Let me take you back in time if I may, to a period in my life not lost in the haze of pot smoke that dominated my twenties.
I played video games in a drunken haze, I was seventeen years young. The year was 1997 and I was locked in furious battle with about seven other guys as we all scrambled to get the freshly spawned rocket launcher at the Northeast corner of the The House of Chthon.
I was a college student, ‘studying’ some crappy IT qualification, although instead of doing work my friends and I were playing Quake multiplayer over the college LAN. We did this regularly, whenever we could find a computer room that was free of lecturers or other staff. We ran the Killer Quake mod which introduced a host of new features to the game including the awesome Morning Star that doubled as both an effective mace type weapon and a grappling hook.
The House of Chthon was one of our favourite maps because it was a non stop gib fest. It was the first boss level in the singleplayer campaign but was also available for deathmatches. It was a rather small map consisting of a rectangular two tier walkway on either side of a giant lava pit in the centre. There were various weapons dotted around the arena but the most prized was the (almost) one shot kill rocket launcher that spawned in the northeast corner on the upper tier. In the picture below I’m on the northwest side, the RPG would spawn on the opposite side to my left.
“And my axe!”
The small size and simple geometry of the map made hiding impossible. This was a deathmatch where only the strong survived, and if you tried to run and hide you would soon feel the warm explodey feeling in the backseat of your pants as a rocket violated you in a most unsatisfying way. This was fun cubed, and we spent hours and hours running around like mad blowing each other up.
What has this got to do with South Park? I’m getting to it.
After one such heated battle on a lazy Friday afternoon in September (we had already been to the pub and got quite drunk before we had started playing) I decided to abuse the free internet access the college provided for IT students and surf the infant web. Who else remembers when websites used to warn you “We support FRAMES and ANIMATED GIFS! make sure your browser can handle it!”. Ah the halcyon days of Geocities and The-Park.com, how I miss them. But anyway on with the story. I was surfing the web with no particular target in mind when I stumbled across a site that offered various soundboard type downloads. If you don’t know what a soundboard is then Welcome to the Internet! it’s good you could join us! A soundboard, simply put is just a program or a flash movie or part of a website that has buttons you can push which will play a sound clip or quote from famous characters in movies/games/TV shows etc. On the site I found one called ‘CartmanSays.exe’, which had a crude drawing of a small overweight child on it. I downloaded the executable with the AWESOME POWER OF ISDN and loaded it up.
I had no idea who or what a Cartman was, but as I started clicking buttons on the small window that had appeared on-screen I found myself smirking, then giggling, then outright balling with laughter at the various quips and jibes coming from this foul mouthed eight year old. After annoying everyone else in the room by repeatedly hitting the “OW My ass!” clip I decided to try and find out what this Cartman guy was from. It was clearly a cartoon of some sort but one that I had never heard of, and with good reason, it had only started airing in the US the month before.
That was how I discovered South Park, and from then on it has been my favourite animated show of all time. The crude humour, biting satire & social commentary coupled with unforgettable characters and the creative genius of Trey Parker and Matt Stone make South Park one of the greatest things to ever have been created in the entire history of the human race. That is not hyperbole, I genuinely believe this.
A lot of people write off South Park because they are easily offended or don’t understand satire and if you are one of those people then stop right now, shut your mouth and read this to understand why you are wrong.
Whilst the show itself is a shining beacon of comedy, licensed video game spin-offs based on the show have always been pretty poor. OK the South Park tower defence style game on Xbox Live Arcade was OK, but still nothing to write home about. This is usually the case with TV and movie games, they are rushed out to make a profit based on the popularity of the show (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones RPG) and rarely live up to the quality of whatever they are based on. That is until now.
If you do not buy this game I will come to your house and poke you in the shoulder until you do
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a phenomenal achievement in that not only does it faithfully recreate the show on your PC or console of choice, but it also succeeds at being a really, really good video game that could stand on its own even if the show didn’t exist. This isn’t a review, I’ve linked to one just above plus I haven’t finished the game yet and I don’t believe in reviewing a product unless I’ve experienced it in its entirety and I don’t want to spoil it for any of my friends who read this, but I just had to write something about it.
It’s been a long time since I connected emotionally with anything, especially video games which I’ve felt slipping away from me these past few months. After thirty minutes of playing TSOT I had to pause and take a break because my fucking ribs were crying out in agony from laughing so hard. This game IS South Park. It’s as if you have been transported in to the town itself, like you are living inside an episode, and it is glorious.
So much care and attention has been put in to this game that I am glad it was delayed (originally meant to be released last year) as they obviously used the extra time to make it as good as it could be. Obsidian, the game’s developers are known for producing high quality titles (Fallout: NV, KOTOR 2 etc) and they have seriously delivered this time around.
Just look at those farticle effects
The aesthetic look of the show is perfectly reproduced in the game and it genuinely does feel like you are a character inside an episode made just about you (you play the new kid in town who may or may not be some kind of chosen one). The writing and humour are just as good as any of the most popular episodes and great care has been taken to accurately reproduce the shows canon at every step of the way.
It was Crab People, all along
The game is an action RPG that uses classic turn based mechanics to fight battles with various denizens of the town. It’s similar to the Penny Arcade: On The Rainslick games although much more fleshed out. There are mini games, side quests, everything you would expect from an action orientated RPG and the game is fun as hell to play. I spent three hours just wandering around the town, ignoring the initial main quest because I was having too much of a good time interacting with well-known residents and spotting all the nice touches that only true fans of the show would notice. I won’t spoil it but check out the descriptions for the various junk items you can sell to vendors in-game, the space cash one had me in fits.
You select weapons and abilities from a radial dial when fighting foes
I am seriously digging TSOT and my hat goes off to Obsidian and South Park Digital Studios for finally delivering the South Park video game that we the fans all deserve. And yes, I picked the Jew class.
When else would you get the chance to do THIS in a video game?
South Park: The Stick Of Truth is the best licensed video game I have ever played and is available to buy now on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in all regions. I highly recommend fans of the show to pick this up. If not, then you’re a dirty Jew and we can never be friends.