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Sore Thumbs

3/12/2014

southpark1‘SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH’    (M)

****1/2

Ubisoft

Xbox 360

Here’s just another turn-based, side-scrolling fantasy RPG that casts you in the familiar classes of the fighter, the thief, the mage, or the…Jew. Okay, so “The Stick of Truth” isn’t exactly your run of the mill role-playing game — except when it intentionally tries to be, in order to poke fun at the all-too-familiar tropes of the genre. Much like their TV show, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s video game script includes a healthy dose of satire amidst all of the fart-induced vomiting. There’s also an absurd amount of fan service in this game, which takes you from the streets of the titular sleepy mountain town, to the exotic land of Canada, to the darkest recesses of Mr. Slave’s anus. You play as the new kid in town, who quickly gets sucked into Eric Cartman’s elaborate fantasy world of hastily assembled cosplay outfits and epic backyard warfare.

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The gameplay will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played the “Paper Mario” games — another series of RPGs with a cutout animation aesthetic. Battles are turn-based, allowing you to select from a menu of ranged, melee and magical attacks, but well-timed button presses can enhance those attacks. Truth be told, the combat is pretty barebones, but it’s all just an excuse to showcase some hilarious references to the TV show, and there are plenty. Between the trademark crude humor, the authentic voices (performed by Parker and Stone) and the deliberately primitive character animation, a casual observer could easily mistake “The Stick of Truth” for an episode of the show. But with a playthrough time of about twelve hours, it’s more like an entire season of South Park. Most licensed games wind up being lazy cash-ins that graft familiar television and movie characters on top of pre-existing game templates. But “The Stick of Truth” is a perfect fusion of all of its disparate elements. Just like ManBearPig.

 

donkeybox‘DONKEY KONG COUNTRY: TROPICAL FREEZE’    (E)

***1/2

Nintendo

Wii U

“Tropical Freeze” is no better or worse than any other entry in the celebrated “Donkey Kong Country” franchise. But the vast majority of this series was released before “Rayman Legends.” In a post-“Rayman” plat-forming world, collecting bananas in colorful but unimaginative levels seems quaint. The power-ups provided by Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong are nothing we haven’t seen before in other side-scrollers, and though there’s some inspiration to be found in the occasional boss battle, the by-the-book barrel hopping required to reach them can get a bit tedious.

 

pacbox‘PAC-MAN MUSEUM’    (E)

***

Xbox Live Arcade

The problem with a collection of “Pac-Man” games (much like a collection of “Sonic the Hedgehog” games) is that you’re pretty much doomed to find one good game and an assortment of subpar spinoffs, because that’s all there ever were. There aren’t a lot of people out there dying to get their hands on a copy of “Pac-Land” or “Pac & Pal.” So seen at its very best, Pac-Man Museum is a package that includes an excellent port of the original arcade classic, as well as the one surprisingly decent off-shoot, “Pac-Man Battle Royale,” which allows you square off against three competing Pac-Men. CV

Matthew Scott Hunter studied video games extensively while attending the University of Nevada Reno and Vancouver Film School (despite the fact that video games were not part of either school’s curriculum). He has been writing Sore Thumbs since 2004.

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