'South Park: The Stick of Truth' review: The only game to feature Al Gore

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Games based on the “South Park” cartoon series are bad. This has been a well known rule of gaming since the terrible “South Park” was released for the Nintendo 64 back in 1997 -- one of worst game on the system. Since then, each title has been a successive disappointment.

Until now.

“South Park: The Stick of Truth” (Ubisoft), just released for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, was the last throw of the dice for the South Park video game tie-ins, and incredibly they’ve come up double sixes for fans.

The Scoop

Title: "South Park: The Stick of Truth"

Summary: Even moderate fans of the show will guffaw their way through a tight, well-written game that can genuinely be described as the one that we've been waiting for.

Rating: 8/10

Availability: Xbox 360, Windows PC and PlayStation 3

ESRB rating: M--Mature.

“The Stick of Truth” is a role-playing game set firmly within the world of the show, and the hand of creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker is evident throughout.

Every line of dialogue is voice acted, and the graphics are the exact same as those in the show, contributing to “The Stick of Truth”’s biggest strength -- it feels as though you're playing a 14-hour episode of the show. If you're a fan, this is the game you’ve been waiting for.

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You play the silent new kid in South Park, whom you can customize as you wish. Quickly you are brought into the humans vs. elves game that the kids of South Park are playing, with Cartman’s humans trying to retain control of the eponymous stick of truth from Kyle’s elves. Yet, soon enough the game turns real as the boys get in above their heads and unleash a hellish force upon the little Colorado mountain town.

The combat, based on the improvisation of the fictional fourth graders, has both a charming simplicity and a nasty brutality. The traditional fire attack is shoving firecrackers in your opponent’s face, while lightning strikes involve throwing a bucket of water over your foes’ head and then firing up a car battery to electrocute them.

Of course, the game relies on the typically irreverent comedy that has made it such a success on screen. No topic is out of bounds and those who are looking for either safe or sophisticated humor should look elsewhere. Let me put it this way: There are four battle moves to do with flatulence alone. Most other examples are unsuitable for publication.

So is it a “good” RPG? It’s tough to say.

While the combat is a little deeper than it initially appears, it is still very basic with very little customization beyond basic armor upgrades and power progression. Additionally the story is highly linear, with only the odd side quest here and there. Also, in comparison to game franchises it borrows themes from, such as “Final Fantasy” and “Elder Scrolls,” both registering in at around the 60-70 hour mark, "South Park: The Stick of Truth" clocks in under 14 hours. Therefore, in one sense it is a malnourished RPG.

Ultimately what makes or breaks “The Stick of Truth” is whether you are a fan of the show or not. If you aren’t, take two points off my rating. If you consider yourself a big fan, add two.

As a moderate fan, someone who watched and enjoyed the first few seasons when I was a teenager, and now have only a passing relationship with the show, I found it a great experience to play in the world I watched on television.  I was especially impressed how the writers kept the game fresh -- moving continually between locations and also character sets. So just as Cartman is beginning to feel repetitive, you move to a mini-adventure with Al Gore (yes the former Vice President makes a fairly lengthy appearance) for a while for a break.

Those not too interested in the South Park aspect may tire quickly of the jokes, and be disappointed with the lack of scope that “The Stick of Truth” offers. But even moderate fans of the show will forgive these shortcomings and guffaw their way through a tight, well-written game that can genuinely be described as the one that fans have been waiting for.