South Park is perhaps one of my favourite TV shows of all time. I pretty much grew up watching the show and was enamoured with the film. I mean, come on its every teenagers dream, swearing, rude jokes and crazy antics. It was to my absolute joy when The Stick of Truth was released in 2014, bringing South Park to the gaming world in the most successful way possible. Who would have thought a South Park tactical RPG is what we needed? The game led to much critical acclaim and has since, brought us a sequel in The Fractured But Whole, but can lightning strike twice?
Our favourite group of foul-mouthed kids are now playing superheroes with two main factions going at it from opposite sides. Coon and Friends led by The Coon and Freedom Pals with Doctor Timothy at the helm. Both sides want their own multi-million-dollar film and tv franchise and all the benefits that come from that, this forces them into a civil war with each other, in reference to the Marvel film Civil War. Whilst this beef is taking place, crime is growing in South Park, cats are being stolen, people are going loopy and Kyle’s Dad still loves to cheese.
It’s a crazy and yet solid story that progresses with many twists and turns along the way. Numerous moments throughout felt like the payoff only for things to continue when the plot thickens even more. Thanks to the brilliant writing I constantly had a smile on my face or was laughing profusely to the point I had to pause the game. It truly feels more like a love letter to those fans who have been there through every season and episode, filled with constant references back to the show. The game is so true to the source content which of course you would expect with the input from Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
When roaming through the open-world its experience is akin to a side-scroller as the world scrolls past when your moving towards the left or right of the screen etc. The world appears flat like on the show but of course features depth, being able to move from the foreground towards the background. It feels like you are playing through an episode of the show. Throughout the world there are characters to interact with, buildings to loot, puzzles to overcome and collectibles to find, meaning without combat you have a good chunk of hours that can be spent simply exploring.
I spent the first 3-4 hours exploring the town. Entering each building that I could at the time, taking a number two at every toilet possible trying to earn mastery on that toilet, yeah, that’s a thing. Some places are locked behind puzzles, most of which are beatable once you’ve acquired the right buddy. Captain Diabetes can move things out of your way by getting super angry after you fart in his face and The Human Kite can fly you up to various points using your gas as propellant just to name two.
Combat has evolved since the first game, instead of the usual turn-based RPG style of battle, it now features tactical elements in that you can now move around on a square grid field. This can be used to gain an advantage over your enemies or for the enemy to get one-up on you. Obstacles are sometimes placed on the field forcing more thought on the placement of your team and more awareness on where the opposing team are.
Another classic trait of tactical turn-based combat is the turn order which is fully visible and can actually be manipulated through your fart time-warps. Your farts can now control time, being able to skip your foe’s turn, or pause the action except for yourself so you can deal some damage with minor backlash. What I love about the new battle system is that it still has an easy entry level to get used to. Beforehand I wasn’t sure how I would like the tactical based system simply because on paper it doesn’t sound like it should fit with South park, surprisingly it does and works well. It’s fun and offers a lot of options on how to play.
You take over as your character from the original game, The New Kid, and you get to choose your superhero class. There are three to choose from at the beginning with more opening up through progression of the story, each class has a different set of abilities and description. The martial artist being a close-range fighter, the psychic can fight at a range and uses mental powers to de-buff a foe etc.
Each character has four abilities that they can use in battle, for your main character these can be changed when you gain additional classes later on. These abilities are different in their effectiveness, whether they damage, heal, buff or de-buff, their range and even direction of enemies they can hit. This adds depth and strategy to each battle, now all in all the game is pretty easy it doesn’t offer much in terms of difficulty even on the highest setting’s but some fights can be tough if you aren’t thinking of strategy.
If you were walking past a TV that the game is being displayed on you would be forgiven for thinking someone was just watching the show. It looks just like the show, the same textures, detailing, shading and characters, everything has been taken from the series and I love it for that. When you come across a giant turd on a toilet, you bet your behind its going to have some level of detail that makes it disgusting. When a character is grossed out and vomits after their turn it’s pretty nasty, and the worst is when it happens to Token, because he just throws up in his see-through helmet, visually it’s damn funny, and sick.
Just like how it looks, it sounds exactly like the show with its voice acting and sound effects that take me back to when I would binge-watch and even re-watch the show, filling me with nostalgia and pure happiness. Without the sound accompanying the dialogue there just wouldn’t be as much impact from what the characters are saying.
GAME DESIGN & INNOVATION: 9/10
That brings me back to the question, can lightning strike twice? If it’s jet propelled from your ass it sure can. It surpasses The Stick of Truth, which was a hard task to accomplish. Features a solid and fun combat system, story that features numerous great pay-off moments along with keeping that look and sound of the show that is loved so much.
OVERALL: 8.7/10 – GREAT
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.