As it stretches towards its second decade, South Park serves as television's beacon of topical and politically incorrect humor. With its hilariously depraved world filled with eccentric characters and absurd mechanisms, the South Park universe is primed for a proper gaming adaptation, but has yet to see an iteration veering merely competent. Fortunately, seasoned role-playing developer Obsidian has taken it upon themselves to right the ship and have, in nearly every way, succeeded in creating a fun and original game based off the show.
First things first, Obsidian has gone out of its way to be faithful to the show; enlisting creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker to write the story and record all of the voice. Pair that with an impeccable 'just like the TV show-look', and it feels like we're getting a 15-20 hour long playable version of the show. The fan service continues thoughtfully too, recreating the town's locations down to the most minute of details, and it offers up an absolute onslaught of easter eggs and gags that go the extra mile to please those that are 'in the know'. Plainly said: in terms of presentation, storyline, and general 'South Park-yness', this game knocks it out of the park (pun slightly intended).
Aside from this stellar aesthetic appeal, South Park trumps a Paper Mario RPG-like battle system beside commendable exploration and some minor systems to fill itself out. The timing-based battles require players to use their reflexes to perform a variety of comedic moves that both upgrade and reinvent over time. They also carry special ties to the show itself, often referencing some great comedic moment in the show's past or building upon the mythos developing in the current story. Players also get to rotate their battle partner (or 'buddy') accordingly, choosing from characters like Butters or Kenny to help the nameless protagonist win the day and deliver more laughs along the way.
Elsewhere, exploration is a mixed bag of highs and lows; letting players traverse an intricate game world that offers up many locations but ultimately feels a little static. It's not so much a design flaw as it is an aesthetic one, and one that's possibly unavoidable given the artistic style of the show. However, Obsidian certainly gives players many secrets to find and enjoy as well as some meaningful rewards to chase after over the course of the game (such as finding all of the hidden Chinpokemon). These offer up a variety of incentives and fan service for players and fans looking for as much South Park as they can get. It should be noted too though that while the quantity of references is appreciated, there are too many meaningless items that serve as easter eggs and little else. Inventory management for those that explore can become a tedious exercise in sorting out the useful items from the dearth of junk. Things are labeled as 'junk' but it would be nice to know it immediately upon finding these types of items (I got excited to somehow use a Terrence Doll as a weapon but alas it was 'junk').
Rounding things out is an enjoyable (and ridiculous) story that feels like a 15-20 hour version of the show. Laughs are constant, and the elements of the show are communicated extremely well due to Matt and Trey's significant involvement. It really compels the player (and particularly the fans) to completion and without spoiling it, the ending hits a ridiculous climax worthy of some of the best episodes.
On the whole, South Park is a quality title mixed with a great license and the right effort from its creators. The involvement of Matt and Trey shows, and Obsidian's dedication to honoring the show and its esteem emanates from the very beginning. Outside of some pacing issues and some not wholly interesting segments/exploration, the game is a very enjoyable title that's worth the wait and an absolute must play for fans.