DeathSpank: The Baconing Review

05 Mar 2012

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Electronic Arts
Developer:Hothead Games
Release Date:2011-08-30
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Action
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Last, there are a few other minor gameplay issues that added up enough to be worth mentioning. While death is almost free, you do drop a significant portion of your money when you fall in combat - while normally you can pick it up again, sometimes you'll end up respawning in a different area; since items don't persist between area transitions, your cash in those cases is gone forever. Enemies also respawn quite frequently, so sometimes you'll die just getting from one side of an area to another, or fight off enemies in areas you previously cleared when you return to complete a side-quest. These sorts of things, and more, happen just often enough to become grating over the long term.

Style Over Substance

As much as I complain about The Baconing's gameplay issues, the reality is that it is still a lot of fun to play almost entirely by virtue of the presentation. The Baconing has a fantastic aesthetic, and is frequently hilarious. Humor is a subjective thing, but if you in any way enjoy the absurdity of Ron Gilbert's other games (or the work of his associate Tim Schafer, at Double Fine), you will walk away from The Baconing with a dumb, goofy grin on your face. The game has the perfect balance of wit, parody and crassness, from sight gags like "DLC Under Construction" signs littering one of the game's areas, to quest chains that see DeathSpank doing significantly more damage than he actually prevents on his "heroic" quest. Even without Ron Gilbert involved here, Hothead have still done a fantastic job.

The game also looks and sounds great. Like the humor, not everyone will enjoy the cartoony, pop-up-book quality the visuals have, but it's very charming and immediately reminds me both of Nintendo's Paper Mario games and Hothead's previous Penny Arcade Adventures series, which I enjoyed as well. The soundtrack is a catchy, jazzy post-rock-sounding thing, with nice drum grooves and slightly dissonant guitars and keyboards, and the voice-acting, while not always of "professional quality", is quite effective. Most lower-budget games don't have the greatest production values, but Hothead turn it into an advantage by going for a very distinct style that's eye-catching without requiring the work of a thousand computer animators chained to a thousand computers.

As stylish as the game is, though, I did run into a few technical problems while playing. Though for the most part the game ran at a smooth 60 frames per second on my PC, and both the gamepad and keyboard/mouse controls worked great, I encountered very frequent crashes while playing, often while navigating menus using the mouse (this did not happen when using my gamepad). I never lost a lot of progress due to the game's frequent checkpointing, but a crash every 30-50 minutes is, frankly, not acceptable in this day and age. I didn't play the console versions of the game, but I've also read that the PlayStation 3 version suffers from framerate problems, so buyers might want to keep in mind that their experience might not be entirely smooth no matter what platform.

Conclusion

There's another elephant in the room, and that's the other DeathSpank games. I haven't played them, as I mentioned, but aside from some very minor additions (like the shield-bash, and improvements to co-op), all I've seen indicates there are basically no changes to the formula over the previous titles. I can appreciate that Hothead Games have a template to build on, and are a fairly small developer who need to make the most of what they have... but I think gamers should expect more. Much like the King's Bounty or Mount and Blade games, Hothead risk burning fans out by effectively re-releasing new episodes of the same game over and over with only minor upgrades.

The Baconing is the kind of game I wish was made more often. It appeals to my sense of humor on an almost psychic level, it looks great, and it made me laugh and smile more than pretty much any game I've played in months. Still, there's no ignoring that was frequently a frustrating experience, both on gameplay and technical levels - I can forgive a lot when a game stands out from the crowd, but The Baconing stretches that sentiment to the limit for me. As much as I liked The Baconing, I think Hothead will really need to shake things up for the next installment to keep fans interested.
 
 

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