March 7th saw the greatly anticipated release of the South Park game, South Park: The Stick of Truth after 4 years in development and even longer in the conception of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, originally being planned for a March 2013 release. Surviving even a change in publisher after THQ went bankrupt, the development of The Stick of Truth spelled only bad news for the wellbeing of the game itself, a fate South Park games have long endeavoured to escape. Five different South Park games came and went before the release of The Stick of Truth and none of them are particularly worth talking about, so it’s fair to say that The Stick of Truth is the first game to combo-break this ugly pattern.
The first thing that will strike you when playing The Stick of Truth is just how much the game looks like the show itself, nearly every frame of the video game looks, sounds and feels like you’re controlling a scene from the TV show, and that’s awesome. It seems Obsidian alone seem to be the developers who understand the incredible potential the South Park franchise has for video game adaptation with absolute clarity, that is, a commentary on modern video games, from storytelling to marketing with the iconic satire of the South Park series, a subject that Parker and Stone seem to know something about. Obsidian are legends in the history of the RPG being responsible for such works as game of the decade nominee Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and more recently the award winning Fallout: New Vegas, needless to say, they know what they’re doing.
When Clyde tries to convince you that his attacks are unblockable after laughing at the tutorial for using PP to use special abilities you can’t help but ask yourself, why didn’t this happen already? Why did it take 5 mediocre, underachieving South Park games for us to reach this point? This problem was in no way restricted to the South Park franchise as many other animated sitcoms out there have tried to make this obvious transition to the video game platform with limited success. To name a few, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and unfortunately Adventure Time have all experienced spotty histories with disappointing video game titles. And much to the fans’ displeasure we’re given cash grab tie in properties rather than an entertaining addition to existing franchises.
So why after such a long and horrible history of god awful animated sitcom video games did The Stick of Truth manage to definitively put them all to shame? The answer to this question is highly debateable, but it’s most likely a combination of the enormous amount of work put into the product by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone as well as the use of the world class video game developer Obsidian Entertainment. Will this milestone in quality of animated sitcom tie in games stand as the new benchmark for future games of its kind, or be ignored in an unbreakable cycle of video games being sold on the popularity of their brand rather than their own quality? Only time will tell.