South Park: The Fractured But Whole - super heroes and fart jokes, together at last

The Stick of Truth was one of the best adaptations ever, capturing the spirit of South Park with a light RPG that had just enough meat on the combat to see you through its 16-20 hour running time. 

The Fractured But Whole swaps The Stick of Truth's fantasy theme for superheroes. Traditional fantasy classes become superhero archetypes: The Flash-style speedy class, for example, or basic physical brawlers like Captain America, which Cartman explains as you browse the selection menu. There's a whole host more you unlock as you progress through the game, too—though they aren't revealing what they are right now. Being able to swap classes opens up new abilities, including special moves, like a flurry of punches in the case of the Flash-style speedy class. 

Positioning is also important in combat now. You can move your characters around at the start of each turn, and you need to make sure your enemies are in range of your ability's area of attack before using a move. I only had the chance to play one fight—against Mysterion, Tweek and Token—and I made sure the more powerful Mysterion was taken out of the picture first before focusing on the other two. On my side I had Kyle, dressed as his alter ego, the Human Kite. He can shoot laser beams at the other kids, for some reason. Generally I got the impression that the combat offers a slightly more tactical layer this time around, and I can see how keeping on top of enemies' movements could be more challenging than the combat in the first game

The superhero element is well-played—the reason the kids are fighting is that they're having their own version of a Marvel Civil War, seemingly about who gets to have a film franchise, or a Netflix series and so on. It's a deserving target, and as ever with South Park, there are plenty of jokes at the subject matter's expense, but with a very obvious passion for it underneath at the same time.

There are updated references to the show, too, as recent as the excellent season 19. One part at the start of the game sees you looking through Cartman's diary looking for the code to his superhero lair—his mum's basement—and alongside a number of unsurprisingly foul drawings of his friends doing sexual acts, there's Cartman's shit list, which has PC Principal scrawled on it. I think a big challenge is making the town feel different to last time, and more interactive elements like looking for this code (it turned out to be 'fuck you mom') will help make that environment seem fresh again. From the small part of the town I got to see, it feels pretty familiar. One nice touch is that you can reach items on the top of buildings by having Kyle, in his Human Kite guise, fly you up there with a couple of well-timed button prompts.

One thing they've seemingly taken out of the combat is the ability to counter by timing a button press correctly, an element the first game borrowed almost wholesale from Nintendo's Mario and Luigi RPG series. Now, your characters just directly take damage, which I feel removes some of the energy that the combat had in the first game. Without it, it actually makes The Fractured But Whole seem slightly more like a traditional turn-based RPG. I miss having that extra bit of interactivity.

I was hoping there'd be something like a choice element in this sequel, too, or dialogue options, just to tap into more of that RPG replay value. That could instead be offered by the expanded class options, though—there will hopefully be enough extra detail in that combat system to make a return trip to South Park feel worthwhile. The first game was a strong slice of fan service and a limited RPG—The Fractured But Whole is taking a decent stab at building on the latter.