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The credits have rolled on South Park: The Fractured But Whole. I’ve made videos in the past that not just insist on the importance of judging a piece of media according to its authorial intent, and to a larger degree, its entire context–even the context of its own lineage–as I’ll discuss more later–but also I’ve made videos that extol the beauty of a piece of media that understands context really, really well. That’s something the South Park television show has always done and South Park: The Fractured But Whole is no different.

Transcript(ish)

It’s time for a post-game smoke, where I give a few thoughts on a game as soon as possible after playing it. As is the nature of this type of video, it’s short, quickly thrown together, and certainly rides emotional high or low of whatever game I just finished. Here, I trade in-depth analysis for visceral reaction. Both are important, but I only offer one here. If you are new to the channel, I offer plenty of longer, more thought-out videos, so please stay and poke around a bit.

The credits have rolled on South Park: The Fractured But Whole. I’ve made videos in the past that not just insist on the importance of judging a piece of media according to its authorial intent, and to a larger degree, its entire context–even the context of its own lineage–as I’ll discuss more later–but also I’ve made videos that extol the beauty of a piece of media that understands context really, really well. That’s something the South Park television show has always done and South Park: The Fractured But Whole is no different.

People forget things very quickly. South Park, the show, is created in such a way that it can uniquely comment on very recent events, making the mentally straining effects of temporal distance less of a factor. Considering the speed at which information spreads these days, this means South Park has a near-infinite pool of context from which to cull story ideas. The creators of South Park don’t so much mine history for significant plot points but rather skim the scum from celebrity twitter feeds, which is probably much harder than the former option. Anyone can read a history book; the curation is done for them. Only brilliant people like Matt Parker and Trey Stone can find gold in an infinite pool of uncurated cess.

But what happens when your medium isn’t a television show with a one-week build time, but instead is a video game with a years-long build time? You, South Park, play with the context of your own creation (see, I told you I’d get back to this idea).

The Fractured But Whole, though not a sequel to 2014’s The Stick of Truth, plays with the expectations created by that game in the same way the television series itself does with its episodic format. In fact, the recent episode 4 of season 21, titled “Franchise Prequel” is in essence the build-up to The Fractured But Whole which went on sale just 6 days after “Franchise Prequel”’s airing. The Fractured But Whole plays well as both a game and an episode of the television show which feels to me exactly how the game should be presented.

The game not only reawakens long-forgotten characters from the series, like the gay fish, Dr. Mephesto, and his son, but also plays with the story line from the Stick of Truth, at one point going so far as to have the Fractured But Whole kids interact with their Stick of Truth counterparts in a confusing–but very South Parkian–time paradox story line.

Most reviews of The Fractured But Whole have said it’s not as good as The Stick of Truth, and I’d probably agree, but only insofar as I don’t know that The Fractured But Whole could have ever been better, and I’m convinced the creators knew that. The Stick of Truth surprised players in many ways. It was not only a good South Park game–the only good South Park game following a history of truly awful experiences–but it was a good game, full stop. With players having been acclimated to the reality of a good game with The Stick of Truth, without the element of surprise, The Fractured But Whole stood no chance at being better. I think that if The Fractured But Whole had come out in 2014, with The Stick of Truth coming out in 2017, we’d all think of The Fractured But Whole as the superior game. That’s how important the element of surprise was to The Stick of Truth.

I had a lot of fun with The Fractured But Whole. If you play it, and aren’t feeling the first few hours, keep going. The last 25% of this game is some of the weirdest gaming I’ve ever experienced.

Tell me in the comments if you’ve played The Fractured But Whole. How do you think it compares to The Stick of Truth?

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Music Credits

Video Dungeon Crawl Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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