Superheroes are definitely a thing now. Not only are movies and TV media being dominated by superpowered beings, video games are also slowly but surely trying to cash in on the success of the fad. Games like Injustice and Marvel vs. Capcom are making big bucks. So, of course, Trey Parker and Matt Stone just had to come in and release the sequel to South Park: The Stick of Truth now… this time, with a superhero motif.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole takes place just after the events of The Stick of Truth. The basic plot is that Cartman’s Coon and Friends group of heroes are in search for a missing cat and they plan to use the reward money to start up their own superhero franchise. However, you discover that there is an evil hand that is pulling the strings behind the rise of criminality in the town and you, Coon and Friends and the breakaway superhero team, the Freedom Pals, to stop the conspiracy.
You play as the New Kid and, while you became the king at the end of The Stick of Truth, that was a totally different game. You’re not LARPing some Dungeons and Dragons game anymore, kid! You’re playing superheroes so you’re going to have to start from the bottom once again. Trey Parker and Matt Stone really worked with the superhero genre to extremely brilliant levels as they make wonderful fun of most tropes such as superheroes fighting each other and supervillians switching sides to fight a greater foe.
The overall plot is extremely funny but only if you’re okay with some really juvenile and socially charged jokes. I can see how some people can be offended by some of the sophomoric punchlines but, then again, South Park has been known for its rather offensive style of humor so they’re probably not going to be playing this game anyway. If you enjoy South Park’s jokes and way of tackling social norms like I am, you’ll definitely enjoy your time in The Fractured But Whole. I mean, if you can see why the difficulty slider is actually hilarious, you’ll get all of the jokes here.
The tone certainly makes you feel like you’re in the town of South Park but it’s the visuals that really seal the deal. It’s not all that difficult to create a game that looks like the Comedy Central animated show as the characters and backgrounds are already incredibly simplistic. But The Fractured But Whole gets everything done just right. From the way the characters jerkily walk around town to the way their lips move when they talk and even the stilted animation looks like you’re watching a really long South Park episode.
You gotta appreciate all the work that went to not just look like the show, but to make it even sound like the show. It looks like Trey Parker and Matt Stone and the rest of the voice cast returned to do the voices of all the characters, which is actually pretty amazing when you think of all the recorded dialogue the game has! They put in a lot of nice little audible cues, like the guitar riff that plays when you load a game, and, if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll recognize.
The Fractured But Whole is definitely a love letter to South Park… which does sound really odd since it is made by the same people that made the show. Like that guitar riff I mentioned, fans will recognize a lot of callbacks from previous episodes. The entire Coon and Friends and Freedom Pals make their return and even some one off gags from previous episodes show up. Some of these jokes may go over your head if haven’t been watching the show religiously but it doesn’t really detract from the humor all that much. I didn’t understand what they were making fun of with the entire segment with Gay Fish and Seme… I mean, Seaman but I still laughed at it all the same.
While the kids are just playacting like they have special abilities, you’re not like the other kids of South Park as you do have actual superpowers… well, there is that one kid that does seem to have a real special ability, but it’s not as cool and as useful as yours. You have some really special fart powers that can do remarkable things like stun opponents, cause explosions and even control time itself. You can also combine your farting abilities with others to traverse the maps, get to hard to reach items and even go to areas that were previously inaccessible. Finding ways to use your farts to solve puzzles were fun at the start but not all that challenging as the way to solve something is practically spelled out for you. In fact, it kind of gets old since you will be using the same abilities extremely often.
While the puzzles do get tired and drawn out, The Fractured But Whole’s combat system never gets old. It revamps the turn based combat of The Stick of Truth and adds a strategic element to it ala Final Fantasy Tactics. This time around, you control the positions of your party members and this becomes important as most of your attack abilities are dependent on where you are with respect to your opponents. Some attacks can only be directed horizontally, some vertically or even have an area effect so you need to be aware of what attacks you have in your loadout to see what works well with your other party members. You can even cause extra damage to your foes with some proper button timing based on the prompts or even knock back your opponent to get more breathing room.
Boss fights are extremely fun as they usually have a special objective to fulfill to actually beat them. Most of the time, all you need to do is to get to a specific area of the battlefield but, since they’re bosses, they have an extra ability and can unleash a timed attack before their turn so things can get hectic. Thankfully, you’re farting time-space powers can even out these battles at times by cancelling their turns, freezing time to rain punches on your foes or even summon another New Kid to the forefront of battle. Also, you can unleash an Ultimate attack once you have your Ultimate meter charged up, which, depending on your character, will do something different.
The only real problem I have with the combat system is the way you use items. It just feels a little cumbersome as you have to scroll through the list of the consumables you’ve obtained and sometimes the icons just aren’t all that clear regarding what they’re supposed to do. Most of the time, I have to read the description before I go ahead and select an item. Also, you control summons through your inventory and, most of the time, I felt using them would be a waste because the Ultimate attacks were already so good and summons are consumable and, except for the one that heals your entire party, I couldn’t figure out how to get more of them if I depleted my supply.
The biggest flaw of the game is that there isn’t all that much to do. Although I enjoyed my entire time throughout my 20+ hours of The Fractured But Whole, there’s not a whole lot to actually do. There are some side quests to do and scavenger hunts to complete but I finished doing all of them while playing through the main story campaign. The quiet little town of South Park is indeed rather small so going to each and every location is incredibly easy and, as there are just a few locations and buildings to visit, revisiting all of them may sound tedious but it isn’t. You may want to go through each and every location once you obtain a new power to see what silly things you can to there. Like I said, it sounds tedious but it didn’t bother me all that much.
With that being said, I still loved my entire time with The Fractured But Whole. It’s got a whole mess of South Park humor and is one of the most involving RPGs I’ve played in a long time. Then again, I’m the game’s target audience. If you like South Park like myself, you’ll love The Fractured But Whole. If not, you probably won’t enjoy it as much but you may want to give it a try just because of the really involved combat system.
Have you played South Park: The Fractured But Whole? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!