The new “South Park” game is one of the smartest dumb things I’ve ever experienced. The amount of work put into something so intensely asinine is impressive: It’s essentially a playable “South Park” movie.
More than just looking exactly like the show, “South Park: The Fractured But Whole” is jammed full of the show’s characters, rife with in-jokes, and set in the town of South Park, Colorado.
The game’s script clocks in at 360 pages – the size of two feature films, according to “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and roughly double the length of the last game.
As a bonus, it’s actually a pretty fun game to play! I’m about 15 to 20 hours in at this point, and I’m looking forward to playing the rest.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for “South Park: The Fractured But Whole,” including story and gameplay.
It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to speak explicitly about “South Park: The Fractured But Whole” – this is a review, after all. If you don’t want anything spoiled, turn back!
Some caveats up front: If you don’t like “South Park,” you won’t like this game. If you don’t like role-playing games, you also may not like this game!
I like “South Park,” the show, well enough. I saw the movie in theaters a million years ago. I played the first game (for work, but I enjoyed it!).
If none of this applies to you, or you outright dislike “South Park,” I doubt very much that you’ll suddenly turn around on the franchise after playing “The Fractured But Whole.” It’s essentially a very long episode of “South Park,” the show, with a lot of interactivity. You explore the town of South Park, talk to people, collect stuff, and fight enemies. There’s a lot of room to explore as you wish, as well as a main progression path to stay on if you’d prefer something a bit more straightforward.
And all that stuff is good! But it’s the “South Park” writing and voice acting and storytelling that makes “The Fractured But Whole” something unique.
In that same vein, “The Fractured But Whole” is an old-school RPG with modern graphics. Combat is turn-based, meaning that combat is literally on a turn-by-turn basis – it’s a tactical system instead of a real-time system.
If this all sounds like gibberish to you, you probably don’t want to play “South Park: The Fractured But Whole.” That said: “The Fractured But Whole” is a very easy introduction to the world of RPGs. If you’re looking for an access point to role-playing games, this is it.
“South Park: The Fractured But Whole” is a direct sequel to 2014’s “South Park: The Stick of Truth.”
Like the previous “South Park” game, you’re once again playing as “The New Kid” in town. What that means in practice is you can create a character that easily fits into the show’s universe – a conceit that “The Fractured But Whole” acknowledges head on, just like every other video game standard it embraces.
I made this guy right here:
You may notice that the game’s difficulty slider is directly tied to your character’s skin color. This is only true insofar as the game’s story is concerned; combat difficulty is set separately. As Eric Cartman puts it: “Don’t worry, this doesn’t affect combat. Just every other aspect of your whole life.”
Playing as “The New Kid,” Cartman and the other usual suspects from “South Park” welcomed me into their new live action role-playing game. This time, instead of a fantasy world, the game is about superheroes – it’s a send-up of the Marvel “Civil War” plotline, thus the “Fractured But Whole” name. Also because it sounds like “fractured butthole,” of course.
“South Park: The Fractured But Whole” is an old-school-style throwback to Super Nintendo-era role-playing games.
There’s a lot going on in that image above, and it can seem overwhelming at first if you’re not familiar with the type of game that “The Fractured But Whole” is.
Let’s start with that grid on the ground: It shows you how far your characters are able to move when it’s their turn, how far an attack will go once unleashed, and where an upcoming enemy attack is going to land.
Since the image depicts a moment when it was my character’s turn, I was able to choose from a variety of attacks. These are in the lower left hand corner, and you select each one by pushing its corresponding button. Since I chose a “Cyborg” class, I have moves that can either push away or pull in enemies.
As I progressed through the game, Cartman filled out my superhero’s character sheet based on my progress in the game. It’s a silly, effective excuse to explain the otherwise very video game-y mechanics of “The Fractured But Whole.”
Like so many RPGs before it, “The Fractured But Whole” starts a bit too slow.
I fell asleep playing “The Fractured But Whole” a few times.
Part of this is because I wake up hella early, so I’m inclined to fall asleep by accident around nine or 10 p.m. It’s also a measure of the type of game “The Fractured But Whole” is – there are few moments that require fast reaction time (outside of combat, anyway). So if I’m sitting at a menu screen or it’s my turn in combat and I accidentally doze off, it’s not a big deal.
It is, however, telling that this occurred during the game’s first few hours. Much of that time is spent exploring very similar houses in South Park, collecting stuff you can’t do anything with until later in the game. It’s not what I would call a strong opening.
When it does get up to speed, it’s fantastic.
By the time you know what you’re doing in combat and have a good idea of where things are in town, “The Fractured But Whole” is a much better experience.
Combat is challenging (and can be tuned to whatever difficulty level you like), if a bit repetitive. It never gets too complex, but offers enough depth to stay interesting after many hours of play.
Voice acting is excellent, and the interplay between characters is especially great. What I mean by that is that members of your party will talk to each other during fights, and the lines are often hilarious little asides. It’s this level of detail that helps make so much of “The Fractured But Whole” feel as personally crafted as any episode of the show.
To be clear, “South Park” — the show, and this game, and the movie too — is <em>real</em> dumb.
I don’t mean that “South Park” doesn’t require an immense amount of intelligence and hard work to produce, which it clearly does.
I mean that there’s a mini-game in “The Fractured But Whole” where you contort the controller to approximate defecating. I mean that there’s a character who collects “yaoi,” which Wikipedia describes as, “a Japanese genre of fictional media focusing on romantic or sexual relationships between male characters, typically marketed for a female audience and usually created by female authors.” I mean that the password for Cartman’s secret lair is “F— You Mom.” I mean that the image above is a scene where you have to give a lap dance in a strip club to a middle-aged man who mistakes you for a short woman.
“South Park: The Fractured But Whole” is a very well-designed, thoroughly detailed work of absurd stupidity. I think that’s a compliment? I mean it as one.
Aside from my initial caveats, I strongly recommend checking out “South Park: The Fractured But Whole.”
If you’re a “South Park” superfan, you probably already own “The Fractured But Whole.” If not, and you’re not sure, know that this is a game for you. Even if you hate role-playing games, you can turn the combat difficulty way down and just enjoy a very long South Park experience.
If you’re anything like me, a casual “South Park” fan at best who just wants to play a good game, “The Fractured But Whole” is also for you. It might not be one you have to rush out and grab today, but it’s one to keep in mind as the holiday season approaches.
And hey, if you don’t like “South Park” but just read this whole review? Thanks!