Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thirty Three - DeathSpank: Orphans of Justice

Newest on my list of gaming conquests is DeathSpank, which thank goodness both lives up to its title and is better than it sounds.

DeathSpank is the brainchild of Hothead Games, a studio that specializes in cartoony cel-shading, and Ron Gilbert, a game designer known for collaborating with Tim Schafer (might be spelling that one wrong) on many humorous adventure games with snappy dialogue, notably the Monkey Island series. The result? An irreverent, cartoony action game that plays like Diablo and sounds like Monkey Island.

The gist of it all is that you're DeathSpank, a self-styled Hero of Justice clad head to toe in armor save for his purple thong, who makes it his business to go about recovering Artifacts, rescuing Orphans (he keeps them in his Bag of Orphans), making the perfect taco, and resolving relationship disputes. You think that sounds weird? Those are all mandatory quests. Either way, the ultimate goal in DeathSpank is to recover a special Artifact and defeat Lord Von Prong, who for some reason desperately wants the thong DeathSpank wears.

That sounds amusing, and it is. Usually. The game's humor is hit/miss, to the point where I groaned every time they started to gratuitously use the word thong as a plot point. AGAIN. It doesn't help that DeathSpank 2 is subtitled "Thongs of Virtue." But even though they make too many jokes about thongs and bacon, the game succeeds at being pretty funny. The title character's voice work and mannerisms are consistently hilarious (he reminds me of Captain Qwark or Zap Brannigan) and the dialog in general is quite good. Sometimes the game tries too hard to be funny, but sometimes it totally nails it - does this mean it should try less hard? No, but DeathSpank's attempts for laughs overall succeed more than they fail.

The gameplay itself could be seen as a weakness or a strength. It's a Diablo clone through and through where you hack, slash, and shoot your way through hordes of bizarre enemies, from level 0 Stoopid Chickens to level 20 Sabre-Toothed Donkeys, hoping they drop some level 17 armor instead of some level 16 armor. The game does the interesting thing of allowing you to assign weapons and items to the game's four face buttons and four d-pad directions, letting you potentially equip eight weapons at a time. However, you'll need to heal so often that I did the game-suggested thing of keeping food and potions on the D-pad and weapons on XOST. Let's just say that if I were to play the PC version of the game instead of the PS3 version, there would be a LOT of clicking.

The gameplay is kinda samey, but is overall solid. The real rub is using how to block with DeathSpank's shield effectively - watching the enemy's melee attack pattern and timing your blocks right is somewhere in between a very good strategy and FUCKING CRUCIAL. Also, if you stray a little far ahead in the game underleveled (or even well-leveled but caught off-guard) then you can get wiped in seconds. Keeping a steady supply of food and mastering the shield do wonders for your survivability, even if you'll just teleport back to the nearest outhouse if you die.

I could probably talk more about this game, but I'll spare you, because then I'd be giving anecdotes and picking nits. This is not a bad game, but as a Diablo clone it's barely above-average and in humor it's fair to good at best. It's also short at about eight or nine hours. Watch some videos before you buy it, or maybe wait on a Steam sale that knocks it down to three bucks.

Games Beaten: 2011 Edition

1. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
2. Primal Rage
3. Torchlight Hat Trick
4. Ghost Trick
5. Flower
6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
7. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
8. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
9. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
10. Tales of Eternia
11. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
12. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
13. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
14. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
15. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
16. Dragon Age: Origins
17. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
18. inFamous Evil Finish
20. inFamous 2 Good Finish
21. Big Bang Mini
22. Final Fight: Double Impact
23. Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
24. Cthulhu Saves the World
25. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
26. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
27. Disgaea Infinite
28. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
29. Jeanne d'Arc
30. Dragon Age II
31. Jade Empire
32. Cthulhu's Angels
33. DeathSpank: Orphans of Justice


Next, well, I'm not sure. The most likely candidate is probably still Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?, but I also have ongoing playthroughs of two PS3 games and have Disgaea 4 looming. That one will command my attention span and eat up a large chunk of time.

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