I fell in love with South Park, a hand-crafted cartoon made from paper by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, at a young age. My eldest sister had a VHS containing the first series of South Park recorded off American TV about a year before they were first shown in the UK. It was an instant hit with me. I went into school the next day and was telling my friends about South Park but most of them thought I was making it up.
A few months later South Park came to the UK, shown on Channel 4 on a Friday night guaranteed its success. Everyone one went mad about South Park, there was merchandise in every shop, songs and clips playing on the local radio, and it regularly made the news, not for good reasons though.
South Park pretty much dominated the entertainment world in the late 90s, it was a hit on TV, the film got into the Guinness Book of Records, Chocolate Salty Balls had the number 1 spot in the UK Music chart and Kyles Moms a Bitch was sung by kids everywhere.
But the games sucked!
The games were awful. The first South Park game, released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, and PlayStation 1 in 1999, was a first-person shooter. It did have Matt and Trey providing voices along with Issac Hayes, it had some good jokes but that was it. The levels were uninspired, the hardware limitations meant there was a ton of fog, so visibility was minimal, the gameplay was dull. The N64 version did look sharp and had better colour depth whilst the PS1 version looked as if you were playing it with a tub of Vaseline smeared on each eyeball. I wouldn’t go back to this game even for nostalgia’s sake. There was a sequel in the making for the PS2 and Xbox, but thankfully all that exists of that is demo footage on YouTube.
Next up was South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack, and boy, it was another suck fest. This time around it was a 2D party game set in the style of a game show. Released on the N64, PC, Dreamcast and PlayStation in 1999 to very negative reviews this game didn’t have anything going for it. It was slow, reparative, and not fun at all. The only saving grace was the 2D style keeping it in tone with the TV show.
The last South Park game in 1999 was South Park Rally. At the time, Karting games were all a rage, which I believed it touched on in a Retro Weekly Post a little while back. So naturally, South Park jumped on the bandwagon, just to fall off and face plant into even more bad reviews. It was not a good game. Release on the PlayStation, Dreamcast and N64 it featured mostly the same bad points as the previous games, uninspired level design, poor controls and rubbish graphics.
With these three games failing to get South Parks foot into the gaming worlds door it would be 10 years until another attempt would be made.
2009 came, and so did South Park Let’s Go Tower Defense Play! An Xbox Live arcade game. I never played it myself but looking at it you can tell it’s already better than the early games because it’s in 2D. Why the hell would anyone think that a 2D TV show would translate well into 3D? Anyway, Let’s Go Tower Defense Play! Instantly had the best reviews of a South Park game so far. The aim was to build defences, and stop legions of elves, elderly people and gingers destroying your base.
Next up was another badly received game, South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge released on Xbox Live Arcade, and again I didn’t play this one either, so I can’t comment much on it. However, keeping with the 2D graphics but this time taking more of a platforming approach, the player I sent to the future to fight hoards of gingers and robots. As I said, I didn’t play it, so I can’t comment much.
2014 saw the release of South Park: The Stick of Truth, a game, unlike the rest. The previous games were all made without Matt and Trey’s input other than providing voices for them. This time around though, Matt and Trey approached Obsidian Entertainment with an idea and a script to make a South Park game that looked like an episode. They helped produce the game, voiced the characters and consulted on the design of the game. The Stick of Truth had a bumpy production with it nearly ending in its cancellation but what was released was a 2.3D RPG with turn-based combat. Stick of Truth was as insane as the early series episodes, the plot was interesting, the gameplay was fun. It was the first time South Park felt like it belonged in Video Game form. The player takes on the role of Douchebag, a new kid in South Park with a hidden past. Douchebag, a silent child, quickly befriends Butters, Cartman and Kenny and embarks on a crazy adventure to regain the Stick of Truth. The game centres around the children playing a fantasy game all over the town, even making a quick stop into Canada. It’s not without its faults though, the combat can get tiresome, with some long and uneventful battles, you’ll quickly find yourself spamming the same moves over and over again as the difficulty of the game isn’t very difficult at all. Saying that the story is fantastic, it’s got the usual obscene nature South Park has, it does it’s best to push the boundaries which I’ll go into in just a minute, and the story has plenty of twists and turns. A downside again though, it’s short, this game can be completed in a day.
So, I played the PC version, and if you’ve never played it, I recommend the PC version as the PS3, Xbox 360, PS4 and Xbox One version are censored in order not to offend European countries, especially Germany. On the PC they player gets to play the full uncensored game, which includes swastika-wearing Nazi zombies, an anal probe mini-game which can’t be won and an abortion mini-game which is performed on a pair of testicles. If you play on a console, you’ll be greeted with a crying koala or a statue crying when getting to these scenes.
One thing I’ll mention, the anal prove scene was removed in order to not offend, but the whole level where they player turns themselves into a gnome and crawls up Mr Slave’s butthole to then navigate the poop filled colon. Climb up partially digested corn, slash through lost condoms, to move many sex toys, fight a sparrow and disarm a bomb wasn’t offensive to us? Hmm, strange.
For those fans of the TV show, there were three episodes that acted as a prequel of sorts to the events of the Stick of Truth at the end of Season 17. The episodes are called Black Friday, A Song of Ass and Fire and Titties and Dragons respectively. The episodes centre around the build-up to Black Friday and the kids make factions: those that will buy a PS4, and those who will buy an Xbox One.
After the success of Stick of Truth, a sequel was released in 2017 entitled South Park: The Fractured but Whole. Gameplay is the same as the Stick of Truth, graphics stay the same too. Again, Matt and Trey penned the script, help production, did voices, what they made was another well-received RPG South Park game. This time around though, set the day after Stick of Truth, the kids are playing superheroes and trying to make their own popular franchise. The story is insane, I got a little confused towards the end of what was going on. But the Fractured but Whole takes the bad points of Stick of Truth and improves them, albeit with sacrifices. The length of the game has increased, it’s not a complete in a day game anymore. The combat has vastly improved whilst sticking to the basics of turn-based fighting. Each fight now takes a little bit of strategy, and the longer battles are a challenge.
There isn’t a great deal more the game adds it stayed very safe to the formula, the improvements are welcome, I love the fact it doesn’t take itself seriously, it acknowledges the combat sucked in Stick of Truth. My issues are, the story suffers, it’s too tame and I blame this on the censorship from Stick of Truth. Matt and Trey didn’t want to cut bits out and what we get is them too afraid to push the boundaries. It’s a shame, but it in no way ruins the game, it keeps the twists and turns, and shocking moments that made the Stick of Truth a hit.
Again, there is a prequel episode that sets up the events of the Fractured but Whole, it’s called Franchise Prequel, it’s the 4th episode of Season 21, it’s worth a watch.
I said this at the start and I’ll say it again, I love South Park, I have many items that I’ve collected from the franchise, most of which is in storage, but I bought the Collectors Edition of Fractured but Whole. It came with a beautifully crafted 6-inch-tall Coon figure made from PVC and vinyl. It’s one of the best 3D sculptures I’ve seen from South Park merchandise. The Box was illustrated nicely too, with some of the kids in their superhero costumes on the side. In the box came codes for some DLC, Towelie, it was useless and annoying, there were also some exclusive costumes from Stick of Truth. It came with the console version of Stick of Truth which I only played for trophies. Also, inside the box was four postcards in an envelope which feature the four boys on the front. The postcards featured the Coon, Mysterion, Professor Chaos and Captain Diabetes. On top of this, Ubisoft release a standalone Mysterion 6-inch figure. Much like the Coon, the detail is amazing for a South Park figure, looking at it most of the detail is hidden by his cape, but underneath where it’s hard to see is his belt and pants. To me, it means a lot of effort has gone into the product as usually detail is missed with areas you wouldn’t be able to normally see. I do wish Ubisoft would have release Human Kite and Toolshed too in 6-inch figure form, so I could collect the set, but Cartman and Kenny have always been the most popular. There is a Professor Chaos 6-inch figure by Kid Robot that I’m tempted to buy, but I’m on edge at the moment.
South Park is still going strong, currently in its 22nd Season, which, is the best season in years if I do say so myself, catch it on Thursday night on Comedy Central, and make sure you play Stick of Truth and the Fractured but Whole in the meantime.