Ubisoft was in New York City yesterday, to show off their upcoming holiday offerings. Including the upcoming RPG based upon the hit Comedy Central show, "South Park: The Stick of Truth."
In the game, you assume the role as "the new kid" who has arrived in town just as a live action role playing game (or LARP) is playing out, one that’s pretty much taken over all of "South Park," which has gone all "Lord of the Flies" apparently.
So right off the back, you have to choose a side, one led by Kyle, or the other led by Cartman. In the demo, our silent protagonist is on Cartman's side, and I watched him infiltrate Kyle's territory, which is situated deep inside South Park Elementary.
In the process, we end up seeing a boss battle with Stan, fighting on the behalf of Kyle it would appear. Afterward, the player has to reconsider his allegiance; continue to side with Cartman, or join Kyle's army.
The latter option was chosen, which led to another showdown. But we soon discover the true evil pulling all the strings: Clyde, who wishes to use the mystical Stick of Truth to raise the dead, to create an army of Nazi zombies.
When going from point A to B, it's like an action side scroller, with the ability to interact with the environment with tools and spells. You can also talk with other characters, and there's a lot of then. I was told that pretty much every single character in the show makes an appearance.
I even asked if popular celebrity targets like John Travolta would make an appearance, and while I was given a "no comment", it was delivered with a wink, so take that as you will.
But "The Stick Of Truth" is a RPG first and foremost, so battles with other character play out in a traditional, turn battle manner. This is where the game truly feels like South Park. From the weapons one can use, like a stinky vibrator that belongs to Kyle's mother, to magical abilities, like being able to cup one's fart and throw them like a huge fireball.
The history of "South Park" video games is fairly storied. The very first one was the biggest joke that creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone never made, in the form of a first person shooter for the N64 that was universally reviled. Both men have clearly learned their lesson, and are heavily involved with Stick Of Truth this time around.
Not only does Stick Of Truth sounds like an episode (along with Parker and Stone, both Mona Marshall and April Stewart, who provide all the female voices, are also involved), it also looks like one, to an uncanny degree. In fact, never before has a game based on some other form of media so closely resembled the source material.
I asked Nathan Davis and Alvin Nelson, the two producers of the game, if the game's visuals were tricky to pull off:
Davis: "That was one of the first things that Matt and Trey talked to us about; can you make it look exactly like the show. It's a lot more work than you realize.
In the initial phase of the prototype, the visual style was easily to emulate. But in terms of making an extended game, where you have many different levels, many different perspectives, cut scenes, and the like, it takes a lot of time and back and forth with [South Park Studios], to make sure we're on the same page."
I also enquired if the game uses the same "engine" that the show is built upon, and the answer was no, but it does borrow some assets:
Nelson: "Everything is built from the ground up, but we did utilize [South Park Studios]'s characters files and some of their backgrounds.
They also sent us their animators, to check out and approve every single animation we've ever done."
Unfortunately, despite the fact that it was part of a holiday showcase, there is still no release date for the game. It could come out this holiday season… or it could not! Basically, "South Park: The Stick of Truth" will come out when it's good and ready.