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Platform

Xbox 360 (XBLA)

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Valcon Games

 

Developer

Hothead Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

August 31, 2011

 

 

- Lots of loot, sometimes good
- Lots of jokes, sometimes funny

 

 

- Lots of enemies, always frustrating
- Lots of hokey angles, never amusing

 

 

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The Baconing

Score: 3.5 / 10

 

the baconing          the baconing

 

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

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stab at RPG conventions?

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

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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.

 

the baconing          the baconing

 

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.

 

- Jorge Fernandez

(September 26, 2011)

 

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