It’s a well-documented fact that licensed video game adaptations often begin with much fanfare and end in bitter disappointment. But based on the demo being shown at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, South Park: The Stick of Truth will stand head and shoulders above the glut. It’s like South Park meets Game of Thrones in video game form – a cultural trifecta, of sorts.
Having moved from the care of now-defunct publisher THQ to its new home at Ubisoft, the game is being developed by Obsidian Entertainment, with an assist from South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. It’s a side-scrolling role-playing game, and the authenticity is obvious within seconds of seeing it. The game’s stylized, lo-fi aesthetics lovingly recreate the texture and tone of the show. The locations are pixel-perfect, voices come directly from the South Park recording booth, and character animation moves at a perfectly janky 12 frames-per-second. It looks, sounds and moves uncannily like an episode of the Comedy Central show.
A demo of the game happening off the main E3 show floor depicted a battle taking place at South Park Elementary, in the midst of a town-wide LARP game. Cliques of humans, elves and goths are at war; as the new kid in town, you adventure through hallways and classrooms alongside perennial show favorite Butters. (Cartman, the human race’s Grand Wizard, dubs you “Commander Douchebag,” and the name seems to stick.) The game is uncensored, à la South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, and there’s something deeply amusing about hearing Cartman drop an indignant F-bomb when missing an attack.
Weapon creation isn’t quite like the crafting systems of other RPGs, either. At one point you head into the boy’s room, lower your pants and hop onto the urinal. After taking care of business (number two), you save the “shit nugget” to your inventory, and eventually fling it at an enemy for massive damage. Stick of Truth puts the “dung” in dungeon crawler.
The show’s fiction feels like a part of its gameplay systems, and the demo nicely illustrated some of this connective tissue. Cartman spits epithets at you during a turn-based battle (“Don’t let him Jew-wash your brain!”), and weapons include Cartman’s Mom’s Vibrator. You navigate the politics of South Park Elementary’s social factions – humans, goths, girls, etc. – and manage these relationships through the game’s version of Facebook, which it simply calls “Facebook.”
The demo culminates in an epic, real-time screen-filling fart battle between you and Cartman, and it looks plucked directly from a South Park feature film.
“The original concept of the game is that it looks like you’re in a South Park episode,” Stone told The Associated Press. “It’s funny that it took all this high technology to make it look like the show. It is just the show. It’s not a 3D version or a new look of the show. It just looks like you’re in South Park. You can actually run around South Park, and we actually figured out where all the buildings are in relation to each other. We had never done that before.”
Contrary to Parker’s tongue-in-cheek claims (“It’s starting to look like in the next 10 years it’s going to come out,” he told the AP. “We’ve been working on it for 26 years now”), the game is expected to ship later this year for Windows PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.