Often, it’s a good thing if someone is able to laugh at themselves – showing that you don’t take yourself too seriously and are comfortable in your own skin. Even if who you are is a very silly, quirky individual who overflows with false machismo. Which would be a fairly accurate description of the DeathSpank series, an adventure game trilogy featuring an overly muscled hero stereotype travelling the lands in search of artifacts of power (because he’s a hero and that’s what they do) while tossing out goofy quips that constantly poke fun at the character.
Now that the third game in the series, known simply as The Baconing, has recently been released. Does it hold up to its predecessors or has the quirky formula finally run out?
In The Baconing, players take control of the titular DeathSpank, who is lounging about his place, utterly bored after the events of the previous game, Thongs of Virtue. Suddenly, SpankTopia is attacked by creatures known as the Cyborques, and naturally, being the hero that he is, DeathSpank springs into action. He soon learns that, because he wore all six of the aforementioned Thongs of Virtue at once, he wound up creating an evil version of himself, known as the AntiSpank, who seeks to wipe out all of SpankTopia. In order to prevent this from happening, DeathSpank must travel across the world and find the Fires of Bacon, and use them to destroy the Thongs. Only then can he track down AntiSpank and defeat him once and for all.
Here are a few gameplay basics: gamers move on a 3D isometric plane, though the overall level design is fairly linear – and can move freely from area to area without any sort of cutaways or loading screen – though there’s little reason to backtrack outside of hunting down treasure chests (as enemies don’t respawn). The left analog stick move DeathSpank and players assign weapons as well as items to the face buttons and directional pad respectively. Pressing a specific button will swing the associated weapon or use the item. Defeated enemies offer up experience points and the occasional drop, such as armor or new weapons.
In terms of writing, The Baconing has a very tongue-in-cheek mood throughout. The characters all seem to be taking the surrounding events very seriously, but the same can’t be said for the player – considering the sheer absurdity of it all. DeathSpank himself is so blatant in his efforts to come off as a macho conquering hero that you can’t help but be drawn to him. Even if he is a bit of a jerk at times. If you’re looking for subtle, complex characters, then you definitely won’t find them here. The villains are blatantly evil, the weirdos are blatantly weird, and the orphans are blatantly sympathetic. The dialogue in general is just silly and goofy, and is very similar to various point-and-click adventure games, much like Sam and Max.
The setting itself is quite interesting. Whereas the original DeathSpank was purely medieval as well as high fantasy, and Thongs of Virtue was more tech-heavy and sci-fi, The Baconing is a blend of the two. You’ll travel through both industrial areas and deserted wastelands, giving the game both a steampunkish vibe as well as bringing to mind post-apocalyptic movies such as Mad Max.
The difficulty curve is fairly steep, however. What with needing to level up and get new equipment and such, walking into areas unprepared can easily spell disaster. This can be especially true if you’re unfamiliar with the style of gameplay, and just assume you can blindly run into an area, hacking and slashing all the way. It took me a good number of tries to make it past the first boss, and that was on the lowest difficulty setting. Though that may be more indicative of my gaming skills (or lack thereof) than anything else.
In short, The Baconing is a fairly fun, challenging, and mildly amusing little adventure. If you’re a fan of the DeathSpank series, pick this one up. If you’re a fan of Diablo-esque games, or point-and-click style dialogue, you could do worse. That said, if you’re new to the series, then you might want to pick up the original DeathSpank first before you decide, as you may not like jumping in at the middle of the story.
The Baconing is out now for Xbox Live Arcade and PSN.