I don't watch South Park. I will never watch South Park - and honestly, I don't think that my life will be missing out a lot from not watching South Park. My problems with the series and even the game which I am talking about today are endless. Do I take the show too seriously? Maybe. Yeah, I definitely do, but I have my reasons. Still, despite all of that I would be a liar if I said that Fractured but Whole managed to cover some pretty deep topics with a surprising amount of care - was it perfect? No. But there was definitely something there.
When I bought Fractured but Whole during this past Steam sale, I didn't expect to walk out of it with this odd amount of respect I now have. I expected to play a decent RPG with a mildly annoying amount of jokes - and it definitely delivered on that part. However, not having watched the show, I was surprised to learn that two central characters - Tweek and Craig (pictured below) - were dating and currently facing some relationship turbulence.
I proceeded with their quest line cautiously - after all, the few times I've encountered South Park, I was unimpressed (couch-cough Big Gay Al cough-cough Mr. Slave). In the beginning, you have to help Craig get his laptop back from Tweek, who requests their shared pet hamster in exchange. This struck me as funny and definitely reminiscent of the kids of childhood relationships that kids would have together. After you do this, you are given a note from their father - and you have to convince both of them to get some counseling.
They agree, but only if you go with them.
After this, you have to go through the rest of the game before you can continue their storyline. It's very sweet, and I won't reveal too much more. I just kept waiting for the ball to drop and for it to take a gross turn. I kept expecting their relationship to be the butt of some sort of joke, or for their friends to make some sort of comment, but they seem to be okay. Even their parents are worried for their kids happiness - there's nothing mean spirited or offensive. You are just a friend helping out your two gay friends.
Of course, it wouldn't be South Park without that odd layer of creepiness. Craig's dad, whose name I didn't bother to learn, gives you a strange side quest of finding yaoi fan art of his son and Tweek throughout the town of South Park. It's not a huge part of the game, but there's something off about it. It may have been a throwback to the show, but it still really rubbed me the wrong way.
There's a pretty good bit in the game where you're able to decide your character - The New Kid's - sexuality and gender. It's played kind of like a joke, but it didn't really land and instead managed to be just a really good little section of the game. You basically pick both your gender and your sexuality through a slider. It only affects the game a little bit with dialogue options from your parents when they go home.
The best part is that every time you make a decision, a group of rednecks come up in a truck and you get to beat the crap out of them. It happens multiple times over the course of the game, and it never stops being satisfying. I don't know what Stone and Parker were thinking when they made this game, but honestly, they managed to make some parts of it cathartic. When you weren't beating up these red necks, you were playing as a character who could be a non binary pansexual.
Does it make up for the rest of the game? Not really. It's still South Park, and a lot of the other jokes tend to be more misguided and just plain unfunny. But I can say that these specifically queer moments manage to be a speck of gold in the mud - and at least added some limited enjoyment to my experience.
If you want my advice, just watch the YouTube compilations of Craig and Tweek's scenes in the game - you won't be sorry. Or if you really want to play, you can pick it up on any console. After all, we do need to support positive queer content. Even if it takes place in an annoying little mountain town.
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and writer of plays and screenplays, based in NYC. Do you guys have a game that you think is significant to the LGBTQ+ community? Email me, and I'll give it a look!
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