There are many questions dangling above the head of South Park: The Stick Of Truth. Will it find its audience?
Will Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s humour translate to a videogame? Will Cartman’s ‘ironic’ antisemitism still come across with the necessary level of tongue-in-cheek not to cause offence to all concerned?
True, these are big, worthwhile questions. Our biggest worry, however, is of a different kind.
Have you ever tried watching, say, eight South Park episodes back to back?
Have you ever noticed how, with each episode, the laughs become thinner and thinner on the ground? The phenomena does not occur because each successive episode is less funny, it’s actually a chemical process.
We can only laugh for a certain length of time before our brains chemically adjust to the new level of hilarity, accepting it as the norm. An episode of South Park is like that first mouthful of chocolate, but eight in a row is more like the hundredth. It hurts. It is impossible to keep a person laughing for 20-30 hours.
Which means that South Park: The Stick Of Truth cannot rely only on its laughs to carry our interest through. It has to be a good game. It’s certainly doing a few things right as it stands. During gameplay, for example, it looks indistinguishable from an episode of the TV series. Truly, everything from the jerky, inconsistent animation through to the way it deals with movement along the Z-axis (into and out of the screen) – it’s frame-for-frame perfect.
And its developer, Obsidian, has a fine history in producing decent RPGs, from the under-loved Alpha Protocol all the way back to Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic 2. Basically, Obsidian understands RPGs.
Since creating your own character is a staple of the genre, in South Park: The Stick Of Truth, the player-character is the ‘New Kid’, someone never before seen in the series. This way, you’ll be designing your own character and throwing him or her into the world of South Park to interact with its famous cast. This begins with the New Kid meeting up with Butters, who take him or her to the Wizard’s house. The Wizard is of course none other than Eric Cartman.
Cartman’s house forms your typical RPG questing hub. Armoury, stables, item vendors and so on, all taking the form of mundane household bits and bobs. From here, quests can be picked up; just form up a party and venture out.
Combat is of the turn-based variety. Think Final Fantasy where in place of spells and magic, Cartman, for example, can bend over, pull down his trousers and set his farts alight. Beyond some of these special attacks, some involving QTEs, little else has been revealed as to the exact mechanics of the combat. Cheesy Poofs and Revive Tacos provide the game’s equivalent of health potions. The same thing applies to every other traditional RPG mechanic and object; each has a South Park-themed stand-in.
We’re also thus far in the dark about the overall size of the game. On the one hand, any RPG is going to be on the lengthier side of things, but the fact that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are both writing and speaking every single line of dialogue makes us wonder. To offer some perspective, Dragon Age: Origins apparently featured over 100,000 lines of dialogue, and that rolled in at only 20 hours or so. To write that many lines with only two writers? For almost all of them to be funny? That’s going to be a big ask.
At this stage we’re still unconvinced as to whether this could or should be pulled off. Certainly, in the context of a videogame in which interaction has the potential to implicate the player in what’s happening on screen – far more so than a late night TV series – there is the potential here to cause more offence than laughs. But, it’s South Park and to be quite honest, we can’t wait to just suck it and see.
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