South Park: The Stick of Truth review (Xbox 360)

It's common for review copies of games to come with a couple of photocopied sheets of instructions and information for journalists since they come in jewel cases instead of proper game boxes. At the bottom of the three pages of text about South Park: The Stick of Truth were a couple of paragraphs about scenes that had been censored for the EMEA version of the game.

Apparently, some "seven scenes of about 20 seconds each" have been given the chop for the sake of our sensitive souls. These include a "mini-game in which the player performs an abortion of the character Randy" and "five anal probing scenes involving someone being actively anally probed." I'm not normally a big fan of censorship, but in this case I cannot help but feel slightly relieved that I'm going to be missing out on these delights and also wondering exactly what I've got myself into by agreeing to review this game.

It's been a while since I last watched South Park, but within minutes of loading the game up, I remembered how much it used to make me laugh. However, if you don't like Matt Stone and Trey Parker's particularly unique brand of humour or are easily offended, you should probably give it a miss.

As well as being hilarious, South Park: The Stick of Truth is also a pretty damn good RPG. You get to design your own South Park character from a decent variety of different options, although disappointing, you don't have the choice to play as a girl. You can name your character, but whatever you choose you'll just end up being called douchebag. You're the new kid in town, whose parents have just moved into an empty house in South Park. Moving to a new neighbourhood is a traumatic experience for any young kid, so your parents decide to help you out by immediately locking you out of the house until you make some friends.

Fortunately, the South Park boys quickly befriend you – they need more bodies to join them in the dungeons and dragons style game they're playing. Kenny, Cartman, Butters et al are playing on the side of the humans and some other boys are playing their arch enemies, the Elves. They're fighting over possession of a mystical, magical object known as the Stick of Truth – which is actually a regular stick.
You can choose a class from four different options – fighter, mage, thief or Jew. Each class has their own unique weapons and abilities – for example, a fighter can use a special attack called Roshambo, which destroys your enemy's balls, and a Jew can summon the four horsemen of the apocalypse to help him out when he's in a bind.

Once you've decided, pretty much the whole of South Park is immediately opened up to you to explore. As you wander around town, it makes sense to talk to everyone who will talk back to you, as they'll not only give you quests but they might also agree to be your friend on Facebook. Having lots of Facebook friends is good, as at various milestones, you'll be able to choose a new perk that will buff up your character.

The game takes place over three virtual days and a variety of odd locations including the inside of a UFO, a rhinoplasty surgery and an unplanned parenthood clinic. The quests are just as silly as you would expect from South Park and include objectives such as finding Jesus (he's hiding behind a pew inside the local church), finding and helping out Al Gore (who's hiding behind a bush) and befriending a bunch of alternative Goth kids by dressing exactly as alternatively as them.

The battles are proper old school turn-based and there's a lot of depth to the options and tactics you can employ. There are pseudo random battles you can jump into around town if you need to level up – likewise they're generally pretty easy to avoid if you don't fancy it. You can also gain some hilarious Final Fantasy style summons to use which I won't spoil for you here.

The Stick of Truth is a surprisingly good RPG, although if you don't like South Park you probably won't think so. My only real quibbles are that it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly where to go or what to do next, which results in your wandering around the many screens of South Park for an age before you stumble on the solution, and secondly that the text, at least on the 360 version is almost impossible for me to read and gave me a headache. Other than that, I enjoyed it far more than someone my age REALLY should.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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