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DoubleTake: South Park: The Stick of Truth

Posted on August 23, 2013 AT 03:00pm

Meet some friends of mine

Ray There’s never been a really great South Park game. Sure, some of the downloadable titles this generation have been OK, but they were more lip service to fans to keep them happy on the digital front. But now, series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker grow ever closer (we think, anyway, since there still isn’t a solid release date) to unleashing what could shape up to be a masterpiece: South Park: The Stick of Truth. At Gamescom, Josh and I saw a new level that highlighted many of the combat and in-world abilities that you, as the new kid (aka Sir Douchebag), will be able to wield. We also got a glimpse of the nefarious Bard, played by the ever-handi-capable Jimmy Valmer. While I’ve seen everything Stick of Truthrelated up to this point, this was your first experience with the game, Josh. What were some of your initial thoughts?
For starters, I was completely surprised by just about everything. I knew the game was going to have a 2D side-scrolling overworld, but I didn’t realize how many different interactions they were going to cram into that format. You can break boxes to find loot, and you can sneak up behind enemies to get the jump on them in battle. At one point, the new kid farted to set off an environmental trap that killed a group of enemies, which allowed us to avoid a fight outright. And I was equally surprised whenever we actually got into the battles. I haven’t played much in the way of turn-based RPGs for a while, but the variety of the attacks and powers—all as clever and silly as you’d expect from a South Park LARPing session—really shined through. And the fact that each ability has different active gameplay during the attack animation makes it look far more compelling than a simple menu-driven numbers game. Josh
Ray Yeah, the new kid’s special power, the ability to fart on command, is as necessary in the world as jumping or running might be. Everything’s interactive, and there’s loot nearly everywhere. The game’s economy system hasn’t been described yet, but we saw Sir Douchebag pick up bottle caps, toy cars, and other childhood goodies that I imagine could be used to trade for any number of things. And I agree that the battles are definitely a highlight. They reminded me of earlier Paper Mario games where you had to time your jumps properly or mash a button to do extra damage. The powers are all authentically South Park, with moves ranging from rochambeau to the Armor of Reynolds—where the new kid literally wraps himself in Reynolds Wrap to increase his defense. Beyond the gameplay, however, the thing that continues to shine for me is the writing. Every time I’m shown a new 15- to 20-minute snippet of gameplay, I’m laughing my butt off by the end. And the emphasis on this being “make-believe” is evident all the time, like when Cartman swallows ketchup and then spits it back up to simulate blood. You can tell that Matt and Trey have taken their time with this one and want to do a South Park game right.
I was honestly blown away by the quasi-realistic tone. I expected that this would mostly be a situation where the fantasy took over and we’d see actual magical spells playing out onscreen, but it’s all (at least so far) a tribute to childhood imagination. The only supernatural stuff, I gather, will be established things in the fiction of the show, like aliens, Mr. Hankey, and, presumably, Satan. Oh, that’s the other thing about this demo: We saw some brilliant character introductions, like Jimmy struggling to stutter out his pre-battle trash talk for so long that a button prompt appeared onscreen to skip it. Trey and Matt obviously know their huge cast better than anyone, and it seems like they’re committed to giving every character, major or minor, their due in the story. I’m excited to see how it all plays out. Josh
Ray Even though it was only a 15-minute demo, this has easily been one of the highlights of the show for me. At the same time, it’s also one of the most depressing, because the hope of learning the release date anytime soon seems less and less realistic. But if this game can deliver on all the promise of being a hysterical South Park game worthy of the turn-based-RPG genre, then I think everyone can agree that the wait will have been worth it.

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