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If The Tick was a playable character in the next Diablo game, the result would be a lot like The Baconing. This is the third game in the Deathspank series, but Hothead Games and its titular hero is mighty, indeed! Only Deathspank, hero of the downtrodden, can bring the Thongs of Virtue to the enchanted Bacon fires that can destroy these mystical underpants, thus freeing his realm from a world-devouring evil created by his own hubris. I have to clarify that this is really the story of the game. The Deathspank series is a very self-aware parody of the action-RPG genre and the sense of humor shines in The Baconing.
Gamers who haven’t tried the first two games can jump into the series with The Baconing without having to worry about the backstory. Deathspank’s entire world is ridiculous, full of non-sequiturs, and easily summed up in the short intro. He accidentally doomed his world by wearing six pairs of enchanted panties at once, and now has to go out and hit bad guys with his mighty weapons.
And oh, what weapons Deathspank shall share with the player controlling him! This is an action-RPG, and there is loot a-plenty. Full suits of armor to play dress up with, some of them turning Deathspank into goofy characters like Elvis, or a Tron-inspired space guy. The weapons are similarly goofy, and every item in the inventory comes with a short, humorous description.
In fact, just about every line of text, or spoken dialogue is funny. Deathspank gets sent on all sorts of odd quests by a truly amusing group of NPCs. His world is part fantasy, part sci-fi, and full of genre spoofs. The designers are very aware of the tropes of action-RPGs, but Deathspank himself is oblivious. He just charges ahead through his adventure, supremely confident in his righteousness, and takes his silly world at face value. Go kill that thing? Whatever. It is MUST DIE!
Fans of the first two games should know that The Baconing puts more of a focus on action than its predecessors. Deathspank will fight off swarms of enemies and wade through foes on his way to incinerate the evil underpants. New to this game is a shield bash which functions by holding down the Block button until it charges up, then releasing to knock back melee foes, or reflect projectiles back at their casters.
There’s an elemental system in which certain weapons are more powerful against certain enemies, and even some enemies that are entirely impervious unless Deathspank whacks them with the right kind of weapon. This adds some strategy to the mix, but can also get the player killed a few times before getting Deathspank’s load-out right. Character-building is limited; with each level, there is a choice of “Hero Cards” to boost the character’s abilities, but this is very limited when compared to most other games in the same genre.
The combat is quite tough. Even when playing on the normal difficulty mode, Deathspank will fall many times. The designers obviously intended for players to bring down ranged attackers with the new shield deflect power, but it’s very hard to master and even experienced gamers will have trouble in combat situations involving a mixture of ranged and hand-to-hand fighters. This is actually most of the encounters, so the game grows frustrating.
Despite the game’s sense of humor, the combat can drain much of the enjoyment from the experience. Reaching the next zany NPC becomes the goal, with combat being the obstacle players must overcome to get some entertaining dialogue. The game might have been more entertaining if the combat had been dropped entirely, and gameplay consisted of nothing but our mighty hero running around talking to people in the manner of an adventure game.
There’s a co-op mode. Unfortunately it is limited to local, with no online options. That’s an odd thing to see these days, but it does make The Baconing a bit more appealing, especially since it allows the second player to choose from a selection of four sidekicks. A fifth is available as DLC for two dollars.
With game designers all scrambling to show how artistic and mature they can be, it’s nice to see a franchise that perpetually mocks the industry. The Baconing offers a lot of laughs for players who are willing to wade through the annoying combat, and it’s definitely worth putting in the effort for gamers who like to see a sense of humor in their games. The Baconing and the other two Deathspank games are all out now for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC and Mac.