Video Game Review: THE BACONING Is A Crispy Continuation Of DEATHSPANK
The third Deathspank game has dropped the character’s name from the title entirely but don’t let that fool you- this is more of the same. Those who enjoyed the last two installments of Ron “Monkey Island” Gilbert’s wacky hero to the downtrodden will certainly find a lot to like here, even though Gilbert actually left Hothead Games (to team up with his old buddy Tim Schafer over at Doublefine) right before development and had nothing to do with this release.
But hey, when something works, it works, and the spirit of the character still shines. Deathspank is a button mashing action RPG where our titular hero goes around trying to save the world but mostly just really fucks up people’s lives. The quests from the first games were massively entertaining and irreverent, involving such varied tasks as finding lost orphans and stuffing them in a bag in your inventory, collecting unicorn poop, and of course killing hundreds of creatures and “Orques”. DeathSpank’s big boastful voice and stupid demeanor really made you want to try and talk to everyone in the world merely to hear the hysterical dialogue. Genuinely funny games are still a rarity but those former Lucasarts guys know their stuff better than most everyone.
The Baconing picks up right after Deathspank: Thongs of Virtue. At the end of that game DeathSpank succeeded in finding the six mythical Thongs of Virtue and now he stupidly tries wearing them all at once, which spawns an evil version of himself called the Anti-Spank. DeathSpank is tasked with traveling to giant bacon fires to destroy the thongs one by one, and then finally face his evil doppelganger. Along the way you’ll fight through tons of brightly colored and imaginative environments, such as The Forest of Tomorrow, a horrifying Disneyland-esque theme park with an edible mutant figurehead. There’s also a retirement home for Gods called Valhalla Heights where you’ll find that Thor loves to play golf and Ganesha sits around eating peanuts, and that’s not even mentioning the Leprechaun-mob run Casino and a quick trip to “Hel”.
The game plays mostly the same. You’ve still got a wide array of weapons to map to the face buttons and d-pad on your controller, all sorts of swords and crossbows and grenades. You are encouraged to combine them in combat frequently, and there’s a new shield bash move that you can use to stun opponents by holding the block button and letting go. Better than that, if you charge it up and release it at just the right time, you can knock back projectiles back at enemies. Some enemies are immunte to any other kind of attack, so you’ll have to work on your timing.
The world is more dangerous this time. It’s become littered with barrels, magic, poison and ice on top of the old exploding ones. They actually end up being pretty handy when facing multiple opponents (as you usually will) but if you blow one up too close you can easily have you flushing your way to the nearest outhouse (checkpoint). You might find yourself doing that pretty frequently this game because the enemies can be increadibly tough. Well, tough is the wrong word- they all go down pretty easily- but you can find a lot of cheap one-hit kills along the game.
One thing that hasn’t been changed is the clunky inventory system, which is just as bad as always. Also, they should have figured out a better way of allowing you to get at your weapons, because the d-pad is the worst place for items. All kinds of thumb gymnastics will be required of you since it’s a really fast-paced game and you won’t be able to move your left thumb without getting hit by something.
The game feels much more action-oriented than the last one and even more linear. It’s not something fans of the character will want to hear but the quests this time are simple as can be, and seem to mostly be “kill x number of creature” or plain fetch quests, rather than anything that uses your brain. Fortunately the game is still very funny and has a lot of great jokes, many involving those future criminals known as orphans. Perhaps my favorite quest involves DeathSpank helping a giant sentient barnacle infect the drinking water of a town’s wells, talking to the hive mind of each barnacle-infected villager with no idea of what is going on. This despite the barnacles expressly stating their plans for domination over humankind. (Sequel idea?)
So there’s still a lot of fun and laughs to be found here, but it’s simpler and stupider. Anyone who’s never experienced the series before would be better off with two of the first entries, but either way you’ll get five or six hours of enjoyment out of this one, more if you bring a friend along for some co-op. They’re really going to have to consider changing up the format if they want us to keep playing, however, because the format threatens to get a little stale.
The Baconing is available for download on XBLA, PSN and PC/Mac for $15.