At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date
Richard Pilot PlayStation 3 Ubisoft Obsidian Entertainment 1 TBA 2013

South Park: The Stick of Truth preview

After a very random scheduling issue, my very first appointment at Gamescom was for something I hadn't even considered looking into before, South Park: The Stick of Truth. Not because of any particular dislike towards the franchise (I'm a big fan of the TV show), but because I hadn't really noticed it. There are a number of things going against it too; take last year's South Park: Tenormans Revenge which was received poorly amongst the games media. There's also the fact that this is a title based on a TV property, an arrangement that doesn't always pay off. Having attended Ubisoft's presentation of the game today behind closed doors, I'm happy to say that The Stick of Truth is definitely on my radar.

From the minds of the South Park duo themselves, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, comes the stick of truth featuring characters familiar to anyone who has seen the show, completely voiced by the creators too. A large role playing game is going on with all the kids in South Park; players will take on the role of a new kid who lands on the side of Cartman and Kenny (who are playing a bunch of wizards) and are up against the elves, led by Stan & Kyle. If those names aren't familiar to you then we've reached the game's biggest potential pitfall. The game is very cleared aimed that those who are already fans of the show. It's logical then, that the game follow the same style and humour that makes the show so successful, a potential risk as South Park has never been criticised for playing it safe.

The look of the show is very much intact here

The look of the show is very much intact here

Hunting for the Stick of Truth, the gang will traverse popular settings from the show and meet many familiar faces. Part of the game's humour plays on this by casting these characters into the important game roles The times and events that these familiar characters appear, seem very much to be intentional fan service; you'll never know who's going to turn up next and how, but it'll always be done in an amusing way when it occurs. This approach worked very well even in the ten minute segment of the game we were shown set in the 'Giggling Donkey', a home themed to be a typical RPG inn. Travelling with Cartman and Princess Kenny, you travel there in search of the Bard who may know the location of the stick of truth.

The gameplay portion we saw today illustrated how well the team were able to recreate the look and feel of the show which looked fantastic in high definition. This isn't just about purely visual elements though, there are other subtle pieces such as animation that makes the game whole. Everything fits into place and the game transitions so incredibly well from cutscenes to gameplay that if it weren't for the interface, you would assume you were watching the show.

As ever in South Park, things break out into violence

As ever in South Park, things break out into violence

The game itself takes the form of a JRPG, albeit set in the visual trappings of the South Park TV show. Straight out of the JRPG textbook comes turn-based combat systems. Whilst the motions feel similar, again it's all given a South Park twist to it, such as the 'Hammer of Justice' (a regular hammer) or the 'Vibroblade' (we'll leave it to your imagination to work out what this is). This is also reflected in the special attacks such as the 'shit nugget' which grosses targets out or the infamous Roshambo. Outside of the battles, there's world exploration which takes the form of side-on Castle Crashers-esque movement (which perfectly complements the show's look). Direct combat with 'enemy' kids will throw you into the full combat system but there are other mechanics built into the world exploration that you can use to stop it getting to that point such as ranged attacks using trapped 'gas' that you could use to knock things over and spread fire about. At the segment's conclusion we got treated to trailer for the rest of the game. Needless to say it certainly looked like to be the best bits of South Park we've seen!

Coming out of the gameplay demonstration, I was very surprised by what I had seen. The game is very clearly focussed on fans of the TV show and more importantly the tone and style of the humour, and it seems like the team at Obsidian Entertainment have managed to pull off something quite magically and have truly recreated the feel of South Park in video game form. As a South Park fan, I will certainly be giving this game a look when it comes round later this year.

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