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Review

The Baconing Review (PSN/XBLA)

Funny or flawed?

Now lets get this out of the way first. Although the Baconing is the third game in the DeathSpank series, and the first to drop DeathSpank from the title, I haven’t played the first two games; perhaps if I had the game would have made some sort of sense plot wise. Of course, that doesn’t really excuse the almost complete lack of introduction to the game. The game opens with a bored DeathSpank sulking because he’s defeated all of the threats to his world. Oddly for a world where he’s cleared out most of the dangers you do spend an awful lot of time killing dangerous dinosaurs, gods, mythological creatures and chickens.

To try and counter his boredom DeathSpank puts on all six of the Thongs of Virtue, which return from the previous game, accidentally calling forth the AntiSpank. Well that’s not actually said at the start of the game, basically DeathSpank’s bored and then the world starts to end.

Strangely, this slightly lazy approach to story telling isn’t consistent throughout, in fact it’s only the game’s overarching plot that feels weak and poorly fleshed out. The game features five areas, each of which has a small story within it. This is hardly Shakespeare, but the plots for each of the areas is at least mildly amusing and the final one in a retirement community for gods was good with a surprising conclusion.


This may look cool, but it's the exact same scene for every Thong you burn.
The issue is that although the story for each of these zones varies wildly, the actual quests inside don’t even a little. Aside from a few side quests, pretty much everything you do is a fetch quest. Sure, they’re framed differently and at least do make sense in the context of the story, but the core quest is basically the same every single time. The only time they got vaguely interesting is when they get nested, occasionally going three or four layers deep. It might still be a fetch quest, but at least it feels slightly different.

Once you’ve completed whatever an area requires of you, you gain access to a Bacon Fire (that’s the real name) in which you can burn one of the Thongs of Virtue, ultimately weakening the AntiSpank. That’s the extent to which each area ties into the game’s main plot, and about as deep as the main plot gets. Unfortunately every time you do get to burn one the game plays an almost identical cutscene, which grates. Sure, you only see it a few time but it’s still frustrating.

Putting the story aside, the dialogue is the area where The Baconing really shines. The humour does occasionally miss the mark for me, but that’s the nature of humour. For the most part it’s as ridiculous as it is funny, and frequently throws in references to RPG clichés. It’s easy to come off as looking idiotic with this sort of self-referential humour, but in the Baconing it actually works. On top of that the voice acting is brilliantly funny, and really adds another layer of humour to the already funny script.

Sadly the dialogue is pretty much the point at which the game peaks. It’s not bad graphically, but it doesn’t shine out. Hothead have gone for a cartoonesque style, and whilst it works fairly well and is consistent throughout I’ve seen games utilise the style more interestingly and to better effect.

The only thing from the art that is really worth noting is the variety of weapons, armour and power-ups you can pick up throughout the game. Pretty much every single one looks unique, and is reflected not just in your inventory but in your appearance in game as well. I know this might not seem like much to RPG stalwarts, but it was the variety and the range that impressed me. For example armour includes a radiation suit, an Elvis impersonator’s costume and full golfing attire, as well as your more typical armour. Each of these look great, and is fun to wear around.

Where it starts to fall down though is the combat. This is an action RPG so there’s no turn-based encounters here, everything happens in the world. The problem is it simply isn’t very easy to handle. You can equip a weapon to each of the face buttons for a variety of attacks, including ranged weaponry and Area of Effect style attacks. This is absolutely fine, and leads to you having to put at least a little thought into your loadout. It might not progress beyond “they’re weak against fire, I should equip my fire sword,” but it’s something.


Fighting in a radiation suit may look silly but... no, it's just silly.
The problem is how everything controls. Your direction feels floaty at best, and given that enemies can attack from multiple directions at once it can be difficult to manage a fight or block in the right direction. In fact it seems ridiculously easy to get overwhelmed, and if you do then know that death likely isn’t far away. There is a shield burst that will drive a crowd back, but this only prolongs your almost inevitable death rather than actually avoiding it all together. It honestly just makes the whole game feel unenjoyable, although there is a bigger sense of accomplishment if you survive a fight than in most games.

Fortunately, there a couple of tactics you can use to at least try and stave of death. The first of these is the “run away”. Enemies will follow you, but they’re not all that bright and if you manage to get outside of their detection radius they’ll simply forget that you were ever bothering them. It’s like fighting a school of goldfish.

The other, slightly more effective tactic is to combine fleeing with exploding barrels. If you can draw enemies towards one of the hundred of barrels scattered throughout the game you set it off with a ranged weapon, probably the crossbow since it’s the only good one, and do some damage. It won’t actually kill any enemies, that would be far too easy, but it might give you a fighting chance.

Pros:

  • Funny dialogue and voice acting.
  • Story for each area is good.
  • Wide range of amusing pickups and armour.
Cons:
  • Exceptionally repetitive quests.
  • Weak overall story.
  • Poor controls and combat system.
  • Dumb AI.
Whilst the controls ruin the combat in The Baconing, this isn’t actually all there is to the game. Yes the quests may be repetitive, but the way their wrapped up saves them at times and the dialogue really helps to drag the game up. The main story may be disjointed with almost no pay off at the end of the game, apart from a teaser for the next game in the series, but the plot for each of the zones works well and the number of side quests will probably keep you busy for a little while. However the overall experience is distinctly average.

Score: 5/10

8 Comments
  1. Sad Panda
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    Cant really argue with anything you’ve said. The humour in the Deathspank games is probably it’s strongest asset.

    Where the game comes alive for me is in the local co-op. I’ve beaten the series with my brother and we had a huge amount of fun with it. I don’t think I would have played through the first one, let alone the series if I’d been playing single player.

    Excellent review.

    Comment posted on 30/10/2011 at 10:40.
  2. Jakster123x
    Member
    Since: Aug 2011

    That’s sad.

    Comment posted on 30/10/2011 at 11:12.
  3. DrNate86
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I think a 5 seems a little harsh, but honestly I wouldn’t rate it more than a 6 myself. Yet I still really enjoyed it, it’s a strange game. The biggest let down I had with this one was the linearity, the other games in the series give you much more space to explore around in, whereas this just tunnels you through a very set route with every quest having a solution up ahead, as opposed to somewhere else in the world.

    The settings are wonderful though, the retirement home a particular treat but by no means the only well conceived location. The writing is also brilliant, and voiced with gusto. It’s a tricky game to rate really. I would almost recommend playing this first, then playing the first 2, as they seem less thrown together.

    Comment posted on 30/10/2011 at 11:25.
    • 3shirts
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      I’d agree with that. I very rarely find myself with more than two or three sidequests available at any time whereas the previous games would stack them up giving you the freedom to roam around and do them in any order you felt. This also meant more challenge in terms of strategy as some quests would put you against much higher level enemies so you could try to take them on or leave them until you’d levelled up a little more.
      This one guides you through so you are always sufficiently levelled when you encounter a new area.

      Comment posted on 30/10/2011 at 11:39.
  4. 3shirts
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    This whole review sounds a little bit harsh to be honest. I don’t deny that this is definately aimed at fans of the previous games so newcomers might find it a bit random and poorly explained but the combat system is quite intuitive and using a variety of power ups, grenades, arrows, swords and potions makes each encounter fairly easy. I always find I have enough orbs or potions to make the crowds easy to thin out and careful timing with the block button is key.
    The animation style is great and the game really shines in co-op.

    I guess I just disagree with the review but everyone has different opinions.

    Comment posted on 30/10/2011 at 11:36.
  5. CdmanJak
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Still haven’t finished the first one its ok for what it is but yeah quests are a bit samey but at least you get your moneys worth!

    Comment posted on 30/10/2011 at 18:02.
  6. Erroneus
    Wanted "Trophy Hunter" but was too late.
    Since: May 2009

    I disagree a lot with the reviewer. No the story isn’t strong, but don’t understanding the story and the many funny references because you haven’t played the two first, well maybe you should have played the two first.

    The controls are FINE, easy to use and if you learn to control block, you can master a lot of enemies without problems.

    5/10 is way to hard. While the two first was better, it’s defiantly a 7/10 if you like hack’n'slash games with a lot of quests.

    How sad.

    Comment posted on 30/10/2011 at 22:11.
  7. TheDeathAvenger
    Member
    Since: Forever

    Really enjoyed the first Deathspank (played it till completion), and have played some of the second, but stopped for a break as it is basically more of the same, which for me isn’t a bad thing, but I didn’t want to get tired of it. I don’t think you can complain about how similar they are as they were both developed concurrently, so it not like they could use what they learned from the first game when making the sequel. Though obviously that’s not true of The Baconing.

    I’m looking forward to the start of next year when I should have the time to go back and complete games like Deathspank: Thongs of Virtue. Probably the first time I’ll have time to play through newer ones like The Baconing and Hydrophobia too.

    I don’t think you should expect a deep plot, indepth combat mechanics, or smart AI, it’s just not the point of the games. The story is lighthearted and comical, it doesn’t need to be strong. The combat didn’t need to have a lot of depth, it was meant to be fun and quite simple, if anything I’d say the ‘dumb AI’ adds to the combat experience, I mean look at the enemies, do they look an intelligent bunch?

    I guess you either ‘get’ the Deathspank games or you don’t.

    Comment posted on 01/11/2011 at 12:45.

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