by Emma Kostopolus, Video Game Columnist
“South Park: The Fractured but Whole” has been a game a long time coming. The sequel to the critically-acclaimed “South Park: The Stick of Truth” was in development for years, and the game saw several release delays before it was finally put on the shelves. This second collaboration between the creative team of the infamous Comedy Central show and developer Ubisoft combines the show’s trademark sense of humor with solidly-built game world and an airtight combat system.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that if you don’t find the humor of the television show “South Park” funny or entertaining, you will not like this game. This game knows who its audience is, and does not soften or alter the ethos of the show in any way. Since everyone familiar with “South Park” knows exactly what kind of humor the show peddles, this review isn’t going to focus on whether or not the game is funny versus offensive. If you’re not a fan of the franchise, give this game a pass and save yourself some cash. If, on the other hand, you enjoy Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s brand of comedy, read on.
“South Park: The Stick of Truth” functioned on a turn-based combat system, and “The Fractured but Whole” has fine-tuned the system by adding tiles into the mix. Now instead of simply standing in a line and waiting your turn to attack, combat takes place on a board, and you have to position your party in order to attack enemies. This adds a whole new dimension to combat, since now you must not only be concerned with the force and type of your attack, but with whether or not you are close enough to hit an enemy, if the attack has knock-back, and if you are in range of an enemy’s attacks. Combat is complex and never gets boring, since all of the characters are constantly moving. As the game progresses, special events and objectives, such as tricking the enemies onto a certain section of the battlefield to receive environmental damage, keep combat engaging once you have mastered the basics.
The story of “South Park: The Fractured but Whole” starts off immediately after the end of “The Stick of Truth,” but players can jump right into the game with no confusion. The high-fantasy setting of the first game is traded in when the boys decide to play superheroes instead, which provides a convenient explanation for why your character from the first game loses all of their abilities and powerups. The character creation system is simple, and as you progress through the game, you unlock different hero classes with different powers that you can mix and match to create the ultimate superhero kid.
The game’s biggest strength, the universe from which it draws its inspiration, also ends up being its biggest drawback. So much of the humor is referential that people not caught up on the latest season of the show will feel like they’re missing out on a lot of the smaller jokes contained in items and side quests. Speaking of, the game is chock-full of side quests and things to do outside of the main campaign, but they aren’t very well-advertised in the game. If a player doesn’t pay very close attention and seek the help of internet walkthroughs, they are likely to miss out on a lot of side content, including acquiring some items that really help when combat gets difficult near the end of the game.
In a world where television and film properties almost never translate into good video games, “South Park: The Fractured but Whole” is a game that both stays true to its source material and is genuinely fun and interesting to play. Fans of the show will find an enjoyable and accessible game in this entry in the series. This game is currently available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC (with only moderate processing requirements for graphics).