System: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3, PC and Mac)
Publisher: Valcon Games
Developer: Hothead Games
Release Date: August 31, 2011
Hothead Games have quietly released a trilogy of fantasy action/RPG spoofs that are humorously epic in nature. All three titles revolve around the loud and boisterous superhero DeathSpank, whose name is oddly lacking in the third game’s title, The Baconing. I played through the first DeathSpank last year and had a blast. I sadly missed out on the second adventure, DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue, but I am happy to pick the series back up.
This time around our macho-yet-frivolous hero, DeathSpank, is bored. After his efforts in the first two games, he has conquered all of his enemies and now sits inattentive on his throne. Somehow he gets the bright idea to wear all six of his recently attained Thongs of Virtue at once, and this sets off a catastrophic series of events that creates an evil version of himself: AntiSpank. In order to fix his latest problem, DeathSpank must destroy the thongs one by one in the Fires of Bacon. And so begins the journey of our Hero to the Downtrodden.
The DeathSpank trilogy’s claim to fame has always been its sense of humor, and The Baconing’s story certainly reflects that. This is the first entry in the series not to have input from Ron Gilbert, the famed Monkey Island creator, but the jokes don’t miss a beat without him. There were many times where I got a good laugh out of DeathSpank’s witty retorts, as well as some of the downright bizarre characters he meets along the way. This game takes pride in its jocular approach, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Baconing offers the same tried and true hack ‘n slash gameplay DeathSpank is known for. Our hero has access to all sorts of weapons — clubs, swords, crossbows, grenades and the like — and can upgrade them as he levels up. The same goes for armor and magic potions. All of these can be obtained through frequent looting, and it is rare to have to actually purchase anything in the game because of this.
There is one noticeable difference in combat this time: it is a hell of a lot more difficult than before. It’s rare that I have to turn a game down to “Easy” to make real progress, but I had to with The Baconing. Even then, fighting foes could be brutal. My favorite method from before — running in and hacking away — does not work so well here, as that is a surefire way to get killed fast. Combat now requires a certain amount of strategy. There are more barrels scattered around that can be used to damage or temporarily stun enemies, and it is generally a good idea to take full advantage of them.
DeathSpank’s shield is also revitalized for this game, and he can now charge up and perform a bash move to hit the enemy and push them back out of melee range. It took me a little while to get the hang of this new function, but it certainly helped with combat after doing so.
DeathSpank’s adventure is fairly linear, there is still a lot to do. This game has more than 100 new quests in total, and there is a fun Arena feature where you can battle through waves of enemies in order to gain access to a massive treasure chest. Occasionally the quests provide puzzles, some of which can be challenging. Thankfully DeathSpank can collect fortune cookies which are used to obtain hints, if ever needed.
If there’s one general complaint that could be made about The Baconing, it’s that the game is almost identical to its past efforts. This is both a blessing and a curse. The style of gameplay works just fine for the most part, but I can see how some will be disappointed that The Baconing doesn’t really try anything new. It helps to come into this with the mindset that this is more of the same DeathSpank that was so well-executed before.
Visually, The Baconing doesn’t look any different, which is certainly a good thing. The art style is whimsical and full of color, and some of the locations are an absolute riot. I got a huge kick out of Z.I.M.O.N., a supercomputer from the 1980s, and his TRON-like area looks unlike any other found in the game. There’s even an amusing little mini-game that riffs on his name. Little things like that are what make The Baconing worth playing, and the impressive character voice acting helps as well. DeathSpank reminds me a little of The Tick, and he is played to perfection. Hothead Games really nailed the audio/visual aspects.
You will know right away if you are going to like The Baconing or not, as this type of game isn’t for everywhere. You don’t need to have played a previous DeathSpank title to play this one, although it certainly helps since a handful of past characters make amusing cameos. While the difficulty levels could have been evened out a little better, and it would have been nice to see more changes to the general gameplay, I still had a blast with The Baconing. The same hilarious sense of humor is present, and the action/RPG elements are fun as ever. Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of our testosterone-filled hero.