Blood, Sweat and Bacon - A review of Deathspank

image

Deathspank

You play as the titular hero 'Deathspank' - self proclaimed dispenser of justice and hero to the downtrodden on an epic quest to claim a powerful artefact and beat a despotic tyrant. If this sounds familiar then that's because it's supposed to be. From Ron Gilbert - responsible for the first two Monkey Island adventure games - Deathspank is a hilarious parody of the fantasy role playing genre with quirky visuals and great characters that's thick with personality and charm.

The nameless world you reside in is a museum of exaggerated fantasy cliche's and conventions. There's such attractions as the central town of Pluckmuckel, the fiery demon mines, the candy-flossed enchanted forest and the eerie haunted woods. It's a theme park built explicitly for you, with all sorts of absurd creatures and monsters tohack and slash to death with a myriad of potions and power-ups providing the 'RPG' in the games Hack-and-slash RPG credentials.

The combat is basic yet functional. Deathspank is able to wield four weapons at a time and the game stocks you with a large variety of ice hammers, fire axes, ranged weapons and other implements which are certain to keep the RPG enthusiast at least reasonably satiated. Many of these weapons have special moves such as spinning blade attacks, powerful hammer strikes, and vicious power-punches. You can execute these once your justice meter has been filled by either building a successful combo with consecutive different weapon strikes, or by negating all enemy damage with a well timed shield block. The combat can get a bit repetitive when your endlessly swinging through the many hordes the game will throw at you, but it never becomes boring enough for you to resent it. It's simple, but there are enough extra attack options available to tide you over to the games end without becomming bored.

image

While Deathspank's combat isn't particularly deep, innovative, or challenging, you'll still have a decent amount of fun with it.

Despite its constant send-up of the genre, Deathspank is actually a nicely involved RPG. Levelling up is as simple as choosing a hero card to increase melee damage, running speed, shield time or loot drops and you'll soon find your inventory full of stat-boosting potions, health-giving snack foods, and sets of armour. You'll want to be often checking your inventory to grind excess items into money with your handy item grinder, because item drops are generous, meaning the game never rises in challenge past its simple hack and slash roots. Yet despite the relative ease, the game is one of the meatier titles available on the Xbox Live Arcade clocking in at about ten hours a play through.

The bulk of your time with Deathspank will involve the games vast amount of side quests. Most of these amount to nothing more than a five minute item fetch or collection, but each one puts Deathspanks strengths at the forefront of the game - the exploration of the quirky world, and Deathspanks fantastic dialogue. You'll certainly feel compelled to go through each speech option because there's so many great one-liners in the game that not exploring each dialogue tree fully would feel like a missed oppurtunity. While the main quest will take multiple hours to complete, the 60 plus side-quests are what really gives the game its abundance of character and charm.

Speaking of charm, the games visuals are drenched in it. The graphics aren't particularly powerful but they are attractive. Objects and backgrounds are all rendered in thick, vibrant 2D with the character models rendered fully in the third dimension. It's not powerful, it's not particularly stylish, but the vibrant visuals mirror the overall tone of the game. The sound is likewise quirky and original. There's none of the rousing orchestral backing you'd expect in a fantasy game. Instead the music is sparse guitar, bass and drums which picks up its tempo in the presence of enemies. There's little audio variety though, meaning after only half an hour's play you'll have heard it all already. Given the striking aesthetic differences between many of the games areas, it's a shame we couldn't have had a larger offering of music to greater characterise the different geographical locations.

image

Unicorns, rabid leprechauns and gingerbread men - Deathspanks variety is commendable!

So in true fantasy tradition you've got a large palette of different areas to explore, troves of weapons to equip and stat bolstering items to use, but this seems merely a framing for the personality and humour that's evident in every aspect of the game. Deathspank himself is a charismatic hero who lives and breathes to help the downtrodden - seemingly only to bolster his own ego, but he's a loveable character none the less. Sometimes oblivious, sometimes witty, always funny, it's his dialogue which makes the game, and most the NPCs and quest givers seems like mere walls for Deathspank to bounce his lines off. The item descriptions are witty, revelling in tired fantasy game conventions and the monsters are often absurd but endearing. The game switches seamlessly from childish, humorous banter, to sharp satire, to self-aware humour. I haven't experienced such a legitimately fun and good humoured game for years.

Bottom Line: Deathspank is one of the best value titles your likely to find for the Xbox Live Arcade. While its combat, RPG elements or difficulty aren't as deep as most RPGs fans will demand, it's the charm, the personality and the sheer abundance of the quirky humour that make this title very definitely worth picking up.

Good review, it was easy to read and straight to the point.

Two things though:
-A minor typo, "on-liners" in the fifth paragraph
-And there's no mention of the split screen co-op, which isn't all that robust, but is still worth a mention.

I agree though, Deathspank is tons of fun for a very small cost.

Thanks for the heads up. No matter how many times I read over it, crap like that still gets through...

I haven't had a chance to play the co-operative yet, not having another person or controller around, although true I should have given it a mention. Completely skipped my mind to be honest.

I played the demo and hated it... bash bash bash button mash, the dialogue was full of pathetically bad jokes and the protagonist's voice actor was awful.

It sounded like he was trying to do a bad impression of Zap Brannigan from Futurama.

It all felt like they tried to make a Tim Schafer game and couldn't capture any of his spirit or charm.

I once played a much better fantasy parody game and I think OP you might enjoy it:

image

I'll agree that Deathspanks sounds like Zap Brannigan, but I enjoyed all the comedy in the game, and so too did Tim Schafer apparantly.

tlozoot:
I'll agree that Deathspanks sounds like Zap Brannigan, but I enjoyed all the comedy in the game, and so too did Tim Schafer apparantly.

Good good, I would imagine Schafer was quite flattered by the comedy in the game. It just didn't appeal to me.

Your writing was good by the way, my nasty comments are directed only at the game :)

tlozoot:
From the central town of Pluckmuckel, the fiery demon mines, the candy-flossed enchanted forest and the eerie haunted woods.

In an otherwise fairly well written review, the second sentence of your second paragraph sticks out like a sore thumb, because it's not a sentence at all. It becomes a sentence proper if we remove the period and paste the beginning of the subsequent sentence onto the end, but then you have a run-on sentence which would also need some revising. Either way, you should really fix that.

Gildan Bladeborn:

tlozoot:
From the central town of Pluckmuckel, the fiery demon mines, the candy-flossed enchanted forest and the eerie haunted woods.

In an otherwise fairly well written review, the second sentence of your second paragraph sticks out like a sore thumb, because it's not a sentence at all. It becomes a sentence proper if we remove the period and paste the beginning of the subsequent sentence onto the end, but then you have a run-on sentence which would also need some revising. Either way, you should really fix that.

Thanks for the heads up. In retrospect is was a bit of a crap sentence.

A good article On Deathspank and comedy in video games which I believe is relevent here. The guy is also far more articulate than I at describing some aspects of the game.

tlozoot:
A good article On Deathspank and comedy in video games which I believe is relevent here. The guy is also far more articulate than I at describing some aspects of the game.

Following your link... I got an article on decriminalization of cannabis. Either they changed something or that wasn't the link you meant to post, heh.

Gildan Bladeborn:

tlozoot:
A good article On Deathspank and comedy in video games which I believe is relevent here. The guy is also far more articulate than I at describing some aspects of the game.

Following your link... I got an article on decriminalization of cannabis. Either they changed something or that wasn't the link you meant to post, heh.

Heh, sorry about that. Updated.

 

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked