Beware no more, downtrodden! Your hero is once again on a quest to solve your quirky problems in The Baconing, the third game in the Deathspank series. Unfortunately a lot of your issues may stem from the hero himself, having unknowingly unleashed a villainous version of himself out of pure stupidity and laziness. Don’t worry though; something will be done about it soon, using grand questing fashion. It just may take a little while longer than expected, considering there are so many ‘stoopid’ chickens to take care of.
Remember those colourful pieces of ladies’ underwear players were asked to collect in our hero’s last outing (DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue)? Well, he’s decided to wear them all at once. This has created some sort of time and space continuum where evildoers have been summoned to the storybook world. The worst of which happens to be Anti-Spank, an evil contraption made in the hero’s image.
It has brought with it an army of powerful metallic creations known as cyborques. They’re ravaging the world, trying to bring to an end of days of sorts. They must be stopped and there’s only one man for the job. Well two: you and the uninhibited digital man you’re controlling. Three if you invite a friend.
Surely you’re still wondering what is up with that strange title. Well, let me clear that up in a way that will sort of make sense. For some reason, all of the colourful thongs must be given up. However, it’s not like DeathSpank can just throw them out or ship them to a different world. No, the only way to get rid of their magic for good is to burn each individual one in a different bacon fire. Why? I do not know, but it’s certainly quirky despite being quite nonsensical.
Honestly, I found this to be a bit of an afterthought; a reason to enter this world once again. It just feels tacked on as a main quest, as the side quests are much more interesting. When you make it to a fire, there isn’t much of a joyous celebration or a long time spent on the subject – it just happens after the completion of a major story quest, with a brief and over-used video showing the removal.
Those bacon fires we’re speaking of happen to be conveniently placed throughout a large game world. One which has more than its fair share of creative locations. There are your traditional outlands, beast lairs and a secluded small town where the people are friendly but strange. However, the real star showings come when DeathSpank ventures out into the great beyond, entering unique areas such as a casino world, the Tron-inspired lair of an artificial intelligence creation and a crazy amusement park headed by a scientifically endowed robotic interpretation of the nuclear family. These environments are almost characters themselves, providing some unique and fresh air to a game which happens to be quite methodical and relatively basic in its role-playing construct.
The star of the show here is definitely the title’s creative, zany and downright weird writing. In true series form, every newly introduced or re-introduced character has something interesting to say. Usually, it’s something that you’d never even dream of. Perhaps a sentence or two that people would just never say in real-life. In this rotating storybook world, it’s all okay.
Considering all of the craziness going on within it, I cannot say that is much of a surprise. Sit down, pick up the controller and prepare for some laughs, many of which happen to be of the awkward style. Our hero’s voice acting is once again the absurd, gruff stylings of Townsend Coleman, who still sounds a lot like his former character, The Tick.
The Baconing is a very traditional hack n’ slash role-playing game which allows for two-player cooperative adventuring. Those familiar with Hothead Games‘ previous two outings within this fictional world will know what to expect. There’s a lot of conversation, tons of questing and quite a few different puzzles. Though, boiling it all down, it’s evident that this title focuses more on combat than anything. As the player ventures out into the wide, strange world, he’s met with all manner of beasts.
Dragons, spiders, robots and deranged mascots are just a brief list of what all is lying in wait. They confront in packs and only shy away once a coded perimeter is breached, meaning you’ve ran far enough away. This was one of the game’s mechanics which bothered me as the enemies would get to a point where they’d magically vanish, eventually resetting elsewhere. It was a bit annoying during heated battle but didn’t happen all that often, luckily.
For those who are new to this series, the gameplay is very reminiscent of what is found in Torchlight. One major difference presents itself as The Baconing really doesn’t have a robust magic system, opting to utilize some elemental arrows, weapons and grenades instead. Spells aren’t a factor, which is okay. Neither is the option to change classes.
Where the two games compare the most is in their core design. You traverse areas looking for quests, hacking away at every enemy you come across. With this title, the emphasis is on using four different weapons to dismiss those bad guys as quickly as possible, with a special move meter known as justice filling during the process. Special weapons can unleash this powerful attack, with options including an electrified rifle shot, overhead bombing runs and a wide-berthed saw blade spin. Weaponry must be manually hot-keyed and equipped which makes sense considering the customization available. Your best armour is auto-equipped however, which I liked a lot.
The combat really doesn’t seem to have evolved all that much, which is a bit disappointing. It works well, though could have used a bit more refining with some clearer strategic usages. This wouldn’t be as noticeable if the game wasn’t built primarily around combat this time around. There are a lot of enemies, many of which respawn after a certain amount of time. The implemented system works but is too basic to stand out or compete against some of the other entries in this crowded genre. Personally, I must say that I enjoyed the exploration, adventure and communication aspects of the game more than its combat. It also became a bit frustrating when I’d get stuck on an in-game object during or after combat, forcing a swing of a weapon to get my virtual avatar.
The Baconing does have some issues and shortcomings. Its content just isn’t as much of a breath of fresh air as it was when the series first appeared on our downloadable content enabled consoles. However, there is a pretty good and lengthy role-playing adventure to be found within. Most aspects of its journey have a good coat of polish, though there are a couple of added detractions such as an unorganized inventory system and a vague hint option. You’re not going to find a revolutionary experience but, those looking for a comedic time in a fantasy world should give this one a shot. The writing is full of hilarity with a helping of satire and there’s quite a bit of creative adventuring to be done.
Visually, The Baconing is a treat, utilizing the hand-drawn art style that the series is well-known for. Instead of throwing adventurers into an open world built on strictly two-dimensional principles, the world feels a bit more alive with the use of a rotating camera. I refer to it as the globe effect, where it seems like you’re constantly walking around a rotating globe, moving around with a camera that follows accordingly.
This combines with a very whimsical art style, with over-the-top elements and colourful storybook-esque drawn in artifacts. The game’s world is a mixture of two and three dimensions, while its art is strictly two-dimensional for effect. I was quite impressed and kept gawking at the creative designs within – especially inside of the strange amusement park world. The only downside was that some parts were a bit too dark – something this sub-genre has struggled with for years.
The game’s audio presents a smorgasboard of elemental effects, hack n’ slash mayhem and some additional zany tidbits. As with many of its constituents, the game’s audio effects are primarily effected by combat, so that’s a lot of what you’ll hear. Groaning enemies, swords swinging and the odd explosion factor into the mix. It’s all pretty solid stuff, joining in with voice acting that’s certainly above average.
Though my personal favourite aspect of the whole auditory experience within The Baconing happens to be its music. When the hero finds a major item, a musical cue accompanies the discovery. These medleys parody well-known music with lyrics that build up our hero’s insanely large ego. I don’t have any complaints regarding this department.
Overall, The Baconing is a safe but solid role-playing game. Fans of the series will find a lot to enjoy, despite it not being a huge step forward from past outings. Newcomers should also enjoy themselves if they value a good laugh, creative questing and some repetitive but challenging combat. With eight or more hours of content to be found within its downloadable file size, the game certainly delivers enough gameplay for its fifteen dollar price tag. Don your adventurer’s cap and enter this strange world once again, with the expectation of finding a competent game featuring quite a bit of zany content.
This review is based on a copy of the game we received for review purposes.
The Baconing is a competent role-playing game with quite a bit of content to be found. Thanks to its quirky writing, strange quests and polished presentation, I'd say it's worth checking out for fans of the genre.