'South Park: The Stick of Truth'

From: Ubisoft

Rated: M

Who's it for: Adults who appreciate potty humor and role-playing games

Console: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Grade: A

About 15 hours into "South Park: The Stick of Truth" I witnessed the most twisted, depraved thing I had ever seen in a video game. That's saying a lot considering I had already played through 15 hours of "South Park: The Stick of Truth."

Indeed, there were points in this game after which I wanted to take my brain out and bleach it.

What's really disturbing, however, is how much I enjoyed this game. How hard I laughed. How engaged I was throughout the 18-hour quest.

I'm not sure what this says about me as a person, but I'm pretty sure it's not good.

In case I haven't accurately conveyed my point, let's be clear: This game is for adults only. Period. No one younger than 17 has any business playing.

Of course, those familiar with "South Park" won't be shocked as often as those unfamiliar with this seemingly idyllic Colorado mountain town filled with the oddest bunch of miscreants this side of the Supermax in Florence.

I am loathe to mention any specific segments of the game, as the shock of the next encounter of escalating madness is really part of the fun, so please forgive my vagueness.

However, I will say that those familiar with the show will find more to love here, as the game is rife with inside jokes and references.

You start the game by building your avatar. You're the new kid in town. A quiet kid ejected from his home with a singular quest: Go make some friends!

The first character you run across is Butters, who invites you to join his game, taking you to meet Cartman, Grand Wizard and leader of the humans. They are engaged in a struggle with the Elves over the titular Stick of Truth, for whoever wields the stick controls the universe.

The kids of South Park are just as crude in "The Stick of Truth" as they are on television.
The kids of South Park are just as crude in "The Stick of Truth" as they are on television. (Courtesy photo)

From here, you'll embark on an epic journey that will take you across South Park (and beyond), completing quests, gaining levels and uncovering the mysteries surrounding Taco Bell.

You see, this is a role-playing game about "LARPing," or live-action role-playing. Think of it as "Dungeons and Dragons" taken to the next level. LARPers set rules, dress up in costumes and play through their adventures.

Usually, this is a weekend pursuit that takes place in a small area such as a park. However, in "South Park" the game is much more expansive. You've got to love kids with big imaginations.

And being in "South Park" ensures no end to the weirdness that follows your character throughout his pursuits.

The game excels as both an RPG and a parody of RPGs.

The play mechanics are stellar, offering highly customizable characters, four great classes to choose from, a finely tuned battle system, well-paced quests and a free-roaming environment that makes you feel as if you are part of the game.

The seriousness with which the game takes its gameplay, combined with its beyond-the-pale, scatological humor, make it work far better than it should.

No, it's not as expansive a game as "Skyrim" — the scripting is tighter with fewer over-arching choices to affect the outcome — but that doesn't make it any less fun to play.

At first glance, it might seem as if the humor swings more toward juvenile shock than the social commentary that has sustained "South Park" for nearly 17 years, but really, the whole game is a commentary. It examines how we play and socialize, and it successfully acts as a parody of a genre while simultaneously emulating that genre's conventions — no easy feat, to be sure.

For these reasons I found myself laughing out loud at the inappropriate humor while simultaneously marveling at the game's well-crafted mechanics. Whether you like the humor, you cannot deny the game accomplishes its goals.

That said, "South Park: The Stick of Truth" isn't for everyone. If you cannot embrace this sort of humor you'll find yourself shaking your head in disgust wondering what kind of people could make a game like this.

However, if you enjoy the sophomoric humor, combined with social satire and fantastic game mechanics, then this will satisfy almost as much as a trip to Denver's Casa Bonita restaurant.