South Park: The Stick of Truth – The best TV show you can play

Ever since someone arranged a mishmash of electronics to create crude interactive blips of light, mankind has dreamed of playing some version of a popular television show. And while the <em>Home Improvement </em>game where Tim Allen fights dinosaurs is a high point, never before has the experience of actually playing a TV show been captured quite as well as <em>South Park: The Stick of Truth. </em>

I&rsquo;ve always wished for a game based on an animation that was indistinguishable from the source material, ever since cel shading gained popularity. It may have something to do with the intentionally crappy looking construction paper aesthetic of <em>South Park, </em>but with Trey Parker and Matt Stone lending their guidance and voice talents, this is the closest anything has come to being literally part of a TV show.

As the &ldquo;New Kid&rdquo; in <em>South Park,</em> you&rsquo;re pulled into the roleplaying antics of Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny, playing a medieval fantasy game that, in true <em>South Park</em> style,&nbsp; equal parts over-the-top, and hilariously understated. The kids fight in RPG-style battles that, in the childish imagination, seem like grand fights, but such fights usually devolve into punching each other, using fireworks in place of fire, and of course, using your mighty &ldquo;Dragon Shout,&rdquo; which is actually a fart.

As a fan of the show myself, the fan service is immense. Creating your own <em>South Park</em> character in your own image and seeing yourself in a show you&rsquo;ve watched and loved is uncanny. Being able to explore <em>South Park</em> alone is a dream come true, seeing where Jimbo&rsquo;s Guns and Jon&rsquo;s Rhinoplasty are in relation to the rest of the town, seeing that you live next to fan favourite character Butters, and getting to interact with my personal favourite <em>South Park </em>character, Randy March, made my inner fan go wild.

Items abound with references, making the mundane act of selling items a trip of nostalgia and hilarity. Who can forget Wild Wacky Action Bike, the bike that&rsquo;s hard to ride, almost impossible to steer, <em>and</em> glows in the dark. Or the collectable Chinpokmon, <em>Pok&eacute;mon </em>parodies that include such favourites as Roostor, Lambtor, and Shoe (which is, in fact, just a shoe).

Particular attention was paid to our native Canada. Only people who truly care about accuracy would know that Canada is filled with dire wolves (they&rsquo;re like normal wolves, but, y&rsquo;know, <em>dire</em>), where you take quests for the Prince of Canada, and of course, Canada is portrayed as an 8-bit adventure game complete with a chip tune rendition of &ldquo;O Canada.&rdquo;

<em>South Park</em> isn&rsquo;t the only referenced franchise. While <em>Lord of the Rings </em>and <em>Skyrim </em>get their fair share of references, as do video games in general, <em>Stick of Truth </em>owes much of its existence to the <em>Paper Mario </em>series. The combat is straight out of <em>Paper Mario, </em>with an emphasis on simple RPG mechanics bolstered by button-press commands to block attack and properly execute more complicated techniques. It makes for an RPG that is simplistic, but easy to grasp, and offers some agency to the usual hands-off. Exploring <em>South Park</em> itself isn&rsquo;t free from the <em>Paper Mario </em>touch, with a similar emphasis of 2-D environments with the ability to travel into the background, and unlocking powers to traverse previously inaccessible areas like in a <em>Metroid </em>or <em>Castlevania</em> game.

Frankly, <em>South Park: The Stick of Truth </em>is a more faithful interpretation of the <em>Paper Mario </em>series than Nintendo&rsquo;s own botched attempts. &nbsp;

<em>Stick of Truth </em>is not a long experience, easily beatable in less than 10 hours, less if you ignore side quests. What&rsquo;s there is dense with references and Easter eggs, not to mention trophies for completionists, so there&rsquo;s a good amount of content. As I mentioned in an earlier column, sometimes a shorter length is appreciated. An episode of <em>South Park</em>, or binge-watching a season of the show is one thing, forcing the humour of <em>South Park</em> onto a non-stop 25-hour adventure would wear thin.

<em>Stick of Truth</em>&rsquo;s story is just long enough to be funny and not overstay its welcome. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all.&nbsp;

Really, in a generation where solid turn-based RPG&rsquo;s on a console are few and far between, <em>South Park: The Stick of Truth </em>is an easy recommendation. People who love <em>South Park </em>probably already own or plan to own this game, but if you&rsquo;re on the fence, if you&rsquo;re looking for a quality RPG with some solid, albeit crude humour (seriously, the easily offended should not play this!), and particularly if you are a fan of <em>Paper Mario, </em>you owe it to yourself to pick this up.


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