When you were a kid, anything was possible. An empty refrigerator box could be a racecar, or a castle, or a secret hideout. Those plastic replicas of swords and shields your mom got at Toys R Us? Totally real, deadly medieval weapons. The only real limit to your play sessions was your imagination--and the kids of South Park, Colorado have more than enough to power the upcoming role-playing game The Stick of Truth. With a mix of familiar and fantasy-based environments and weapons, plus the show's trademark foul language and potty humor, South Park: The Stick of Truth brings the animated series to life in a whole new way.
The hands-off The Stick of Truth presentation at New York Comic Con started off with a cutscene that looked exactly like the long-running show. Everything was right: the voices, the animation, the dialogue. In the role-playing game, the player takes the role of the new kid, who in this demo looked like a generic South Park Elementary School kid. You'll join Cartman, Butters, and other familiar faces on an epic adventure around the suburban Colorado neighborhood, with characters dressed up to look like mages, elves, and archers. If the kids break the illusion--like, say, by mentioning Twitter--Cartman is quick to correct them.
The elements of make-believe were present throughout the demo; a living room had been transformed into a stereotypical RPG tavern, complete with a bartender from whom the party needed to get information. Running into a seemingly innocent bard (Jimmy) in the basement, the party discovered that they had actually stumbled into a trap, and it was time for battle. As Jimmy the Bard sang in the background, powering up his troops, the new kid used the environment to his advantage by knocking down a lantern and using his own flatulence to light his foes on fire. A mix of poop-related and weapon-based attacks brought the battle to a quick end, with Cartman dramatically using ketchup packets to emulate blood coming to his mouth.
The shortness of the demo left me wanting more--mostly, a chance to play it myself and get a chance to test out The Stick of Truth's turn-based RPG combat. What little of the game I saw did impress me, though. Not just because it appears to be a really great representation of the show, which it is, but because it absolutely nailed the magical feeling of playing make-believe. Even with Cartman's foul mouth, character names like Sir Douchebag, and attacks like "Shit Nugget" (it's exactly what it sounds like), The Stick of Truth manages to be charming in a way. The balance between adult-appropriate humor and childlike innocence has kept the animated show on the air for 16 years; I'm hoping that when RPG gameplay is thrown into the mix, the result is a compelling, entertaining game.
South Park: The Stick of Truth launches on December 10 in North America for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.