‘South Park: The Stick of Truth’: Rewarding Fans

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The gang is all here. IGN/www.ign.com

South Park: The Stick of Truth: Rewarding Fans

By Jon White, Multimedia Reporter

Licensed games have the stigma of being poor quality, a notion that is usually accurate. There have been a few high quality licensed games that have been impressive, such as Goldeneye, The Darkness, and the Lego franchises, but the mass majority of licensed games are regarded as cheap cash-­ins which lack quality. The current console generation has seen its fair share of critical and commercial failure of licensed games, such as Iron Man, Thor, Star Trek, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Star Wars Kinect all garnering ire and ridicule. With the sun setting on this generation, gamers are going to see the final hurrah of games being pushed out, and one of those stand­-out titles is South Park: The Stick of Truth. The game is a love letter to fans and gamers, which is surprising as this is not the first South Park released, but it is easily the best. After such critical flops from the original South Park game, to South Park Rally and Chef’s Luv Shack, the creators have gotten together with a developer to make a game to redeem the previous flops. Granted, there were some previous games of this generation with Let’s Go Tower Defense Play and Tenorman’s Revenge, but those were download-­only digital titles. The Stick of Truth is a full-­fledged game that was made from the ground up by the creators with help of developers who are clearly diehard fans of the show.

Fans of the show will not be let down by the presentation of the game, as everything looks and sounds like exactly the series. During a Press Note at E3 in 2012, Matt Stone said, “We got approached a few years ago to do a South Park game and the only thing that really interested us was if we could make a game where it felt like an episode of South Park. To do that, you had to get the look right…which is pretty crappy. We worked with Obsidian and you would not believe how much R+D and how many hours of work went into making that distinctive crappy South Park look.” The time paid off, as everything looks like it was taken directly from an episode. The show’s animation has not changed much during the seventeen seasons, so its animation style is one of the most distinct on television. The game stands out as looking just like an episode, complete with the simple animations for characters. If one were to stumble into a room where The Stick of Truth is being played, it could easily be mistaken for an episode of the show.

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A scene from one of the game’s many familiar places. Destructoid/www.destructoid.com

The game’s appearance alone is not enough to get fans interested in the game, as you have to give gamers a reason to play the game. One of the strongest selling points is the ability to actually explore the town of South Park. The idea of exploring the town was new for the show creators, as according to Trey Parker, “We started writing different things and the funny part is saying maybe you’re here then you have to go to Stan’s house to Kyle’s house, and after fifteen years of doing the show it was the first time we asked ourselves, ‘Where is Kyle’s house?’ Because we could always just cut to Kyle’s house. So…we’ve been spending a lot of time, for the first, time mapping out how the actual town is.” Even though Parker confessed that they never had to do it before, the layout of the town feels natural. The map has a nice flow and appears as how the small quiet mountain town of Colorado would appear if one were to visit. There is a lot to explore in the town, as you can enter character’s houses and explore and see how everything looks. Players may even spend the first few hours of the game just looking around town and taking in all the scenery. There are countless references made to episodes from the series and the characters, so players exploring the town will not be disappointed. Players will even see familiar faces and hear familiar catch phrases from even the most obscure of characters. It really does feel like one is in the town of South Park, Colorado.

What solidifies the appearance of being in South Park is the idea of the player creating their own character for the game. Players build their character from scratch to look like them as much (or as little) as possible. Your character comes with lots of choices to create your avatar, but it still looks like a crappy South Park character; to draw the player further in, the story revolves around you. You are the new kid in the neighborhood and what begins as a simple day of pretending to be warriors and elves explodes into the true South Park scale of ridiculousness. To avoid story spoilers, just take solace in the fact that the combination of smart and offensive humor is there intact, with the game feeling like a fourteen hour episode of the series.

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Yes, even Al Gore shows up. Blogspot/http://4.bp.blogspot.com

The biggest gripe that fans will have with the game, is the choice of gameplay. The Stick of Truth opted to go with a turn based role playing game (RPG) for the gameplay style, which echoes of an old-­school game. Granted, the amount of customization for characters and the ability for exploration limited genre styles for the game, but it could still alienate fans because they may not be interested in that game genre. The RPG genre has been seeing resurgence in popularity, but it is still a niche genre compared to how popular first person shooters have become. The combat can become repetitive, as even though the combat makes attempts to keep the battles fresh, the battles themselves can become repetitious. However, credit should be given to the creators for making a game that sticks with their vision as opposed to what is popular, as that has led to shoddy products in the past. Considering that the combat is only part of the game, it is not going to ruin the overall experience.

The Stick of Truth will go down as one the best licensed games of this generation, perhaps of all time. The game does everything to make sure that it feels like it is linked to the intellectual property, all while still being a great game to play. Fans will find themselves lost in the recreation of the town, making sure to talk to everyone not just so they can get quests, but to interact with familiar characters. So far, the game has been a critical and commercial success, as gamers are voting with their wallets and ensuring that the creators and developers are being rewarded for this labour of love. After seeing many disappointing licensed games this generation, The Stick of Truth becomes a template on how to make a quality licensed game. Going forward into the next generation, one can hope that this will become a new trend.

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Not every country gets the game uncensored. This is the screen some countries get. IGN/http://oyster.ignimgs.com/