Video Game Review: Deadlight [XBLA]

Today we have a special guest video game review from Max @ Impassionedcinema!

Deadlight [XBLA]

Deadlight
System: Xbox Live Arcade
Genre: Cinematic platformer, survival horror, sidescroller
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Tequila Works
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)
Release Date: August 1st, 2012

Microsoft has once again hosted a campaign entitled Summer of Arcade. In the dry gaming month of mid-July until mid-August, Microsoft signs exclusives for titles that show off what XBLA has to offer. Previous years included such classics as Braid, Limbo, and Castle Crashers. This year didn’t start out great with a re-mastered Tony Hawk game and a Kinect-only game. So does Deadlight buck that trend? Not really.

Deadlight is the first game from Tequila Works and was published by Microsoft, so this will be an exclusive Xbox game for sometime. It has elements of survival horror mixed with platforming and sidescrolling action. On paper it sounds like another classic XBLA entry, so where did they go wrong?

Deadlight [XBLA]

The storyline is one of most troublesome areas. Saying that the survival horror elements are overused would be an understatement. Our hero, Randall Wayne, is on a mission to find his wife and daughter in what appears to be a zombie apocalypse. Now they never refer to these mindless creators as zombies, they are just called shadows. Akin to Walking Dead, the shadows aren’t the only enemies here since the humans are out of control as well. Thankfully, all the story elements are skippable (including the ending), so if you just want platforming, skip past them all.

The gameplay will more than make up for the poor story right? That’s a big no. In a mixture of two highly acclaimed XBLA games (Shadow Complex and Limbo) the games has difficult platforming, action, and a mostly black color scheme. There’s also puzzles mixed in for good measure, but they are so easy, I never once found myself stuck trying to figure something out. The only time I did get stuck was because of the platforming. Deadlight isn’t sure of what audience it is catering towards. On one hand, some of the jumps are easy to telegraph. On the other hand, if you don’t press jump at exactly the right time you’ll die and get sent back to annoying loading screens. Deadlight likes to promote the trial and error approach. Walk ten feet, die because something unexpected happened, go back and try again. Rinse and repeat. I didn’t expect to play Dragon’s Lair when I bought this game, but the repetition is ridiculous.

Deadlight [XBLA]

Many times throughout my playthrough of Deadlight, I questioned why I spent $15 on the game. It was probably the promise of high-quality games Xbox Summer of Arcade has been known for over the years. It could’ve also been the mixture of Shadow Complex and Limbo (two of the best downloadable games on the system). Needless to say, Deadlight was an incredible disappointment and I’d go as far as to say some of the game is broken. While I made my way through to the end, there were too many instances where I was honestly fed up with the game. Hopefully one of the other two Summer of Arcade titles impress because otherwise this summer will be a huge disappointment.

5.5/10

 
Written by Max Covill of Impassionedcinema.com

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Video Game Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD [XBLA]

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD [XBLA] Cover Art

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
System: Xbox Live Arcade (coming soon to PSN and PC)
Genre: Extreme sports (skateboarding)
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Robomodo
Price: 1200 MSP
Release Date: July 18, 2012

Remaking the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games was going to be a tricky endeavor from the very beginning. Not only are the original Playstation titles beloved classics, they are also rather dated. The skateboarding genre has come along way since those early days, and lately EA’s Skate series has reigned supreme. Could an HD Tony Hawk game hold up today?

Activision has compiled seven levels from the first two games and given them a fresh coat of non-pixelated paint. It’s nice to finally be able to play old favorites with updated graphics, but the selection appears to be random: Warehouse, School 2, Mall, Downhill Jam, Hangar, Marseilles and Venice. Everyone has their own personal favorites, of course, but a few of these had me scratching my head (I can’t recall anyone ever going crazy over Downhill Jam, for example).

A handful of familiar skaters have returned, including Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen and Andrew Reynolds, as well as a batch of new characters. Create-a-skater is absent; in its place is the ability to use your Xbox avatar. It’s a bit odd at first to see an avatar skating around, but it’s as close as we can get to creating our own player.

The same control scheme is in place, and it only offers the bag of tricks found in the first two games (meaning no “revert” option, though that is to come in future DLC). Each level has the same goals as before — collect S-K-A-T-E, ollie the magic bum, find the secret tape, etc. — and the pieces are exactly where they have always been.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD [XBLA]

A huge wave of nostalgia came over me as I entered the Warehouse for the first time in years. It was like I was a teenager again, getting ready for my favorite two-minute fix. The familiar sounds of Powerman 5000’s “When Worlds Collide” filled the speakers. I was ready.

But then something happened. My skater didn’t move the way I remembered. I botched a simple kickflip, and instead of falling over I went flying into a ramp at the other side of the screen. Blood splattered on the ground, which was a familiar sight, but were the controls always this touchy? I got up and skated over to the half pipe. A few simple grab tricks had me feeling better about my skills, but then I wiped out again after a slightly sloppy landing. I didn’t fly as far this time, but I started to gain the perception that I needed to be a little more careful.

After a few more playthroughs, I began to adjust to the tweaked game mechanics. At first I thought I was just rusty, but it was pretty clear that the physics were completely different. Developer Robomodo remade the game using Unreal Engine 3, and in doing so lost some of the playability from before. The similarities are there, but it’s as if the physics were run through a filter before reaching their destination.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD [XBLA]

I fired up my original Tony Hawk 2 disc to see if nostalgia was tilting my perception. I ran through the Hangar without missing a beat. The couple times I did fall felt realistic, and I did not go flying off the hinges when getting big air off a half pipe. There was a pretty big difference between the two in terms of gameplay, and former THPS junkies will surely notice the changes as well.

Having said that, the new controls do improve a bit once a skater is upgraded with better stats. They’re still not perfect, but pulling off combos is a bit more manageable. It just takes a bit of work to get to that point.

With just seven levels, the single player campaign is relatively brief. It doesn’t take long to unlock each area, but some of the trickier goals are just as difficult as before. Good luck finding and hitting all of the secret tapes — it took me a while to remember where a few of them even were.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD [XBLA]

Playing with friends was always one of the highlights of the Tony Hawk series, but multiplayer this time around is online only. There is no split-screen gameplay whatsoever. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the online matchmaking system leaves a lot to be desired. On average, I am able to connect to a quick match once out of every five attempts. This happens regardless of what mode/level I select, even if I opt for the “any” option.

When a connection actually does come through, it is still a lot of fun competing against others. There are occasional moments of random graphical glitches, but they don’t hinder gameplay. Old favorites such as Trick Attack and Graffiti are back, but H-O-R-S-E is strangely missing. In its place is a new Big Head mode, which is enjoyable even if it is peculiar to have replaced an original. I imagine the multiplayer aspect was scaled back due to cost and/or time issues, but the omissions, particularly split-screen, are glaring.

I wanted to love Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, I really did. To be able to play some of my all-time favorite games again with updated graphics is, in some ways, a dream come true. It’s a shame that the original in-game physics could not be replicated, because otherwise it would be easier to ignore the game’s other faults. It’s not that this is a *bad* game per se, it’s just that it could not live up to its lofty expectations. Messing with nostalgia is a dangerous thing, and this feels like a Tony Hawk game, but one that is stripped of its soul.

6/10

 
Side note: if you really want to play this and have the option to play on a different system, I recommend waiting for the PS3 version, at least if you are a d-pad user. The 360’s d-pad does not do this game any favors.

(A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.)

Video Game Review: Trials Evolution [XBLA]

Trials Evolution [XBLA]

Trials Evolution
System: Xbox Live Arcade
Genre: Platform, Racing
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: RedLynx
Release Date: April 18, 2012

Now THIS is how you make a sequel.

Trials Evolution takes everything that made its predecessor, Trials HD, so great but increases it tenfold. The same physics-based motorcycle platforming gameplay returns, but now it is sharper than ever with more refined controls and a larger variety in environments.

While Trials HD put you squarely in abandoned warehouses with little differences visually, Evolution gives you the great outdoors. The vast majority of the game’s levels take place outside, showing bright blue skies, vivid scenery and huge dirt hills (among other obstacles). The tracks are also much more spacious than before, as no longer do you feel contained to a single, tiny line. It’s quite the contrast from before, and the new environments really help give the game a brand new look. There are even levels where the camera rotates as you approach a twist in the track, something once unheard of. This doesn’t feel like a rehashed Trials HD; this feels like a brand new game.

Trials Evolution [XBLA]

A different campaign progression system is in place. This time around, tracks are unlocked after earning a certain amount of medals. Gold medals are worth three points, silver two, and bronze one. It takes 135 points to unlock the notoriously brutal ‘Extreme’ tracks, so perfecting some of the easier levels is a must. Technically, unlocking ‘Extreme’ is considered beating the game, but any Trials veteran knows this is hardly the case. This is a game that is infinitely replayable since there is always the ability to improve upon your race times, and also to attempt to beat your friends (or those on the leaderboard).

Brand new to Trials Evolution is the addition of a multiplayer mode. This adds even more replay value, as now you can race against others online, either visibly on the same track or against their “ghost” forms. Matchmaking is still a little rough at spots, but it is a blast when you get a good group of people playing. Just a heads up, though: there are A LOT of great players online, enough to potentially make you feel bad about your skills (even if you are really good as well).

Trials Evolution [XBLA]

Another killer improvement is the revamped user creation system. The level editor is loaded with features, and the sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to what you can do. Perhaps most welcome is the addition of a more useful sharing system. Now you don’t have to send created tracks from peer-to-peer — they can be downloaded via a main portal instead. It’s easier than ever to find/share new content.

The bottom line is that Trials Evolution is an improvement in every sense of the word, and it is one of the best sequels I have ever played. Fans of the original absolutely must play this, and anyone interested in racing, platforming and/or physics puzzlers should give this a shot. Don’t let the dirtbikes and godawful rap metal music throw you off — this is a very well-made game that is more than worth its $15 price tag.

9/10

 
 
For those curious about just how awesome the user community is for Trials Evolution, check out this amazing fanmade track with a kickass music theme:

Video Game Review: Fez [XBLA]

Today we have an awesome guest video game review from Max @ Impassionedcinema!

Fez [XBLA]

Fez
System: Xbox Live Arcade
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Polytron Corporation
Release Date: April 13th, 2012

After five years of anticipation, Fez has finally come out to Xbox Live. Since the game has been featured at gaming conventions and is even one of the subjects of Indie Game – The Movie, there’s been quite a lot of people awaiting it’s arrival.

An ode to classics such as Castlevania, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda, Fez follows Gomez and his journey through the 2D world. It seems that it’s time for his adventure to begin though, as the wise man of the village passes the torch on to him. Gomez witnesses the explosion of a cube that shatters its pieces everywhere for Gomez to collect. It has also damaged the world he lives in. Now his world can be rotated in 3-dimensions due to the explosion.

Fez [XBLA]

Everything about Fez feels retro. From the low-level of detail in the character design to the inspired score by Disasterpeace, Fez is all about the classic game love. The players journey through the world of Fez will require jumping from platform to platform in order to find the next piece to the puzzle. Rotating the screen at the exact moment to connect different orientations of the world is often required. Luckily, the gameplay of Fez never feels cheap. Even if you miss a jump, it’s only a matter of seconds until you can try again.

There’s a layer of gameplay underneath the seemingly simple platformer. Once half the game is completed, Gomez will discover that there are also thirty-two anti-cubes to collect in addition to the original thirty-two. These cubes require a deeper understanding of the world, having players decrypt the language and symbols of the world to solve the incredibly original puzzles. The true adventure of Fez begins halfway through the game.

Fez [XBLA]

If there are any faults to Fez, it comes from two different areas, map design and bug checking. The map has a steep learning curve to it that even three hours into the game it continues to frustrate. While the idea is reminiscent of the Metroid Prime series maps, it never feels intuitive. It’s such a vital piece of the game as well since it works as a checklist for places that all the puzzle pieces have been found. The other area that still needs work, are the game bugs. After five year of development, Fez still has some crushing bugs. Sometimes they will transport players right back to the Xbox Live Dashboard and other times save games might even be corrupted. One of the biggest problems I suffered through my play through was that the sound would cut in and out while rotating the world. These faults in the code are inexcusable and while I’m glad to finally have the chance to play Fez, it’s a shame that these faults still exist.

In a video game world full of copycat ideas, Fez is an inspired original journey. Light on story, but deep in creativity, Fez will be a game remembered for the things it accomplishes as opposed to the things it might’ve fell short on. So what are you waiting for? Get ready to follow Gomez through this inventive world and forever remember what a Fez is really capable of achieving.

8.5/10

Written by Max Covill of Impassionedcinema.com

Video Game Review: Torchlight [XBLA]

Torchlight [XBLA]

Torchlight
System: Xbox Live Arcade (also on PC and Mac OS X)
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Runic Games
Developer: Runic Games
Release Date: March 9, 2011

With the recent non-stop releases of major video game blockbusters, sometimes it’s nice to go to a mindless diversion — one that is fun to play, but doesn’t require any serious thought. Enter Torchlight, a 2011 XBLA dungeon crawler, to fill that void.

Essentially a spiritual sibling to the Diablo series (developer Runic Games is composed of ex-Diablo designers), Torchlight is a fantasy game that is all about hacking, slashing and looting. The plot is entirely irrelevant — that is to say, there is one, but it basically boils down to someone telling the main character to just keep working through a 35-floor dungeon in order to save a town from impending doom. Throw in some cheesy voice acting, and yeah, it’s ultimately rather laughable.

Torchlight [XBLA]

Regardless, Torchlight delivers the goods in terms of gameplay. After creating a main character (male or female), selecting their class (Destroyer, Alchemist or Vanquisher), and determining an animal companion (wolf, lynx or “Chakawary”), you are sent to a small village and given free reign to pick up new quests.

The main adventure sends you into a huge dungeon where you must work your way through floor-by-floor, battling countless enemies and the occasional bosses. The floor themes change at regular intervals, offering some new visuals to break up the monotony. Completing the main quest takes roughly ten hours, but additional sidequests and random exploration can easily stretch the game into a much higher number.

How much you will get out of Torchlight depends on how much you like looting dungeons and leveling up your character. The XP system is well-developed, as you can boost attributes in a number of areas, as well as learn new skills to help in combat. The battle system is particularly brilliant, as each button of the controller can be used for a different, monster-bashing spell. It’s all fluid and easy to learn.

Torchlight [XBLA]

Torchlight is great at what it sets out to accomplish, but it could be even better with a few adjustments. My biggest complaint is a lack of multiplayer. This dungeon crawler has the perfect setting for a co-op mode, but it is nowhere to be found. The upcoming Torchlight II rectifies this, but it should have been included in the original anyway. Also, the game has a bad habit of using small text in the menus. I have a good-sized TV but still had to squint to be able to read some of the items in the menu. Finally, some showdowns with multiple enemies on screen can lead to occasional slowdown. Nothing too terrible, but it can be a tad bothersome.

Still, if you’re in the market for a fun Diablo-esque adventure, Torchlight comes highly recommended. Ignore the weak story and just dig into the addictive hack ‘n slash gameplay. Keep an eye out for any future deals because the game does go on sale on XBLA from time to time (I bought mine half off for $7.50), but this isn’t a bad deal at full price either.

8/10

Video Game Review: Rock of Ages [XBLA, 2011]

Rock of Ages [XBLA, 2011]

Rock of Ages
System: Xbox 360
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: ACE Team
Release Date: August 31, 2011

Take a little bit Marble Madness, throw in some tower defense gameplay and add a quirky sense of humor, and you have Rock of Ages, one of the more unique titles to come out this year.

In the game, you control a giant boulder with your goal being to race through a course and then smash through your enemy’s gateway at the end. Your opponent’s goal is the same. The catch here is that both you and your adversary also have the ability to build up defense mechanisms to slow each other down and/or destroy the boulder itself.

Rock of Ages [XBLA, 2011]

At the beginning of a match, you are given a decent amount of cash to spend on defensive units that range from catapults to towers to cattle/elephants. You can earn more money by obliterating your opponent’s buildings while you are racing through the course. It is important to do all of this as fast as possible since your enemy is doing the exact same thing on their end. The idea is to load up on defense in a way that will make it difficult for your opponent to get through. This is easier said than done.

In fact, most of the time these strategic placements do little more than create a small nuisance for each boulder. It takes some real maneuvering (or just plain luck) to trip up your opponent on most courses, so ultimately these contests become more like full-on races against the clock than anything. Still, it’s fun to throw a bunch of diversions at the enemy while hoping they slip up now and again.

Rock of Ages [XBLA, 2011]

The game’s single player campaign has a little over 20 missions with a few boss battles included to spice things up. There is enough variety in course themes and design to keep things fresh throughout. I loved nearly all of the courses, and there was a good blend of challenging platform areas and fun levels designed to allow the boulders to maneuver at a fast pace.

Just as much focus was placed in the game’s multiplayer features, which is where the replay value really lies. This can be played online or via local split-screen, and it includes a unique mode that is perhaps most enjoyable of all: SkeeBoulder. As the name would suggest, it plays out like everyone’s favorite arcade game, Skeeball, with the addition of point multipliers as well. It’s fun and quick, and perfect for multiplayer action.

Rock of Ages [XBLA, 2011]

Rock of Ages is light-hearted in tone, and all the better because of it. In the single player campaign, cutscenes are whimsical in nature and often parody various historical and fantasy figureheads. Two of my favorites happen early on, in the form of nods to Lord of the Rings and Castlevania. This is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, frequently including random fart noises for the hell of it, but it somehow works for the game’s atmosphere.

This sense of humor translates into the game’s visuals as well. The paper cutouts of enemies and fellow soldiers are amusing, and each course’s time period is reflected in the scenery. The interpretation of such historical figures as Michelangelo’s David are something to behold. On the audio side, the game’s epic music selections and laugh-out-loud sound effects make for a gratifying hybrid.

Rock of Ages is a charming title with a lot going for it. There are some minor quibbles, such as loose defensive controls and surprisingly long load times (for an arcade title), but this is still a lot of fun rolled into a bargain $10 price tag. I can’t wait to see what developer ACE Team comes out with next.

7.5/10

Video Game Review: Bloodrayne: Betrayal [XBLA, 2011]

Bloodrayne: Betrayal [XBLA, 2011]

Bloodrayne: Betrayal
System: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3)
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: WayForward
Release Date: September 7, 2011

It’s been a while since I have both equally loved and hated a video game like I do with Bloodrayne: Betrayal. I haven’t played either of the series’ first two games (both on PS2/Xbox) or seen Uwe Boll’s critically-despised movie adaptations, but this is not important since Betrayal represents a ‘reboot’ of sorts for the titular character.

First and foremost, Bloodrayne: Betrayal is a 2D side-scrolling beat ’em up with platforming elements, and its gameplay harkens back to gaming classics such as the early Castlevania titles. I also noticed similarities to the Contra series, both of which are personal favorites of mine. I am a sucker for old school throwbacks, and Betrayal almost feels like a modernized remake of a long lost title from that era, right down to its extreme difficulty.

Seriously, this is one of the most punishing games I have played in a while. There are some downright brutal spots in the game that made me want to smash my controller, a feeling that I have not had in ages. The beat ’em up gameplay is not so bad once you get the hang of it, but there are some insanely tricky platforming sections that cause a significant amount grief. Two chapters in particular are especially difficult due to having to time Rayne’s jumps perfectly while dodging enemies and buzzsaws at the same time. Chapter 13 alone is the stuff of nightmares. Needless to say, this game isn’t for the faint of heart.

I felt pretty damn proud of myself to complete some of the more challenging levels, but when I was finished the game gave me an “F” rating every time, calling me “worm food” in the process. Talk about demoralizing. Yet like a good little gamer, I kept coming back for more, and continued to get better as I went along. Finding hidden skulls in each level can provide increases in health and weapon supplies, and this helps out a little bit. I also noticed a significant improvement in my performance while revisiting earlier levels, which was certainly a good feeling.

The game has fifteen chapters in all, and it rewards playing through them multiple times in order to find the aforementioned skulls and to obtain a higher score, just like the good ol’ days. There are a decent variety of enemies, some simple and others disgusting, and Rayne has access to a good amount of combat moves/tricks.

Even if you can tolerate the game’s harder-than-usual difficulty like myself, Betrayal is not without flaws. For one, the in-game tutorials are not helpful at all. In one of the early chapters, I got stuck at a part where I had to jump on the heads of enemy flies in order to reach a higher point. Well, the tutorial never popped up for me so I had no clue how to actually land on them without falling back down. After some trial and error, I found a helpful moves list in the menu, but it would have been nice to see this pop up like it was supposed to.

Another issue I had was with the sometimes spotty controls. This was most noticeable while going through some of the platforming areas since they require extreme precision to complete. I cannot count how many times I died just because Rayne’s animation pushed her over a little farther than anticipated. Thankfully checkpoints are common, as every little bit helps here. Also, there were moments where it seemed the game was more difficult than it needed to be simply because Rayne’s animations would take too long and allow enemies to get in some cheap hits while she was down. If you are quick enough, you can find a way around this, but it takes some time to get the hang of it.

Bloodrayne: Betrayal [XBLA, 2011]

Still, even though Rayne’s animations can sometimes take a little long to complete, it must be said that the game is absolutely gorgeous. The visuals are done in a style similar to anime, and they are a definite highlight of the game. Animations are fluid, and combat can get obscenely violent at times; this makes for some joyous eye candy on screen. Blood flies out of enemies (and Rayne herself, if you are not careful), and occasionally spurts out Kill Bill-style. It’s a blast to look at, and it helps that the game is backed by an incredible soundtrack that sounds a hell of a lot like what was used in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s a good fit for this title, and aesthetically the game is hard to top.

How much you will like Bloodrayne: Betrayal comes down to how difficult you like your games. If you grew up on the Castlevania and Contra games of yore, you will feel right at home here. If you are instantly turned off to a game if you struggle to get through a level, then this likely isn’t for you. With some tweaks here and there, Bloodrayne: Betrayal could have been a more consistently great adventure, but it still worth looking into if you’re up for a good challenge.

7/10

Video Game Review: The Baconing [XBLA, 2011]

The Baconing [XBLA, 2011]

The Baconing
System: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3, PC and Mac)
Publisher: Valcon Games
Developer: Hothead Games
Release Date: August 31, 2011

Mmm… bacon.

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: Forest of Tomorrow

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.

The Baconing [XBLA, 2011]

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.

8/10