A whirlwind of controversy swirled around Tuesday's release of the anticipated console and PC game "South Park: The Stick of Truth."
The game was censored in Australia and different parts of Europe for various offensive images. The North and South American versions have remained unchanged.
Despite these issues, "Stick of Truth" fared pretty well in its first week. The game's average review score on Metacritic, a website that tracks reviews, is an 84 out of 100.
I recently reviewed the game for Corrupted Cartridge, and I encountered all of the censored scenes in my work. Here is an attempt to add context and clarification to some of the offensive imagery based on my experiences with the game:
Nazi Imagery: The release of "Stick of Truth" was delayed in Germany and Austria because the game features enemies that have been transformed into Nazi Zombies by a strange green goo. The designers basically took a cartoon cat, painted it green and put a Nazi armband on it. There aren't any Holocaust references.
Sexism: There has been a slight buzz about not being able to create a female main character in the game. I don't want to give away too much of the story for those planning to play the game, so I will just mention that the storyline of the game requires a male character. There are some quests that simply wouldn't work if the main character were female. This is fairly common. "Tomb Raider" would be a drastically different game if you were Larry Croft instead of Lara Croft.
The Probing: Here is where we get into the truly offensive imagery. Australia and much of Europe cut several scenes from a quest, where you must escape an alien spaceship by disarming and destroying the aliens' vast array of anal probes. The probe scenes are clearly meant to be funny and are very cartoon-like, but they are pretty graphic. While I don't condone the censorship, I can certainly understand why this would be an issue for a lot of people. As a 25-year-old, the scenes didn't bother me. Would I recommend that a teenager play through this mission? Probably not.
The Abortion Clinic: The other scenes cut from European and Australian versions of the game were from a mission that takes place in an abortion clinic. Once again, I can see the issue here. I would also not recommend this part for children. However, contrary to the statements made by some news outlets, your character does not perform an abortion. Your character pretends to perform an abortion on a male character. The characters are disguised as a doctor and a patient in order to evade capture from the bad guys.
The Journey: In my opinion, the most offensive part of the game wasn't even mentioned by authorities or news agencies. One of the final quests requires you to shrink down in size and venture into a man's rectum. I will just leave it at that.
The "Stick of Truth" follows the same basic recipe as the TV show that spawned it: combine one part social commentary, two parts potty humor and three parts controversy.
It is basically a 15-hour interactive "South Park" episode. It includes a vast amount of references from the show's 17-year history and could very well serve as a bridge between entertainment genres. It is a game, but my friends and family watched me play it the way they would a TV show.
There are some intelligent and subtle points made about pop culture, the government and our society. There are also some poop jokes.
As an adult who has enjoyed the TV show for years, I absolutely loved the game. None of the imagery offended me, and I am proud that my country is one of the few to leave the game intact. I gave it a 90 out of 100. The only problems I had with the game were some minor control issues and its relatively short length.
However, if I were a parent, I would never allow my child to play this game.
In my opinion, the game's cocktail of mature themes and imagery makes it one of the most X-rated games to ever be mass-produced. It doesn't cross the line of human decency, but it comes closer than most. Buyers should take this into account when shopping for games this March.
Rory E.H. Appleton is the associate editor for www.corruptedcartridge.com and a journalism student at Fresno State. You can reach him at rory@corruptedcartridge. com or @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.