The new South Park game has been a big hit since it’s release earlier this month appealing to hardcore fans and casual watchers of the show alike with it’s hundreds of references to the series and game storyline melding well together.
The game has been made in the style of a turn based RPG but has its own unique spin on classes and abilities. There are so many things to be said about this game but perhaps the most important to the world of gaming is the sense of immersion.
This game like the cartoon has a simplistic looking animation style but it does capture the look and feel of an episode perfectly in fact it does fit in to the series as it is referenced at the end of a three part episode storyline. The game seems to follow on almost directly and allows the player to assume the role of the new kid who has just moved to South Park. However the sense of immersion doesn’t end there it comes from the lack of separation between gameplay and cutscene.
To understand the impact of this you need to look at other titles such as the final fantasy series with games like ff7 the gameplay graphics were still very blocky when it came out on the Playstation, but the cutscene graphics were detailed and beautifully rendered. With each final fantasy game we can see the same trend of okay in game but amazingly detailed cutscene graphics. This happens a lot in other games of course too but Final Fantasy games were some of the first to put the emphasis on this divide. It’s very evident too with the latest generation of consoles being focused on showing off improved graphic capabilities and gadgets, as opposed to launch titles.
This doesn’t particularly effect the player but putting the detail into highly rendering cutscenes can sometimes for me at least clearly separate the game play and story aspects of the game.
There are ways around this of course and one method that’s been explored a lot in recent years is interactive storytelling, and the idea of cutscene combat aka press X button not to die. Although in action/adventure games this might not be as welcome it’s reminiscent of old point and click adventures and for games with a mystery solving aspect it can work well.
The Stick of Truth achieves this fusion of gameplay and cutscene however by making use of the cartoons graphics and although the custcenes might not have software to make the hair blow in the wind in just the right way or a graphics engine chugging away to make sure the light hits the reflection in a cup perfectly it doesn’t lose anything, in fact to me it’s more fun to play because of it if a game in development needs years to perfect graphics I’d much rather it be time spent on programming in more levels or additional items. Years ago the game graphics may have been distracting but they’ve come a long way and you can make exceptions if the game is entertaining.