Welcome to Wednesday, LusiWeeks! Now that my article is a bi-weekly affair, it feels like so much has changed since I last detailed my gaming habits paired with my banal “insight” into said habits, but to be honest, the only major difference is that I got to play Stick of Truth over the weekend, so I will talk about that.
Here is a good South Park game. It has the now-to-be-expected-but-still-disappointing Obsidian unfinishedness, but also takes unexpected inspiration from Paper Mario in its battle system. But best of all, the game not only perfectly understands where each of the show’s many elements fit into RPG tropes, but uses that knowledge combined with Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s incredible penchant for unrestricted satire to skewer the form while simutaneously embracing it, another one of the show’s strengths.
Because South Park is often misunderstood for relying on poop jokes and shock humour to drive the show, but – as perfectly detailed in the episodes making fun of Family Guy – the show actually uses well-crafted story-telling and acerbic wit as the vehicle for its zany antics, and makes sure to give respect to the film forms that it mocks, balancing the knowledge of what makes something work and what also makes that same thing ridiculous.
This same sense of grounded absurdity is also present in Stick of Truth, and it makes the game a great deal of fun. Magic attacks might take the form of farting, but the mechanic serves an important strategic function and it works well. Maybe every toilet in every home can be shat in, but the shit is actually a useful item in battle. Stick of Truth, much like the best South Park episodes, also subtly foreshadows a deeper point without getting too caught up in the drama of it.
The flavour of all the mechanics seem pitch-perfect too. Once again taking a queue from what the show does best, Stick of Truth really gets into the mindset of a fourth grader and all the immaturity, great imagination, and occasional clarity of perspective that sort of youth comes with. The “new kid” protagonist can make Facebook friends with most of the characters at various points of the game and this gains him status that will grant him both new abilities and access to new friends who are so superficial that they will only be friends with the New Kid if he is popular enough. This somehow melds perfectly with how dedicated the kids are to the fantasy game they are playing which justifies both the battle system and the premise for the entire game as well, highlighting their strained relationships with the adults who appear to take the strangest things seriously.
So what I am saying is that this is exactly what every South Park fan wanted when they first envisioned a game based on the now-veteran show. Games are hard to make and I am very impressed with the tone, mechanics, and look of the game and its incredibly smooth transition from show to game.
I just started playing the final Professor Layton game, Azran Legacy although it is perhaps not the final Professor Layton game. Yes, sadly this is the last entry to star the titular character, but the series seems thoughtful enough that I trust the decision. I would also trust the decision to keep the series going without him because strangely, at the sixth entry, the puzzles seem better than ever. And after shifting some of the gameplay elements in Miracle Mask, Azran Legacy is far more comfortable on the 3DS, looking visually stronger and embracing these changes warmly, making the “sliding” process of searching areas for clues more intuitive than the old “tapping” way although it did not feel that way in Miracle Mask.
Of course, I just started playing the game so these are very early impressions, but Professor Layton has quietly become one of my favourite series, reliably providing comfortable and thoughtful experiences with integrity.
Oh yeah, also Tomb Raider
My girlfriend has some friends at her work who decided to all start playing the same video game at the same time so they could talk about it together and while it was not her first choice, they decided on the new Tomb Raider reboot. While more expensive, I am starved for PS4 games and paid the difference in an effort to convince her to get the Definitive Edition. I decided to give it a shot for about 45 minutes. It is obviously not enough to get a real taste, but I am a little sick of the melo-drama that so many games think they are entitled to. The game seems to obviously want to be Uncharted (and yes, Uncharted took inspiration from Tomb Raider, but so it goes) but what Naughty Dog gets so right with their games is their knowledge that drama must be earned and that even intense experiences are not always one tone. But maybe Tomb Raider gets better. It certainly looks nice.
Thousand Year Door has sadly sat on the backburner while I dove into Stick of Truth and Azran Legacy, but I really hope I find the time to finish up that game. I think a lot of modern developers could learn from playing that title. But on that note, I am out! What have you chumps been playing?