"South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have drummed up success on TV, at the movie box office and on Broadway. They've won an Emmy Award, a Tony, a Grammy and been nominated for an Oscar (that's three-quarters of an EGOT, the grand slam of showbiz honors).
But the two have yet to crack the winning formula for video games. There have been attempts, but none has been a critical hit.
But "South Park: The Stick of Truth" will change that. The role-playing game developed in conjunction with Obsidian Entertainment is the game that fans have been waiting for. It's raunchy. It's blasphemous. It offends any sane person's sense of decency. The project's most remarkable feat is how it maintained a Mature rating, despite having boatloads of nudity, alien probes and abortions.
"The Stick of Truth" drops players in the world of "South Park," as they take on the role of the New Kid in town. He's a boy with a hidden power who gets caught up in the gang's live-action role playing. Players choose a class -- warrior, mage, thief or Jew -- and team up with series regulars as their fantasy neighborhood becomes embroiled in a real-life crisis.
The creators nail the feel of the show, and players get to explore the actual town while meeting familiar faces and discovering well-known locales. Players will love the details the developers threw into campaign. It's a reward for longtime fans. At the same time, there's enough inventive gameplay to complement this intricate world. It's fascinating to see how the team interpreted the role-playing tropes through the "South Park" lens. Stan is a warrior who is aided by his dire wolf, aka Sparky, the gay dog. Butters is the Paladin who can heal allies with an encouraging pat the on the back.
When it comes to gameplay, the combat is turn-based and echoes "Paper Mario," with players having to master timed button presses to effectively attack. At times, though, there are almost too many options, and there are not enough opportunities to use all the attacks available to players during an encounter.
If they're not inclined to get into a direct fight, smart players can use the environment to eliminate foes by shooting hanging objects so they land on enemies or by using the New Kid's powerful flatulence on an open flame to create a destructive blaze. Over the course of the campaign, players will earn more abilities so they can access secret areas and figure out puzzlelike combat situations.
Thanks to the top-notch narrative and mission design, "The Stick of Truth" will have players glued to their controllers, even if the ending is messy. They'll be motivated to see what's around the corner; unpredictability is the game's strength. They won't know what risque events will transpire. They don't know what comedic spectacles they'll see. But players will feel compelled to find out.
'South Park: The Stick of Truth' * * * ½
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Grade: Three and a half stars out of four