Reviews

The Baconing – Review

Release Date: Out Now!
Developer: Hothead Games
Publisher:
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: Yes
Multiplayer: No
Price: 1200MSP

(Thank you to the publishers for providing a promotional code for The Baconing for review)

Deathspank, hero to the downtrodden and well-meaning idiot, has returned for another round of hacking, slashing and looting in his third game in just eighteen months. Somewhere along the line, though, the hero has had a rather selfless moment and removed his name for the games title, leaving only the delicious sounding The Baconing in its place, but make no mistake; this is a Deathspank game in everything but name.

The game opens up with Deathspank seated on a throne and looking more bored than me at a convention titled “The History Of Plumbing With A Bonus Talk On How To Correctly Watch Paint Dry”. He’s successfully stabbed every enemy with a spiky thing, completed every quest and looted everything that moved. He now sits as ruler of Spanktopia. So, to relieve his boredom he decides to put on all of his Thongs of Virtue at once. It transpires that wearing the Thongs at  once isn’t a great plan, as it creates a giant Antispank who flattens Spanktopia, a city that deserves a real city to be named after it. To save the, Deathspank must venture forth and destroy the Thongs in the legendary Bacon Fires, thereby making Antispank vulnerable. In other words, it’s a damn fine excuse to have an adventure where many things will be killed and massive amounts of utterly pointless quests shall be completed.

At this point you can pretty much wave the story goodbye, as, like the previous games, story really isn’t the main focus here. As the saying goes, it’s the journey, not the destination.

Once you’re out into the world it’s business as usual; you’ve got a big world to explore, plenty of quests to tackle and oodles of loot to acquire. As you venture across the landscape you’ll encounter a variety of odd, barmy and sometimes confused characters who are determined to present you with masses of daft quests to complete.  One such standout being is the rather odd Mutoe, created by the Nuclear family he’s a combination of multiple tasty animals, and has a death wish.He also has a rather freaky resemblence to Mickey Mouse. Deathspanks interactions with these poor sods are as entertaining as ever, with his unique brand of quirky humour fully in place and his incredibly dramatic voice keeping everything in a suitably bonkers tone. The game also hasn’t lost the capacity to laugh at itself, the world of games  and everything else that it deems fun, with references to films, music, events and other such things. Despite the fact that’s it’s pretty similar to the previous two games I still found myself grinning and laughing throughout the game, though I have no doubt that The Baconing’s brand of Monkey Island-esque humour won’t appeal to all. But one thing is certain; I’ll never forget a conversation with a certain God regarding Thor’s Twitter account.

 Happily the range of quests these odd people will hand you have a decent amount of variety, though many of them will still come down to fetching things and killing things, but the occasional puzzle thrown in helps keep things fun and when you’ve got such quests as solving the murder of God of Orphans by questioning Zeus and Thor, or when you’re trying to help a housebound mum capable of exploding find the rest of her family, also capable of exploding, it’s hard to care that it eventually boils back down to killing something with a big stick or fetching some item on the other end of the map.

The range of environments that Deathspank encounters is also some of the best seen in the series, with standouts including a Nuclear Park and a retirement home for gods. It’s all displayed in the series signature graphical style, a peculiar blend of cartoon and weirdness that’s hard to describe. There’s not been any major graphical overhaul done on Deathspank and his world, but the landscape and details do seem to be a touch sharper than previously seen. Perhaps it’s simply my eyes playing tricks. Regardless, The Baconing is still a good-looking game.

Despite the fact that The Baconing has been touted by Hothead, the games developers, as a standalone game that will appeal to newcomers who are just in for a daft fantasy romp and veterans of the previous titles, the game opens up by throwing a bunch of Orks at your face without explaining how combat actually works. In a game that’s trying to get new players involved in its mad world, this is a bit of an odd choice. Don’t worry, though, a quick trip to options to investigate the controls should have you beating the crap out of those Orks in no time.

Now that I’ve subtly navigated you toward the topic of combat and getting your arse kicked, let’s go through the basics and what’s new to the game , since you’re going to be spending a considerable amount of your heroing career by stabbing things with point things, or hitting things with blunt things, or both. In his heart of hearts, Deathspank is a hack and slash kinda guy, and that’s reflected in the fact that you can equip any four weapons and any given time and map them to the four face buttons. After that, it’s just a case of finding an enemy and wading into combat, all weapons flailing. A touch of depth is added in the form of the damage multiplier, increased by hitting an enemy. Use the same weapon twice in a row, though, and the multiplier resets. In terms of simply hitting things, The Baconing has seem no real change over its predecessors.

So far, so samey, then, but there are a few tweaks to the combat model that have changed the flow of combat considerably. Deathspank now comes equipped with a handy shield bash that gets charged up while blocking. Unleashing it will shove enemies backwards, allowing you a bit of breathing space during those many, many moments when the game seems intent on drowning you in a sea of enemies. It’s a nice new addition to Deathspank’s arsenal and makes a defensive style more viable. However, your shield bash is not an optional feature, which can lead to quite a few frustrating moments when you charge into combat holding your shield up and the batter them all away when you release the button.

Further ensuring that ranged combat is now at the top of your list when getting into fights are the new charged ranged attacks. Simply equip any of the numerous ranged weapons that you can find lying around and hold down the attack button to charge it up before release the button and watching the carnage. These charged attacks are extremely deadly; too deadly, in fact, as I often found myself using a charged attack on almost every enemy to wipe him/her/it out. The level of the terrain now has more of an impact on your shots as well, so be careful or you might just blow yourself up while trying to fire over a small incline.

Justice attacks also make a welcome return to the game. These purple items can deliver deadly attacks when your Justice meter, filled by killing enemies, blocking attacks etc., is fully charged, and the results are usually pretty damn cool, such as Dragons raining firey hell down upon the enemy. As always picking which whether you want several justice attacks in your arsenal or just one (so that you can still attack normally without wasting the Justice attack) is vital.

Looting still plays a huge part in the game, and you’re not going to be wanting for potions, food, armour, weapons and more in The Baconing. Like much of the rest of the game little has changed in the pillaging industry; your inventory is still a little tricky to use at times, but serviceable, and the sheer amount of weapons you can pick up is impressive. However, like the previous two games, most of the weapons feel pretty samey, despite differences in stats. The same can’t be said for armour though; there’s plenty of choice in how you want Deathspank to look when he’s out there slaying foes, though if you want to stay ahead of the curve upgrading to the latest set is advisable. Players of the series other iterations will also note that finding a complete set of armour feels far easier this time around.

And in-between your looting and pillaging, there’s the games light RPG system to get into. Again, there’s relatively little changes in this feature; you level up and pick from one of three cards that boost certain stats, and that’s it. Players looking for a complex or deep levelling system should look elsewhere, but  levelling up is always a nice little surprise.

Co-op has actually seen a fair bit of tweaking with the addition of four playable characters to choose from, and each comes with some pretty nifty abilities to play with. However, you can still only enjoy these characters in local play only as The Baconing still hasn’t online co-op to the series. I happen to love local co-op gaming, but the lack of an online option does seem rather odd in this day and age, and would have been a major selling point for the game.

So, The Baconing is ultimately more of the same. There’s a couple of tweaks to the formula, but this is pretty much the first game and the second game in disguise with a new story and locations, and many of the same characters. It’s still funny, still entertaining to play and still looks good, but I also hope that I don’t see another Deathspank game for a little while as I’d hate to see the zany character get over-used and become a pain to have to play.

The Good:
+ Brilliant humour cracks jokes at just about everything.
+ Deathspank is just awesome.
+ Loot!

The Bad:
– It’s more of the same.
– The Baconing’s humour won’t appeal to all.
–  Still no online co-op!

Scores:

Graphics: 8
The Baconing’s world offers a wide variety of locations, from bleak ruins to bright and cheerful retirement homes, making it a fine-looking game.

Sound: 7.5
The music is recycled from the previous games, which is rather dissapointing, but the voice acting is still great, even if the over-the-top voices will get on some peoples nerves.

Story: 6
Deathspan isn’t big on story, but it’s still an amusing premise and the daft characters you meet on the way more than make up for narrative deffecencies.

Gameplay: 7.5
Little has changed, but it’s still a solid hack ‘n’ slash game with plenty of loot, a big world to explore, entertaining quests and a few neat, if simple, puzzles thrown in as well.

Lifespan: 8
Deathspanks latest adventure should give you around 6-8 hours of playtime if you choose to play the main quests only, but take on the multitude of side-quests and you’re looking at 10-12 hours.

Overall: 8
Summary: Whether or not to buy The Baconing depends on two simple questions; did you enjoy the first two games, and do you want more of the same? If you answered yes to both, then The Baconing is still damn good fun.

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