel of the show and the attention to detail for referencing past events (even small throw-away gags) from a half dozen series back is impressive and rewarding to spot. Plus you get to swing more than one dildo bat at things.

Graphically the game is rather impressive in its own way. It nails the South Park art style and look so well it's easy to forget you're playing a game and not watching the show when a cut-scene kicks in. Pretty much everything is rendered in that trademark South Park style, with hilariously out of place (actual) explosions and fire pasted over paper cut-out backdrops and characters. Even the animation is smooth and enjoyable, despite the subject matters typical jerkiness and simplicity - that's still there, but it's not grating or detrimental to gameplay in any way.

Sound design is also excellent, with voice actors completely selling their parts and every single character sounding and acting completely authentic throughout the entire game. The jokes are delivered superbly and it's easy to get absorbed into the world when free-roaming thanks to the little conversations, one-liners and general background noise and comments from NPCs that goes off almost everywhere. Again, Obsidian have nailed that exact balance between "loads of stuff, all the time" and "grating" and managed to get the balance just right.
However, that said there are some small complaints - namely Jimmy being in your party. He has only one limerick for one of his special attacks and it gets old FAST, especially when it's coupled with a mash the button to overcome stuttering event to make the ability work. They should've either dropped the mashing or had multiple limericks as even just three or four difference audio clips could have livened up the character and made him less of a chore to use.

Gameplay wise you spend most of your time exploring and talking to people. From wandering around houses, gathering keys and friends and robbing every gold-handled doodad you can get your grubby fourth-grade mitts on to stuff your inventory full of junk, potions (cheesy-poofs, etc) and equipment (ranging from weapons and armour to wigs and make-up).
The battle system works well, even for people who aren't fans of turn-based RPGs, having only two party members and a simple wheel of actions as well as transparent game rules, easy to learn and master mechanics and an average difficulty curve that rewards paying attention and experimenting in equal measure makes the abundance of battles feel enjoyable rather than a pain in the ass.
It also helps that battles are not random events, popping out of nowhere, but rather instigated by one party whacking the other with a melee attack. The start of a battle can also be influenced by shooting the enemy (stuns them at the start of battle) or casting magic (farting, makes them grossed out - a mechanic that prevents healing) allows you to often dictate how you're going to engage a group.
Sometimes you don't even have to engage the enemy, various environmental aspects come into play. From simply shooting something to make it fall on an enemy's head so you've got one less to worry about all the way up to hilarious chain reactions usually involving electricity, open flames, farting and even charred alien corpses.

Finally the games RPG systems mesh together pretty well. With a simple inventory (2 weapon slots, 3 armour slots and some cosmetics), active participation in combat (pressing a button to do different types of attacks after choosing who to hit with what), collecting Chinpokomon and Facebook friends (never a chore, friends reward you with perk points to upgrade various aspects of your class) and collectible summons which are gathered through side-quests and feature Mr Kim (of City Wok), Mr Hankey (of... the toilet?), Mr Slave (by far the best of them all), and Jesus (no comment). These summons can't be used in boss battles, but you get one each day (refilled by going back and talking to the summon character on a new day) and they clear a whole battle with a single use.

Verdict? It's one tie-in game that doesn't suck. Nailing its subject matter even better than Batman's recent games. It both mocks and respects everything that's a part of the experience and doesn't overstay its welcome, clocking in at about 15 hours long. So much happens in the main story that it's easy to overlook the dozens of side quests that encourage exploration of South Park (and Canada). Jokes both old and new are littered throughout and never feel out of place, with each one having that distinct South Park feel (namely lots of farts, and controversy). Even the scenes that deliberately take you out of your comfort zone such as performing an abortion (on a man), or encountering pedophiles all manage to be funny in the end.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth is a must-play for anyone who enjoys the show but will likely be a vulgar, off-putting excercise in pushing the limits of distastefulness for anyone who isn't.

Score: 9 out of 10 queefs.

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