The Baconing Review
Developer: Hothead games / Publisher: Valcon Games / Played On: Xbox Live Arcade / Price: 1200 MSP ($15) / ESRB: Teen (Blood, Crude Humor, Mild Language, Tobacco Reference, Cartoon Violence, Mild Sexual Themes)
DeathSpank returns and he’s bringing with him a mountain of weapons, a handful of orphans, and more of the same gameplay from the first two games. The Baconing is the third title in the DeathSpank series and offers up the same blend of action mixed with tongue-in-cheek humor. Leave it to DeathSpank to test the adage “the third time’s the charm.”
DeathSpank is bored. He stopped Lord Von Prong, he gathered the Thongs of Virtue, and has brought justice to the people and orphans of the world. Until he wore all six of the Thongs of Virtue at once and created an evil abomination of himself known as the AntiSpank. With no other hero in sight, DeathSpank must venture once again to bring peace to the world and stop another great evil by destroying the Thongs of Virtue in super powerful Bacon Fire. As far as story goes, The Baconing follows the precedent set by the other DeathSpank games, namely relying on satirical story stereotypes. An amusing cast of NPCs, ranging from a corrupt mayor, a nuclear-powered nuclear family, and even the mighty gods Zeus and Thor do a good job making an otherwise average story more memorable. The story is not a driving factor in The Baconing, with the oddball jokes and pokes at pop culture taking center stage.
The Baconing plays identically to its predecessor Thongs of Virtue. DeathSpank is a versatile hero, capable of using a variety of weapons including crossbows, swords, power drills, and even orphan-launching cannons. Up to four weapons can be equipped at once. Varying attacks between the four equipped weapons builds a combo meter which grants extra damage the higher it gets, rewarding use of multiple weapons. Defeating enemies and completing quests gives DeathSpank money as well as new, ridiculous items, weapons, and armor (like the very rare golf caddy uniform). Unfortunately there haven’t been any new additions to the gameplay at all. Killing enemies and finishing quests is just the same as it was nearly one year ago. Spikes in difficulty mar the experience as well. Even the easiest difficulty proves to be challenging with ranged foes that deal out a ton of damage.
Outside of combat, things still feel a bit overused. Most quests revolve around killing X things, or collecting Y items, and these bland quests get stale quick. A few missions tread new water and incorporate clever puzzle elements, such as a Simon-esque color matching puzzle, and a tricky bridge lowering puzzle. These moments are few and far between however, and it’s hard to look at The Baconing and not feel a sense of déjà vu. A second player can take control of DeathSpank’s sidekick to help out the hero of the downtrodden, but a lack of online multiplayer is a disappointment. The Baconing isn’t a bad game by any means, but there is nothing new here to differentiate this game from the previous titles.
The graphical style of The Baconing also follows in the footsteps of the rest of the DeathSpank series, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Vibrant colors accompany a distinct, almost comic book art style. DeathSpank travels to an array of locations, including the clone infested Forest of Tomorrow, a casino, and even the Valhalla Heights retirement community for the Gods. Each location is very distinctive from the last, and I found myself wanting to keep playing just to see what the next setting would be. The Baconing looks great and the graphics are a highlight for the title.
The sound in The Baconing ranges from good to, well, good. Simple melodies play during battle and within towns. More déjà vu here because some of these tunes are recycled from the previous games. Sound effects on the other hand sound great. The chimes and ringing in the casino and the screams and squelches of fallen foes add to the atmosphere. Voice acting is also done well, with DeathSpank himself sticking out as a memorable character yet again, with a mixture of witty and airheaded remarks, adding to the silliness of the game. Overall The Baconing’s sound is much like the rest of the game: It will all be too familiar with anyone who has played the previous DeathSpank games.
The Baconing is a good game that doesn’t take many risks. Virtually no changes have been made between this game and the last in the series. While not wholly bad, unfortunate omissions like online play and a revamped combat system will leave fans of the series (and of action RPGs in general), wanting more. DeathSpank has a penchant for the epic, but so far his games have been average.
7 / 10