September 17, 2011
The story picks up right where the last game left off, and though the developers have commented on how this title hopes to be as friendly as it can to new players, there's something most definitely missing from the very beginning. Bored from being simply too amazing a hero, Deathspank laments on how fantastic his accomplishments have been up until this point. That is, until being interrupted by an invading force who players soon find is his doppelganger, which was created by wearing every single one of the Thongs of Virtue.
Deathspank's inventory is filled with quest items from the last game, even if this is the first time playing the series, and characters that you encounter will be referenced as returning noteworthy individuals from the last game. Thankfully Hothead Games has made it so that newcomers can appreciate the world they've put together, and the jokes are still funny. But even still, you'd expect a stand alone title to be a little more forgiving to its audience.
This same feeling bleeds over into much of the game. Anyone familiar with the prior titles will be able to simply jump right into the action, but new players may find themselves doing a lot of guessing when it comes to learning all of the buttons. Attacks are assigned to each of the action buttons while items can be used by assigning each one to a direction on the d-pad. Movement is naturally taken over by the left stick, while the right analog controls the zoom of the camera. Most of the gameplay orients around switching between multiple weapons and every weapon generally comes with its own bonus stats. Ranged attacks work the same way, and players will have to change between weapons frequently in order to handle opponents that have various weaknesses.
The Baconing makes this fairly simple as up to four weapons can be used on the fly with almost no delay. Blocking and knockbacks will give the player room to breathe against the large groups of foes, and should anyone find they're trying to attack a specific kind of enemy with the wrong sort of weapon, they can simply push pause and adjust weapons on the fly. It keeps what could potentially be an equipment nightmare fairly simple, which means that while trying to get a handle on the various mechanics will take a few moments once they've been properly figured out coming to grips with the gameplay becomes easy enough.
Killing enemies and completing quests grants experience, which unlocks Hero Cards that players can select and equip for new bonuses that Deathspank can immediately benefit from. Other goods in the game naturally have level requirements as well, which means that as players continue to lay down a spanking on evil around the world they'll gain access to better equipment and weaponry. Unfortunately the entertainment revolving around levelling ends there, as killing enemies can be one of the more boring experiences in the game due to the simplicity of the combat. What fuels The Baconing isn't necessarily the action in game, but the humour.
It's strange to consider that The Baconing's plot is the driving force behind the enjoyment of the game, because unlike most titles the plot isn't particular to the series or emotional. It is however, incredibly memorable and enjoyable from start to finish. There's no character in-game that goes by without something hilarious happening to them, around them, or with them, and the voice acting contributes to the enjoyment by being spot on in just about every aspect. Puns aside, most of the character interactions are smartly written and stay away from many of the cheesy caricatures that come forth in most humour-oriented games.
Unfortunately, with pacing left to the character, the main guiding point from quest to quest would be the combat, and often times having the next big joke as the primary form of motivation in game can be a bit of a downer.
Naturally co-op in game alleviates some of this, particularly when playing on a higher difficulty. Players helping Deathspank can choose between a few different characters depending on your style (and sense of humour), and upgrading sidekicks is done using Hero Cards in the same way that Deathspank himself gets upgrades. It doesn't really change any core problems with The Baconing's formula, but at the end of the day having co-op makes just about any experience far more tolerable. It's certainly not a fix, but it's a band-aid that certainly doesn't hurt (unless you have no friends).
Alongside the script for The Baconing would be the visuals, which create an extremely stylized romp around a very unique world.
The game's art design can be a little difficult to appreciate in the face of so many enemies, but once the dust has settled wandering around the scenery and taking in the world design and its many well placed bits of humour can be an unexpected treat. Outside of the voice acting there's not too much to say about the soundtrack or sound effects except that they're there and they work. At the very least nothing became too agitating to listen to for a long period of time.
So in the end there's not too much to say about The Baconing that would convince veterans of the series to invest their time into it if they haven't already. On one hand the multiplayer will certainly entertain for a while where the single player may disappoint, and absolutely any fan of the humour will not find themselves disappointed. On the other hand, the overall depth to the game is extremely disappointing, and though there was clearly a lot of time and love spent on the writing in game it's hard not to wish that the same love was put into throwing a bit more depth into Deathspank's combat.
The Baconing is an experience that's still quite solid, it's just missing that extra push that will take it from being 'decent' into 'good' or 'great'. At the very least this game can be recommended to any gamer who needs a decent laugh and who doesn't peg their humour as being too high-brow. The Baconing delivers in spades on that front.
The Baconing was reviewed on the Xbox Live Arcade.