Did you like DeathSpank? Oh good. You’ll like this then as ultimately The Baconing is pretty much the same thing all over again. That’s a lazy way to start any review of a sequel, but it’s undoubtedly true. Even if the DeathSpank part of the title has been removed from this game, it’s still very much like it was before.
Backtracking a little, it’s pretty impressive to think that the original DeathSpank only came out in July 2010 and yet already we find ourselves at the end of the trilogy. That kind of turnaround is impressive going for any title especially one that still packs in eight or so hours of fun. The humorous dialogue is still there, forever the greatest strength of the DeathSpank trilogy. This time round, DeathSpank finds himself a little bored having collected the six Thongs of Virtue in the previous instalment. Fortunately this boredom doesn’t last as he’s an idiot and attempts to wear all the thongs at once, thus creating the evil villain AntiSpank, his doppelganger. SpankTopia thus needs saving by throwing the Thongs into the Bacon Fires. Yup, really. There’s certainly no fear of The Baconing taking itself too seriously.
Not played a DeathSpank game before? It’s quite simple to get into. It’s a hack n slash game at its core with players moving DeathSpank around a world that’s viewed from an isometric perspective and harks back to the likes of Diablo. Combat has always had a strong focus in these titles and, if anything, it’s even more evident in The Baconing. The controller’s face buttons are available for equipping a weapon to each one thus opening up the opportunity to complete a series of combo attacks through careful timing. Typically DeathSpank has a mixture of ranged and close combat weapons, allowing for sufficient variety. Potions, grenades and other magical items also provide an important role, especially in the case of health potions, which are vital in later stages of the game.
DeathSpank has improved his prowess since previous games with the addition of a charged ranged attack as well as a new shield bash move. DeathSpank can now bash enemies back with other enemies as a player-activated skill rather than automatically as before. It makes crowd control much easier when up against a large group of foes.
While most of The Baconing is very linear, feeling even more tightly explained than previous instalments, there are still a fair few side quests to participate in. Breaking up the storyline nicely, such trivial tasks do provide some great opportunities for humour with some fantastic pop culture references, but the quests themselves can get repetitive after a while. A precious few might contain some great puzzles, but all too many are the typical fetch and kill quests that have been seen before. Waves of enemies regularly feature, which is satisfying at first with the steady drip drop of useful loot, however it turns all too samey before long. This repetition can at least be counteracted by jumping into The Baconing for short bursts rather than for extended doses.
Annoyingly, The Baconing doesn’t offer online co-op, a feature that fans have been asking for since the first DeathSpank title. Offline co-op is there and it’s terrific fun even despite players having to share a health bar. There’s the addition of two new characters too: Tankko who can shape shift into a spider and Bob from Marketing. Bob is fantastic, a shark able to shoot lasers from his eyes. How could that be beaten?
That’s much of The Baconing’s failings. While the dialogue and storyline is witty and expertly written, the actual gameplay behind such entertaining storytelling is a bit weak. Although that’s the strangest thing about The Baconing. Picking out the flaws is easy, but it’s still fun. It’s the perfect palate cleanser in fact, being the kind of game, much like Torchlight, that’s ideal to jump into for short doses in between heftier affairs and bigger retail releases. It’s difficult to recommend The Baconing above all else, but that’s not to say it still isn’t worth your time. Just don’t expect it to feel anywhere near as fresh as the original DeathSpank. The series is in need of a reboot if a fourth title does come about.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3/ PC/ Mac Release Date: 31/08/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of The Baconing for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.