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Score:3.5 / 10
There's an old saying, "Dying is easy.
Comedy is hard". If that were true, then making a comedic game must be
some kind of specially-reserved area in Hell.
Games with a sense of humor tend to fall into the niche category; once
in a while there will be a breakout hit like Portal, but oftentimes
there are games like Psychonauts that are criminally overlooked.
Then there's Deathspank, a series that somehow moves on to its third
entry despite failing to receive neither the critical nor cult acclaim
as those other games. With Hothead Games releasing The Baconing is third
time the charm for this comedic
The Baconing opens up with the (formally) titular Deathspank living in
boredom after having vanquished all of his enemies from the previous
titles. On a whim, the dim-witted do-gooder decides to try on all six
magical Thongs of Virtue, only to cause a sort of cosmic unbalance that
results in the creation of
an "Anti Spank" as well as a new army of
enemies to rampage across the lands. With new friends and foes awaiting
him on every turn, Deathspank sets forth determine to administer justice
across the land (or at least "justice" according to Deathspank) while
also using the mythical Bacon fires to destroy the cursed thongs once
and for all.
If terms like "Thongs of Virtue" and "Magic Bacon Fires" don't steer any
kind of reaction out of you, then it's a safe bet that this game won't
tickle your proverbial funny bone. As a boisterous, big-chinned hero who
clumsily resolves every dire situation (usually making them more dire in
the process), Deathspank resembles the love child of Bruce Campbell and
The Tick, but lacks the charm or cultural relevance of either; the
obnoxious hero trope has been played out at this point, along with the
majority of the jokes found in The Baconing. There are several jabs at
common RPG conventions, from commentary on fetch quests to item
descriptions, but anyone with Internet access has already heard it all
by now. It seems the majority of the intended laughs are meant to come
from the vocal delivery of Deathspank and the other voiced roles, but
the repetitive and ultimately safe tones of each character harkens
closer to a Disney television series rather than an edgy satire meant to
cater to hardcore gamers.
With the comedic aspect lacking, it falls upon The Baconing's gameplay
to pick up the slack. Played on an angled top-down view, players control
Deathspank across multiple settings while fending off an endless barrage
of enemies, from aliens to chickens, machines and ghosts, and everything
in-between. As is typical of the genre, loot and equipment play an
important role in survival, with the chin-tactic hero able to wield four
weapons at once (each corresponding to a face button) as well as four
items mapped to the D-pad. There are also several contextual items used
to open treasure chests, manipulate control panels, take candid photos
for mayoral candidates, and whatever other wacky objective the game's
many quests demand of you.
It's a familiar-yet-functional gameplay
system that would be worth investing in were it not for one major facet:
the game is incredibly difficult. Even on the easiest setting, The
Baconing feels like a lit fire underneath the proverbial fanny, as
hordes of enemies pelt you with both melee and ranged weaponry from all
sides, quickly draining your health down to zero in a matter of seconds.
The ultimate (if not the only) key to survival is to bring up your
shield, which can block attacks from any direction for a limited time
that is represented by a visual bubble that rapidly deflates (think of
the blocking mechanic in Smash Bros). The real advantage is letting go
of the shield button at the right time to initiate a parry that
momentarily stuns enemies, along for a brief period to finish them off
or quickly heal yourself.
Even with this mechanic in place, the game is incredibly difficult to
the point that you'll have no choice but to keep on blocking and
countering every enemy wave, making things instantly repetitive and
ultimately dull. While the game does instantly respawn players at the
nearest outhouse (used as a checkpoint, naturally), it also respawns
nearby enemies at full heath (while players only get a partial amount of
their own health back, just to add insult to injury).
In truth, much of Deathspank's difficulty comes from its visual
perspective; the player and enemies are zoomed in too far away, making
it virtually impossible to tell when an enemy is about to attack, while
the visual clutter from environments and objects only add to the
confusion. Even zoomed in, the angular perspective only adds to what
would otherwise be basic attack patterns. Even the item menu, which
keeps track of every consumable, weapon, armor and quest item all under
one box, features smaller text and icons than normal, even when played
on an HD screen. Mercifully, the game also has an option to
automatically equip Deathspank with the best available gear upon
acquiring it, though it’s too bad the game doesn't have the same kind of
optimization for weapons; it especially doesn't help that certain
weapons do little or no effect to different enemy types, which again
makes the obscuring perspectives even more infuriating.
The Baconing isn't completely devoid of enjoyment; occasionally you may
stumble upon a fun weapon or two, such as poison arrows or a
flamethrower, and the experience system allows you to choose what kind
of bonuses to receive with each Level Up (such as faster speed, more
health, etc). But without the laughs to back up the mediocre gameplay,
not to mention the ludicrous difficulty, it might be time to bring out
the oversized shepherd’s hook and pull Deathspank off the stage.