Everything you’ve heard about DeathSpank is true. He has saved hapless orphans, slain deadly dragons, and harvested poop from both demons and unicorns. He’s attained absurd amounts of armor, swords, crossbows, and even a few portable black holes. He is truly a hero for all time.
And any description of DeathSpank you’ve heard heralding it as Diablo-meets-Monkey-Island is dead on. The gameplay is pure action RPG, a hack ‘n’ slash affair with tons of loot to grab, monsters to kill, and levels to go up. But where the game shines is in its writing. If you’ve played any of the adventure games that Ron Gilbert is famous for, you’ve got a pretty fantastic idea as to the type of humor that you can expect. Lots of witty dialogue, hilarious quest premises, and of course poop jokes abound.
The story takes DeathSpank on his quest to find The Artifact, a powerful, well, artifact that looks vaguely like a strip of bacon. Throughout his journey through the super-stylized and gorgeously colorful landscape, he takes down all sorts of bizarre enemies, including rabid (and extremely tough to kill) unicorns, kangamoos (a cow-kangaroo hybrid created by a man only known as The Wizard), and orques (we’re pretty sure they’re French). In order to dispense justice to these enemies, he utilizes all the gear at his disposal. We ended up wearing the Epic Armor of Awesomeness, beating on orques with the Prongenator 3000, all with the Suspicious Murder Necklace around our neck. Silliness is DeathSpank’s constant companion.
Predictably, if you’re looking for a deep RPG experience, DeathSpank is not for you. Clocking in at about ten hours including side quests, it isn’t exactly what one would call immersive. There are very few stats to crunch, no deep combo system to learn, or really any spells to master. It’s all about beating on enemies with the highest damage weapons you can get your hands on.
The combat works like this: you have four weapons mapped to the controller’s face buttons. You can equip whatever you want. You can go all ranged weapons, all melee weapons, or some combination of the two. By attacking enemies with different weapons in sequence, you build up your Justice meter, which then lets you go unleash hell on everyone in your general vicinity. If doing this over and over again doesn’t appeal to you, DeathSpank probably isn’t for you.
While the vast majority of quests are in the “kill X of Y and bring me Z off their bloodied corpses” category, there are point and click adventure-style puzzles speckled throughout. Combining turnips with a laxative in order to attain the rainbow-colored unicorn poop for manure so a farmer can grow bigger grapes than his rival? Yup, that sounds like Monkey Island. The puzzles aren’t too taxing; we only got stuck once or twice figuring out the puzzles, but a hint system does exist (of course we didn’t use it, who do you think we are?).
Strangely enough, there’s no online co-op. The only option for playing with your buds is to have one of them grab a seat next to you on the couch and play as Mr. Spank’s trusty sidekick Sparkles the Wizard. Sparkles has a few spells at his disposal, but can’t really do much else other than damage and the occasional healing of DeathSpank, but with a lack of customization and no real advantage in the story, he feels more tacked on than a full-fledged feature. DeathSpank may simply be too heroic to go it any way but solo.
If you’ve played any Diablo-style RPG and any Monkey Island-style adventure and enjoyed them, you know you’ll like DeathSpank. It’s a hilarious and seamless combination of the two genres more than worthy of your 15 bucks and a couple weekends of your time.
Jul 13, 2010