Normally here's how things go. I play a game, and I try and write something fairly cohesive about how it played, what was interesting about it, blah blah blah. But South Park: The Stick Of Truth is sort of weird and what I've played so far doesn't really lend itself to that kind of thing. Instead this is a series of notes: things I found interesting, funny, well done, not-so-well-done...
Holy Balls It Looks Perfect
South Park: The Stick Of Truth looks great in a way few games can. Because the art of South Park is so stark and familiar it allows the game itself looks stark and familiar! Bizarrely, despite the deliberately lo-fi look of South Park, the fact that it's in super crisp HD actually accentuates the crapness, hence accentuating the style. Does everyone get what I'm saying here? It's weird.
Bottom line, South Park: The Stick of Truth looks incredible.
It Feels Like Playing An Episode Of The Show
This is such a lazy observation, but hear me out.
I can't think of a licensed game that looks so ridiculously close to its source material. Part of this has to do with the style of the show itself, and the fact that it can be replicated so easily with modern technology, but I think that probably downplays how much work Obsidian has but into making The Stick of Truth an authentic experience.
When I was a kid I remember Codemasters tried to sell its Dizzy series of games by claiming it was like 'playing a cartoon'. It was bullshit back then and it's bullshit right now, but South Park: The Stick Of Truth sort of fulfils that grand prophecy.
The Writing Is Great
It's subversive, it doesn't take itself seriously. It is legitimately funny. South Park: The Stick of Truth will most likely be one of the funniest games ever made.
I mentioned the word 'authenticity' above and, in a lot of ways, it's such a po-faced, rubbish word to use — but there's no other way of saying it. The Stick Of Truth just feels 'proper'. Part of that comes from the art, but the writing is about as crisp and pitch perfect as you could expect. It completely elevates the game and makes it feel legitimate. South Park: The Stick Of Truth could look good, it could play well, but if it didn't capture the spirit of the writing it would be all for nought. Thankfully, the writing is good. Very good.
It Sort Of Feels Like The Mario & Luigi Series...
And that's a good thing.
Especially with regards to the combat, which is turn based, but adds plenty of reaction-based button prompts to keep things interesting.
But the whole package — slick, funny writing. Pretty environments, the dialogue, the boss battles — the Mario & Luigi series feels like a huge touching point for this game and how it plays.
Um... It's A Real, Proper RPG
Again, this is a good thing.
I think part of me expected The Stick Of Truth to be RPG-lite, but it contains pretty much every element you might expect from a regular RPG — gear, loot, levelling, side-quests — all of that and more. The combat is also relatively deep.
It clicks perfectly with the tone of the game and the show. South Park: The Stick of Truth takes every opportunity to rag on the tropes of the genre, and wraps it so perfectly into one of the major themes of the show itself: the completely fucked up ways kids play together. Considering that South Park already has a history of taking the piss out of RPGs and MMOs, it works out seamlessly.
It's Frequently Confusing, And Leaves Players With Little To Go On
You know those moments in RPG/Adventure games where it feels as though the developer just gives you absolutely nothing to go on, and the only way you can = progress is by complete luck, or by randomly spamming every move in your arsenal until something works? I have a bad feeling South Park: The Stick Of Truth could be full of those moments.
Plenty of times during my hour with the game the Ubisoft representative felt compelled to tell me how to progress, and in these situations the solution always felt hopeless contrived. Like I would have had no idea unless someone explained precisely what I was supposed to do. It felt completely out of place.
And that's that.
I came into my hands-on of South Park with very little to go on. I hadn't seen much gameplay, hadn't watched many of the trailers. I was really taken aback by the authenticity and, most of all, the quality of the writing. I get the feeling this is what will allow me to push through some of the more frustrating aspects of the game.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth exists. It's not terrible. It's actually a very good video game. This is exciting.