10 Overall Score

Written by on August 31, 2010 in

I was in search of a hero.  I longed for a savior to the downtrodden, a vanquisher of evil, a dispenser of justice.  And the people of Hothead Games gave me one.   This warrior began his quest when a fortune teller spoke of his destiny.  This simple-minded medieval super hero was born to help the less fortunate and search out the artifact known simply as “The Artifact”.  As the narrator for the game states, “It is a story of a man some called a curse and others called a hero, but a man they all called DeathSpank.”

The game is introduced in a vividly colored comic book format with all to pomp befitting such a hero.  And then the player meets the hero.  This well meaning hero has been searching the world on his quest to find “the Artifact”.  Along the way he has taken any opportunity to help his fellow humans.  His intentions are pure and just.  His methods, however, may be a little questionable, as the high body count of those he has “vanquished” will attest.  This game follows his journey as he nears the end of his quest.  He has tracked down the demon witch by the name of Heybenstance.  She holds the key to obtaining treasure of immeasurable value.  And so begins the tale.

If one is looking for the solemn depiction of good versus evil, I would suggest moving to another game.  This game is a hero’s tale to be true.  But it is told using a heavy dose of good humor.  As an example, one side quest finds our hero killing ten vicious chickens to bring their lips to a Demon Witch for a reward.  One might well ask whether chickens, in fact, have lips.  The witch is quick to respond, “Of course they do.  How do you expect them to whistle?”  This game is full of humor, bad puns, and references to the game’s role playing genre. It is a game that never takes itself seriously and for that, I am grateful.  It is full of fun and hilarious dialog options as DeathSpank travels through this odd little world.   Many of the quest givers are plain lazy town’s folk that play on DeathSpank’s heroic sensibilities to get him to do their dirty work.  Sadly this hero seems blissfully unaware of this.  Why else would he face almost certain death to help the local fisherman get a prize tuna away from a giant gremlin beasty?  What holds this hero together in such dire times?  I would venture to guess it’s that bold fashion statement, the purple thong he is sporting under his armor.  The thong makes its presence known in other quests and a flaming thong is the loading screen icon.  Why?  I would be afraid to know the thought process behind it but it is definitely a central element of the story.  Another central element of the story is the arch villain by the name of Lord Von Prong.

This evil-doer has an odd habit of breaking into 80’s hair-band high notes during his dialogs and bares his vampire-like teeth at his minions when they have displeased him.  During our heroes journey he discovers that Lord Von Prong now possesses the Artifact.  This leads to a final battle that reveals a stunning twist in the story.  Here DeathSpank discovers that he and Lord Von Prong share a similar past and more.  But that is something I recommend the player learns for themselves.

This is a game in the tradition of my beloved Diablo.  Hacking and slashing through countless critters and creatures in search of quest items, loot, and money.  Add to this premise the humorous dialog choices similar to games such as LucasArts’ Monkey Island.  Throw in the comic dialog from one of my favorite childhood superheroes, The Tick, and a new hero is born.  The game does not require much strategy.  The player is led along the main quest line but has the opportunity to take on many side quests along the way.  The player can bring up a map to find quest givers and area they need to travel to.  A hilarious yet twisted element of the story comes in the transport stations of choice for our fair hero.  DeathSpank can travel quickly between areas over the reasonably large land using a series of outhouses.  In a way best left unexplained, the player can click on one outhouse to bring up a map of all the outhouses they have found and can select any one of them to travel instantly to that spot.  If the player gets stuck and is unsure where they need to go o r what they need to do to progress in a quest they can use fortune cookies they find around the world to unlock hints.  If a player is concerned that they have missed an important object, the game provides ‘Lost and Found’ dumpsters that they can check to find those items.  The game even allows two player co-op.  If someone wants to join the game they can join the game as DeathSpank’s sidekick Sparkles the wizard.  This feature has a lot of wonderful features to help families enjoy the game.  If a younger person wants to be a part of the game they can drop in at any time.  Sparkles can zap enemies and heal Deathspank in battle.   If your child has not mastered the ability to move their character the game slides Sparkles along to keep him in the same frame as DeathSpank.  It is a very thoughtful touch by game designers to keep the sidekick available.  It is also very easy to drop out and back in as the whims of the child, or other person of short attention span, dictates.  The world is very vivid and colorful to keep the child entertained and the subtle humor keeps adults in the action.  If the player is concerned that they will have to endure too much dialog, fear not.  You can quickly get through most of the dialog but I recommend listening to it the first time through to enjoy some of the best humor in the game.

I absolutely love this game.  I understand that there are those out there that feel that hack and slash button mashers are too easy and not worth their time.  But these are the games that bring back my favorite memories of gaming .  The humor is great fun and the gameplay is simple yet rewarding.  This is a tasty treat for any fellow Diablo-addict who needs to be saved from the summer doldrums while they eagerly await Diablo 3’s release.  DeathSpank, you are my hero.


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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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