The original DeathSpank was notable for its Diablo-style gameplay and the involvement of Ron Gilbert, one of the gaming industry’s most well-loved funnymen. The sequel was notable for its exceptionally quick turnaround time and for also being a pretty solid game in its own right. For the threequel, the series has abandoned the DeathSpank name, as well as the involvement of Ron Gilbert. Fortunately for fans, though, things have worked out just fine. The new game offers the same solid hack-slash-loot gameplay they’ve come to expect from this series, and while some of the jokes fall a bit flat, there are still plenty of genuinely funny scenarios to participate in.
As the curtain rises, we find our hero having defeated the villainous Lord Von Prong and gathered the Thongs of Virtue. Unfortunately, the aftermath of all that excitement ends up being rather boring, so DeathSpank decides to break the monotony and put on all six of the Thongs at once. This actually ends up being a bad idea, as doing so turns out to have been a recipe for creating an evil clone called the AntiSpank. In order to weaken his evil powers enough to defeat him, DeathSpank must travel to the legendary Bacon Fires and utilize their porcine flames to destroy each of the Thongs of Virtue. The plot is nothing more than a scant vehicle for marching the hero through a large group of varied and truly bizarre settings and situations, and in that regard it works.
The real draw here, as fans are sure to know, is the writing, and I’m very pleased to say that even without Ron Gilbert’s involvement, it doesn’t disappoint. I found myself chuckling quite often at the dialogue, areas, item descriptions, and enemy names (most notable: destroying a being of considerable evil to have it split into smaller evils named DLC, Golf, Mondays, and more). There’s even an Indiana Jones reference or two thrown in for good measure. If you’re in it for laughs, you definitely can’t go wrong here.
Where the game doesn’t fare quite as well is in its hack-and-slash trappings. There’s nothing wrong with them, and you can expect to enjoy chopping up tons of foes with a nice number of weapons and special items. The problem is that it all feels too familiar. It’s been a while since I’ve played the previous DeathSpank games, but by and large this is an identical experience to its predecessors. It isn’t really a huge problem, since both the concept and the execution of “enter room, stab all enemies, gather increasingly powerful stuff” are intact and quite sound, but if you were looking for some new things, The Baconing may disappoint.
The graphics are colorful and feature the same rolling horizon effect as the previous games. The game runs buttery-smooth, and not once during my eight hours of play did I encounter any slowdown. There’s also a great deal of visually pleasing art for all the weapons, armor, and items in the game, and you’ll always be able to tell when you’ve found something new. Armor ranges from your garden-variety helmets, chests, and gloves to Elvis outfits, mafia suits, third heads, golf shirts, and a number of other completely ridiculous options.
The settings are varied to a ridiculous degree, and each offers increasingly insane quest goals and dialogue. Not much of it makes any sense, and the game delights in that. Sure, you’ll help an orphan and a few other nice people out, but before the game’s end you’ll have helped a mob boss, spread mind-controlling barnacles all over a series of peaceful islands, restored the memory on a 1970s computer system, and helped a seedy real estate salesman evict a number of gods from their retirement homes. Not much of The Baconing makes any sense from a logical standpoint, but it likes it that way, and you will too.
Aurally, the game is competent. The music is inoffensive and certainly fits in with the previous games, but it’s nothing to write home about. The sound effects, on the other hand, are top notch. There’s a great variety of both serious and goofy sound effects for the many different objects in the game. Similarly high in quality is the voice acting – particularly from DeathSpank, whose endless supply of enthusiasm and snarky wit consistently amuse.
So does this game shake up the DeathSpank series? No. But it shows that Ron Gilbert wasn’t the only funny person involved, and certainly serves as an argument that some fun can absolutely still be had with this character. The gameplay hasn’t really changed, but it’s more than serviceable and will keep you entertained as you make your way from punchline to punchline. If you’re in the market for some cheap laughs, this game is an easy recommendation.