I remember when I was in 6th grade and I was browsing the networks for something to watch and I caught an episode of South Park about a little boy from Somalia who was accidentally adopted by four boys in a small Colorado town. When they began calling him “Starvin Marvin,” I died. And I’ve been a fan ever since.
It’s been on the air for 17 seasons and it’s finally made its way into a (real) video game. And to add to that, they’ve decided to make it into a full-fledged role-playing game, including customizable weapons and equipment, side quests, and a leveling up system that gives you some latitude to make choices. Do these two ideas come together? Or does it all fall apart?
You begin the game as an unnamed new kid to South Park and you stumble into the middle of a live-action roleplaying game (or maybe it’s just playing “make believe”) with the town’s kids. You meet the wizard Cartman and you then get to choose what role you’d like to play: Warrior, Mage, Thief, or Jew. Yes. Jew. That’s the sort of game this is. You then get to team up with a familiar character from South Park and begin an adventure through town, as Cartman’s human warriors face off against Kyle’s elvish warriors. It’s through this frame that we get our RPG elements: the ability to buy and upgrade weapons, learn magic abilities, loot the corpses of enemies, and complete both essential and non-essential quests. It took me about 15 hours to beat over the course of two days.
Let me just jump into what works.
My God, nearly everything. It’s been a few years since I’ve watched South Park but as soon as the loading screen came on and the world came alive… It was a wave of fresh air. The art is incredible and beautifully replicates the show, looking more like an episode than a videogame. Even though you create your own hero, you’re constantly surrounded by fan favorites, so it still feels very much connected to the world they’ve created on television.
Now, I found this game to be fantastic because of two things. 1.) I know and enjoy South Park so I knew what I was getting into. 2.) I know and enjoy role-playing games. If you’re not so much a fan of either of these, you may not have as great of an experience. If anything, fans of the show may enjoy this without the prerequisite of knowing a lot about roleplaying games.
In terms of the content, this serves as an ode to 17 seasons of jokes. It doesn’t bash you over the head with them but if you know what to look for, references are everywhere. You can explore each home in town and you find all sorts of relics and references to past episodes. The story itself is fresh though, so it doesn’t feel like we’ve been here or done this before. But it reminds us of where these characters have been before this. And it’s hilarious.
Now for the role-playing game element… It’s genius. Because of this scenario and the two factions competing for a stick that is supposedly the most powerful artifact in the world (or at least, in the minds of kids, anyways), it makes complete sense for this to be a roleplaying game. You explore the map, you talk to people, and you pick up odd jobs. You can fast travel through the world using Timmy and his motorized wheelchair. A lot of special moves and weapons are references to past episodes, but you wouldn’t even notice they were inside jokes unless someone told you.
In terms of the rating of the game, it’s as adult as you can get. The show goes to strange places but it’s still on television. This… there’s nothing stopping them. Seriously. The most disgusting things you can imagine, expect that to happen. The shock value is incredible but the gameplay and the beautiful design makes these shocking moments easier to bare. But if you have a light stomach, you’re probably not a fan of South Park anyways.
And let me just tell you how funny this game is. Without the shocking stuff, I still found myself laughing nonstop for these past two days. Matt Stone and Trey Parker wrote and voiced this entire game, so it feels very much like an extended episode (or even a whole season) of the show. Hilarious stuff.
Gameplay-wise… It works. It’s not an incredibly deep battle system like Skyrim but it works, especially considering the game is drastically shorter. Each of the four classes have different abilities and upgrades, plus your variation of weapons and equipment. And each of your followers is completely unique as well. For example, your mage is very different than Cartman’s wizard. And your warrior is different than Butters’ paladin. It works. Yes, it gets a little repetitive but the villains were eclectic enough and forced me to use different strategies so I never felt annoyed by the combat. I enjoyed it!
What didn’t work?
If the game didn’t have a compelling and hilarious story, these gameplay things might’ve bugged me more. But in this game, I didn’t mind. Still… here’s my complaints.
The equipment and weapons you pick up doesn’t give you much choice, as it’s usually obvious what is better. I appreciate when games give you three different weapons with varying looks and effects but might be statistically similar, so you can choose. But here, weapon A is always going to be better than weapon B, so why would you ever use the second one? I feel like even if I played with another class, I’d use the same equipment and weapons.
There are farts that function (thematically) like shouts from Skyrim but in the game, I never used them unless necessary. Your mana doesn’t recharge on its own so I found myself constantly empty and I just left it that way. And the tutorials for using these farts were horrible. I failed more during these tutorials than during the rest of the game (except maybe a boss fight involving Al Gore, that was super hard).
Also, while I appreciated the shock value, some things were just a little too disgusting for me. I’m not knocking the game down for that but some parts were just… ick.
If you happen to enjoy South Park and you like videogames, it is an absolute no-brainer that you should play this game. If you happen to especially like RPGs, you’ll find more to like here, but it’s not necessary. This game is surprisingly gorgeous, has more laughs than you would expect from a videogame, and manages to be enough fun than you’ll want to lock yourself away for a weekend until you finish it. Absolutely incredible.