SDCC 2012: 'South Park: The Stick of Truth' Hands-off Preview

During SDCC, THQ and Obsidian showed off some of the story and gameplay from their upcoming RPG set in the South Park universe during a video presentation.

Did THQ and Obsidian show off enough to make us want to go on down to South Park and have myself a time?

A hands-off video preview is maybe the least optimal way to form an impression of an upcoming title. But I can vouch for thus much based on my time watching a video preview of Stick of Truth at THQ's schoolhouse-style preview room at Comic-Con: it's funny--like, South Park funny.

Matt, Trey, and South Park Studios' involvement in the RPG is evident in the humor, which sees your nameless character arrive in the disaster-prone Colorado community. The RPG is set in and around the town, and, of course, populated with its inhabitants, and from what I saw it'll be drawing from the 15 years of history in the Comedy Central series. A rep from THQ told us that for the first time ever, Matt and Trey mapped out the entirety of South Park.

Right off the bat, you'll encounter Butters, who drafts you into your first quest, advising you to visit Cartman's backyard kingdom. An interesting note here: the switch from animated cutscenes to gameplay appears fairly seamless, with cutscene assets looking almost identical to their TV counterparts, matching the cheap-o cutout style that Matt Stone and Trey Parker have cultivated over the years. Characters look like paper cutouts against the flat, 2D backgrounds, with the same sort of flat, but still vibrant colors from the show.

In Cartman's kingdom, you'll talk to the chubby despot as well as some of the other South Park Elementary students setting up your typical item and weapon shops. In the video, the player was able to approach the NPCs and talk to them, but there was no additional interaction like being able to shop at this point. There didn't appear to be any dialog options, and instead, approaching a character will just trigger a quick dialog interaction.

Suddenly, the peace of Cartman's kingdom was disturbed by a group of "elves": violent upperclassmen who raid Cartman's backyard seeking the titural "Stick of Truth." The game then switches to a turn-based combat screen with Cartman and the player character on one side, and three elves on the other. The combat includes some arcade elements, requiring a bit of button mashing to improve player attacks. For instance, Cartman's poisonous fart attack requires you to button mash to pump up the meter and increase the power of the attack, a clear indication that Obsidian was serious about their Paper Mario inspiration from back when the game was initially announced. In a later combat sequence in a graveyard overrun with goth vampires, Cartman uses a special attack involving Mr. Slave appearing, and the player pumping up the meter to bolster his deeply unorthodox attack: Mr. Slave swallows up nearby enemies in, well, his butt, and it's horrible and funny at the same time.

We also had a chance to see some of the character customization: character armor and your costume can be modified, and some items will give your character status effects during combat.

I'd love to get a chance to play South Park: The Stick of Truth for myself. It looks funny enough, and visually, the game is as true to the show as can be, but the real test will be how it feels navigating South Park for myself.

South Park: The Stick of Truth will be available on March 5th, 2013.

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