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If there has been one thing that has been persistent since my younger years it is my love of South Park and the appreciation of the inventive minds of its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. From it being just an onslaught of fart jokes and curse words when I first discovered to realising it was in fact clever satire of the world’s issues, trends and political matters, expressed in a way that has become synonymous with the show’s creators, and for over 20 years now it has evolved and adapted with the times to help keep itself relevant. But after the questionable debut outing into the world of gaming in 1998 on the PS1 all hope seemed gone for them to try again and be successful until The Stick of Truth dropped in 2014. A certified critical hit, The Stick of Truth combined exhilarating RPG gaming with the all too familiar South Park humour, all while sticking it to video game clichés in the process, which put all eyes on the eventual sequel The Fractured but Whole, which not alone takes a full 180 in terms of theming but also evolving the mechanics and adding new ones but keeping to the formula that made the predecessor so much fun to play in the first place.
The Fractured but Whole takes place after the events of The Stick of Truth and the ever-precocious kids of South Park, Colorado getting bored of their medieval jaunts and becoming Superheroes, but after a dispute in the planning for their ‘movie franchise’ they split into two separate factions; Cartman’s Coon and Friends and Timmy’s Freedom Pals, starting their own Civil War. But while desperately searching for a lost cat for a $100 reward, they naively stumble onto something much bigger. This game not only does a great job in ripping the superhero movie franchise a new one – even going as far as poking fun at Marvel’s phase schedules as well the odd Netflix spinoff franchises – but takes jabs at every to do with beloved comic book characters like origin stories, kryptonites (mine was crab people) and ‘super’ abilities.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole much like the previous game looks, sounds and feels like an episode of the beloved TV show and yet again hasn’t skipped out on any of the details even to the little jingle that plays at the beginning of each new scene when you load up your game and even though this was addressed in the last game by Matt and Trey it’s still so awesome to see the town of South Park actually mapped out, seeing what is where and seeing how this small community works economically. The massive cast of memorable characters are all given their dues as well making this game feel huge, from Randy Marsh to Tuong Lu Kim, everything is there to keep you satisfied as you play, although there may be some left out from the previous entry don’t let that ruin a good time. The Fractured but Whole is also jam packed with delightful Easter eggs and call backs to the shows past and present such as the items you find through your adventures Ms Cartman’s double stuffed brownies and cheesing vials and finding jars of Member Berries (MEMBA!?!). Also, the excellently orchestrated soundtrack brings an electrifying sense of grandeur to this game sometimes being reminiscent of the Avengers movies, but not to worry the hilarity continues with the anime fused ‘Lets Fighting Love’ and ‘His Name is Jared’ bring a smile to your face through the most epic of battles. However, there were times where I experienced the dialogue cutting out for a few brief moments.
The Fractured but Whole’s gameplay continues with the awesome role playing mechanics from The Stick of Truth but with enough progress made to keep this particular franchise from going stale. The chess board like battle grounds bring a fantastic strategical edge to combat making you not only think of what you’re doing with you turn, but thinking several moves ahead. And the boss battles you encounter offer a steady difficulty curve with the ones with special objectives giving you an extra hurdle to jump while still having a horde of villains to think of makes each move you make count on a serious level. The stat boosting artifacts and the DNA strands all with different benefits and disadvantages make your character feel unique to you even beyond the fact that I crafted his appearance myself…..which brings me to the elephant in the room….*sigh* the games difficulty is determined by how dark your characters skin is……yep……you read right, this is a damn ballsy move from the developers and is still good to see that Parker and Stone’s topical minds can still stop you in your tracks and make you feel you’re going to hell when you laugh. The Fractured but Whole also has side quests aplenty (because who doesn’t love ignoring the main quest for hours on end am I right?). These are a good way to spend your time in South Park but as you progress they become repetitive, go to point A and meet your combat buddy go to point B to be confronted by a cameo from the show and beat the ever-loving crap out of him AAAAAAAAND REPEAT! But these also help you utilize your buddy abilities, ways your companions can help you progress through your quest and acquire hard to reach loot tremendous and fartacular ways, these are good to helping you think outside the box and checking out your surroundings with your inspection mode shows they’re still taking digs at modern gaming but it all does become over-utilized as the story goes on and where The Fractured but Whole really does start to hold your hand a bit too much.