Over the course of South Park: The Stick of Truth's 12-plus hour running time it throws probably a thousand (or more) jokes at you. Big jokes. Small jokes. Short jokes. Sight gags. Elaborate jokes. Dumb jokes. Offensive jokes. Political satires. Sociological commentaries. Video game commentaries. Commentary commentaries.
In other words, everything you'd expect from a South Park game. And therein lies both its biggest strength — and biggest problem.
The South Park half
The game is an open-world RPG, with the entire town of South Park — and part of Canada — for you to explore. You control the New Kid, a.k.a. Douchebag, on a quest to make friends. This quest sucks you into a war between Cartman's human and Kyle's drow elf kingdoms. They're fighting for the titular Stick of Truth — your average, garden-variety stick, except this one has the power to control the universe, ostensibly.
And then around hour six everything goes off the rails and it all gets way weirder, though I'll leave you to find out how.
Stick of Truth is, in many ways, similar to a two-hour episode of the show stretched over too many hours of game. It looks like South Park and thanks to Trey Parker and Matt Stone's involvement, it sounds like South Park too. Kudos to everyone involved — this is a South Park game that does its lineage proud, at least aesthetically.
South Park: The Stick of Truth had the promise of an unfettered Trey Parker and Matt Stone experience. Freed from the confines of television's oh-heavens-think-of-the-children morality, Stick of Truth could do all the things Parker and Stone couldn't get away with normally.
And in some ways it did. There are no bleeps here. No blurs either. Just pure, uncensored (sorry Europe) swearing and nudity and fetuses and anuses and farts. As always, South Park is not for those easily offended. Like, seriously. I cannot stress enough how much you should not play this game if you are easily offended or triggered by subjects like, oh I don't know, rape.
Yet despite some so-absurdly-horrific-I-can't-really-decide-whether-I'm-offended occurrences in the latter half, Stick of Truth feels predictable. Like Celine Dion trotting out on stage to sing "My Heart Will Go On" just one more time, I can't shake the feeling that Stick of Truth does what's expected of it and nothing more.
South Park the TV show has made its mark lampooning pop culture, and Stick of Truth is at its best when it's cracking meta-jokes about video games — like lampooning me for spending so much time on side quests and urging me to get back to the main story.
But South Park's best feature is the rapidity with which Parker and Stone put together an episode. (Watch the fantastic documentary 6 Days to Air if you get a chance.) It bestows upon South Park a wonderful responsiveness no other show matches — a sense of being there, of understanding pop culture and reacting to it on the fly.
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