Whether you’re a fan or detractor of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s lo-fi cartoon phenomenon, you’ve got to at least harbour a modicum of respect for its boundary pushing, on the nose sense of humor. From lampooning Family Guy – where the rival show’s writers are revealed to be manatees – to poking fun at how terrible The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull was – by having its creators, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, sexually molest Indiana Jones in one of the most uncomfortable scenes in TV history – South Park’s clearly never been a series to shy away from controversy for the sake of some laugh out loud, choke-on-your-coffee chortles.
Back in 2014, Obsidian and Ubisoft collaborated to craft a video game adaptation of the popular TV series and it was very much well-received by both critics and fans alike. Fast forward to 2018, and the divisive, minimally animated cartoon’s video game sequel – courtesy of developer Ubisoft San Francisco – has already landed on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, to some critical praise. Further still, South Park: The Fractured But Whole has also received a slightly late-to-the-party port to Nintendo’s hybrid console. But is it worth headin’ down to South Park on the Switch? Or should you simply give this version a wide berth? Let’s find out…
(You can check out our original review of the PlayStation 4 version here)
From the onset, The Fractured But Whole supplants the fantasy setting and tone of its predecessor with a clear-cut focus on parodying the modern superhero zeitgeist. You play the role of The New Kid, a silent protagonist who’s embroiled in a civil war between the Coon and Friends (led by the series’ mischievous Batman-esque alter-ego of Eric Cartman) and the Freedom Pals (led by Professor X-like Timmy Burch) who are both hell-bent on finding a local missing cat, dubbed Scrambles, in a bid to claim the $100 reward that will help launch each of their respective superhero media franchises. As you’d expect, it’s all as delightfully bonkers as ever.
One of the best compliments I can pay this irreverent video game sequel is just how much it genuinely feels like a feature length South Park episode stitched together with a wealth of funny writing and some surprisingly engaging gameplay to boot. The fact that Trey Parker was involved with this project helps gift the experience with some legit laughs. Much like its predecessor, the game’s distinct loyalty to its source material really shines through, and this impressive level of authenticity is undoubtedly the game’s ace up its sleeve. With a main campaign that sees you going toe-to-toe with strippers, crabmen, sixth-formers and meth heads, to name but a few, The Fractured But Whole is rarely lacking in wacky oddities to throw at the player.
Mechanically, the game is a 2.5D pseudo open-world RPG, though, many corners of the titular town are cordoned off and can only be accessed once specific special abilities have been unlocked. These abilities are drip-fed throughout the main storyline and revolve around your player character’s extraordinary butt, whose farts have the power to bend the very fabric of space and time (I’m legit not making this up). Early on, you gain the ability to explore the majority of the fictional Colorado town and most houses, shops and buildings are accessible, which is pretty neat, however, many of the indoor areas do suffer from looking a little too samey on occasion.
As you explore the bustling town’s ins and outs, you’ll soon come up against the game’s myriad of nasties, which always run the gamut between the weird and the bizarre, but in a really cool way. The core combat is grid-centric, turn-based fare and is surprisingly quite a lot of fun. A few quick-time events, which occur when you execute a command, do help to imbue the moment-to-moment action with a little more involvement, which is always welcome.
Positioning is absolutely key, though your special Ultimate meter, your turn order, and making sure to choose the most effective attacks possible play important roles as well. As you’ve probably already guessed, once your special Ultimate meter is fully charged, you’ll be able to deliver some massive HP-guzzling attacks that can change the tide of battle instantly. Despite my fondness for the overall combat, I did have one minor gripe: It often errs a little too closely on the easy side for my liking. That being said, there are a few more challenging difficulty settings for those – like me – who find the combat a little too much of a cakewalk.
Not only does the game come replete with a solid, meaty 20 hour campaign, but it also sports a myriad of pretty cool, dynamic side-quests too, that’ll likely add another five or so hours to the overall experience, if you really fancy going down the rabbit hole. They’re worth seeking out, as they not only reward players with a ton of laughs, but additionally gift players some fairly meaningful upgrades that come in the shape of artifacts. These artifacts can be slotted into your character and buff your overall stats in a number of useful ways. As you level up, new slots can be unlocked and further artifacts can be locked in as well.
For those wondering, The Fractured But Whole continues the animated series’ tradition of sneaking in a handful of truly disturbing, “oh-my-god” moments of controversy into your journey. One moment in a strip club really stands out, but I don’t want to get too specific for fear of “spoiling” it for hardened fans, but rest assured: There’s plenty here that assuredly earns the game its mature rating. Personally, these jaw-droppingly disturbing parts are a big part of what makes South Park, well, South Park — its authenticity is absolutely one of its main draws, and these shocking moments only help in emphasising this.
In regards to the game’s overall presentation, well, it’s pretty incredible, really. Its minimally animated aesthetic is tremendously realised on the Switch. Every inch of the screen looks exactly how you’d hope a South Park experience to look. Little flourishes, like moments of lens flare as you walk past a setting sun, to some wonderfully ebullient comic strips, also really assist in accentuating the level of polish on show here. Further still, it also sounds the part, too. Unfortunately, however, there are a few minor polish quibbles that are unique to the Switch port; namely, load-times are a little bit longer than its console brethren, and there are the occasional random frame-rate dips here and there as well. That being said, these issues are fairly minor, and the core experience luckily remains intact, but they are worth noting nonetheless.
Finally, if you’re interested in the extra DLC, it’s important to note that only Danger Deck and From Dusk Till Casa Bonita are available at launch, with a third chunk of story-focused DLC, dubbed Bring The Crunch, coming later in the year. Danger Deck is a pretty underwhelming arena mode where you’re tasked with taking on a bunch of high-level combat challenges, while From Dusk Till Casa Bonita is a fun piece of story DLC that playfully parodies Quentin Tarantino’s road movie-cum-vampire caper, and sees you teaming up with The Coon and Mysterion to take down a creepy demonic menace. These can be purchased separately or as part of the season pass.
Though there are a few very minor polish issues inherent in the Switch port, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is imbued from top to bottom with an insane level of authenticity that’s truly faithful to its irreverent source material. Add to this, some turn-based gameplay that’s surprisingly fun, a world that’s brimming with interesting characters, and some genuinely funny, choke-on-your-coffee writing, and you’re left with a memorable and hugely entertaining romp set in the infamous, fictional Colorado town. Is it worth the trip? Hell, yeah.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A review copy was provided to us by Ubisoft.
Though there are a few very minor polish issues inherent in the Switch port, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is imbued from top to bottom with an insane level of authenticity that’s truly faithful to its irreverent source material.