The Baconing

7.0 Overall Score

Written by on September 20, 2011 in

Hothead Games has served up another heaping dish of justice with the release of Deathspank’s third adventure ‘The Baconing’.  This installment may not carry the name of our beloved hero but he is still the main man and he is eager to vanquish the downtrodden or… err… wait.  This easily confused and often confounded hero returns after collecting all of the Thongs of Virtue and defeating evil in the last chapter.  He now sits atop his throne bored with no dangers to thwart and no evil to crush.  What is a would-be hero to do?  Apparently Deathspank decides it is a good time to wear all of the thongs together.  This triggers catastrophe, of course, releasing the Anti-Spank.  This ginormous evil robot begins to rampage over glorious Spanktopia.  It is now up to Deathspank to go forth and conquer the evil of his own creation.  Before Deathspank can face his gigantic doppelganger he must rid the world of the dangerous thongs of virtue.  The legendary Bacon Fires spread throughout the world are the only fires great enough to destroy these evil scraps of fabric.

Most of the main quest givers are back for cameos in this latest installment.  Side quests have been drastically reduced to focus on the main questline.  Gone are the many Thongolith research quests.  The player meets the Thongolith Researcher at the beginning of the game.  He is used to introduce the new plot explaining the dire situation that Spanktopia is in and what needs to be done to correct Deathspank’s underwear error.  Gone are the many cave crystal fetch quests in favor of streamlined side quests that require very little effort.  Questing is not the only area of the game that has been dumbed down.  The directional inventory hotkeys are now automatically populated with items in inventory.  This can be a good thing but can also lead to frustration if the player isn’t careful.  The player may be pressing a hotkey that is supposed to have health potions only to realize they are chugging useless speed buff potions.  This is not a major issue but it takes some getting used to. Another simplification to the fighting system is the absence of runestones that gave stat boosts when certain weapon types were equipped together.  I have to admit that I never used these runestones and did not miss them in this game.

Vendors are plentiful in The Baconing but their wares are minimal.  There are potion and food vendors that can be extremely helpful but the weapons vendors are almost useless.  The only weapons and armor for sale are items which Deathspank has already found and discarded.  This may be useful if the player accidentally destroys an item they wanted to keep but this does not allow the player any ability to upgrade to a better weapon.  The result is an over-abundance of gold that the player will not need.  This problem is not unique to this game.  Many RPG games suffer a similar fate.

The first thing most people who have played the previous games will notice is that the fighting style has been changed from focusing on a hack and slash offensive fighting system to a defensively dominated fighting style.  The developers decided to add some punch to their block which allows the player to hold the block trigger to charge it until the player can release the block and unleash a wicked knockback that will shove evil-doers to their backsides and potentially stun them.  The player can also release the charged block to coincide with incoming enemy projectiles to reflect their shot right back at them.  These new addition had me changing the way I play their game.  My innate hack-and-slashery impulses were restrained in favor of the stun-and-gun approach.  This new style seems to work well in areas where there are many enemies swarm the player.

There are several options that return in this game or have been improved from previous games.  The option to automatically equip armor with the best stats returns from previous games.  I really do like this feature which allows me to focus on other aspects of the game. Weapons still need to be manually equipped.  Choosing the best weapon is simplified by highlighting any weapons that are better than what is equipped with a green background.  The player still has the ability to pick up any important loot they may have missed at their local lost and found box.  These are scattered throughout the many areas of Deathspank’s world.  This is extremely helpful in certain cases where the player must wear the appropriate gear to grant them entrance to certain areas in the game.  One example I came across in the game was when I had to sneak into a country club golf course to speak to a particular NPC.  I had to slay a bunch of caddies to grab all of the pieces of armor to disguise myself as one of them.  I had gathered every item except the chest piece.  I looked everywhere with no luck.  I stopped by the lost and found and BAM, there it was.  This was a very nice way to avoid looting errors from stalling gameplay.  Another returning feature that is nice is the ability to change difficulty levels throughout the game.  Does a certain boss fight seem impossible at the current difficulty?  Crank it down a notch.  Fighting minions seem far too easy?  Dial difficulty up and make it more challenging.

One new aspect that game that I really appreciated was the improved hero buff cards the player earns every time they level up.  It is similar to the system used in previous games but once the player advances past the first level of a particular buff type there is an additional buff to a different stat.  For example, the player can choose a card that adds a buff to add longer time to their block.  When the player levels up again the same card will add more melee damage but will also add more time to the stun on enemies.

The quests may have been streamilined but the vastness of the world has not suffered.  The game takes Deathspank through six large areas and the last boss level.  These areas range from a desolate wasteland known as the forbidden zone to a twisted nuclear apocalyptic Disneyland, to a land of casinos run by leprechaun mobsters, to a pirate’s haven filled with parasitic barnacles, to a land fit for retiring Gods of almost every belief system, and finally the trailer park hell fit for Hades himself.  All of these lands has at least one set of armor to collect and plenty of quirky characters.  There a lots of nods to pop culture and gaming icons of the past.  One of my favorite occurred in the arena.  This facility allows the player to face creatures from Deathspank’s past and present.  At one point I was extremely low on health and Deathspank self-narrates that “Hero needs food badly”.  This nod to cheesy narrator dialog from the game Gauntlet was unexpected and made me smile.

The game still offers couch co-op for players with a new choice added to the mix.  It seems that each game in this series adds at least one new sidekick and this one adds ‘Bob from Marketing’.  This character is a hammerhead shark that is ready to take a bite out of injustice.  The returning sidekicks are Sparkles the wizard, Steve riding a teensy unicorn, and Tankko the monstrous spider.  All of the sidekicks have some sort of melee or spell attack, a ranged attack, and some way to heal himself as well as Deathspank (since they share the same health bar).  These sidekicks are an extremely powerful addition to the game.  Their attacks are extremely tough and they are immune to elemental damage from barrels hit by Deathspank.  If the sidekick blows up a barrel of elemental damage then they will take damage.  This seems fair but one strange twist is that Tankko, the spider that has a poisonous attack can be hurt with a poison barrel.  Not sure that makes sense.  Sidekicks can easily drop in and drop out of the game.  They share health, gold, and the same level as Deathspank making it very simple to add a lot of firepower when a friend comes to visit.  I roped my dad in to helping me with some co-op play and it made a huge difference.  We were mowing through enemies at an easy pace with his nuking and healing capabilities added to Deathspank’s skill set.  Sparkles and Steve are very well rounded and easy to play while Bob and Tankko require a little more finesse to master.  I have to admit that I really wish I could have played as Roesha ‘One Bad Mutha’.  This PS3 pre-order exclusive sidekick character is the only female playable character of the series so far.  This alone would be fun but the 70’s television police woman caricature with a big mouth, bigger hair, and an even bigger gun would be a happy addition to my game.  I can only hope that developers may allow me to purchase her as future downloadable content.

Sidekicks share the same screen as Deathspank that can get a little confusing at times.  There are a few ways to keep track of the sidekick character.  If a family is playing the game with a young child or an easily distracted adult then Deathspank can drag the sidekick along with him as he travels through areas.  If the sidekick gets too far away from Deathspank than the sidekick will automatically be transported to  Deathspank’s location.  If the player playing the sidekick loses track of where his character is on the screen then they can press the right trigger to be transported to Deathspank’s location.  Since the game attempts to keep Deathspank center screen this is a very simple way to keep the crew together.

The Baconing is a good installment in a game franchise I have come to love.  I do like the new defensive fighting style and really love the added kick of the sidekick’s abilities.  The game pays homage to many characters from previous games in the series and the game’s world is extremely large and varied for an arcade title.  Developers have kept many of the gameplay elements I enjoyed such as the lost and found and the auto-equip armor feature. There are plenty of pop culture references in dialog that will cause a smile.  I loved my Elvis impersonator armor while in the casino area.  This is an extremely simplified action RPG game meant for people that may enjoy the idea of adventure but do not want to invest endless hours on complex stat assignment and equipment juggling.  There is a great opportunity to include young family members as well as reluctant older gamers to play a lighthearted quirky game.  Those looking for intense RPG questing will not be satisfied but I found this game enjoyable as a witty arcade morsel.

A download code for The Baconing was provided to TMG for the purpose of evaluation and review.

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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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