For the second South Park game Ubisoft switches developer from veteran adventure game outfit, Obsidian, to an in-house team calling on the publisher’s studios dotted around the globe.
If ever there’s was a cartoon series befitting a video game it is South Park. The retro animation has a charm that translates perfectly. Add to that the TV show’s biting no-holds-barred humour and you’ve a video game experience that is quite unique.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole is the follow up to 2014’s South Park: The Stick of Truth, which is included as a free download in the deluxe edition. The Stick of Truth still holds up, serving as a great appetiser to The Fractured but Whole’s main course.
South Park is not for the feint-hearted. Creator’s Matt Stone and Trey Parker don’t pull their punches, comfortable in lampooning subjects often considered taboo. If you are easily offended, you are going to find the humour in The Fractured but Whole very challenging.
For instance, in the character creation section at the beginning of the game. In the interest of diversity, players can now pick a gender. As part of this process they can also pick the difficulty. This choice is cringingly tied in with selecting skin colour. Pale skin being easy and dark being hard. Confronting? Yes, but in South Park’s own way it is highlighting the intrinsic social imbalance in our society. As Cartman says, “It doesn’t affect combat difficulty, but it will affect every other part of your life.”
The plot continues straight after the end of The Stick of Truth, with players, once again taking on the role of New Guy. This time, the South Park kids, led by Cartman AKA The Coon, switch from a fantasy-inspired setting to a world of superheroes and villains- very much riffing the copious number of Marvel movies.
The game, like the TV show, is all about a group of pre-teen kids and the imaginary games that they play. In the Fractured but Whole, red Lego is larva and the homemade dragon made from cardboard and pram wheels does breathe fire.
In amongst all this there are well-meaning, but misunderstanding, parents, cantankerous siblings and the other kids at school to deal with. All this is sprinkled with some of the most refreshingly un-PC humour you are ever likely to see in a game.
The visuals are spot on, mimicking those of the TV show perfectly. The look and feel of this game is closer to the TV show than the last game. Ubisoft really have built upon Obsidian’s first game and ironed out the kinks.
Whilst not the most sophisticated game mechanic, the turn-based fights are improved considerably from last time. The fighting areas are now grid-based and you can adjust your position to get out of the way of ranged attacks. This gives combat a little more strategy.
You and your cohorts’ superhero attack powers are all very much in the style of South Park’s humour including poisonous farts and urine-filled balloons. The game also manages to lampoon social issues, as well with the same caustic style as in the TV show. The crippled Jimmy Valmer, apart from ironically having Flash-inspired speedster powers and the superhero name Fastpass, can go invisible during battles a poke at our society’s track record of ignoring people with disabilities.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole echoes the TV show in that it doesn’t take itself at all seriously, but is still rather pointed in its satire. The game’s bold take-it-or-leave it attitude means that if you like the TV show you will love the game, but if you are not fond of fart jokes and poking fun at Canadians, you probably not going to like the game at all. This is one for South Park fans, and it does them proud.