I’ve had my eye on Deathspank for some time. When it was featured in a magazine preview, I skimmed over it briefly before noticing a key phrase: “Lead writer of Day of The Tentacle’s new Hack and slash RPG”; which lead to a feverish read of what was surely to be the funniest game I was to play all year.
Humour is an interesting thing in games. Sometimes it’s unintentional due to translation issues (“The truck have started to move”), or the majority of laughter comes from dismembering your enemies in amusing and inventive ways in very serious shooting games. An actual comedic game is something of a rarity, and I’m sure that you’ll agree that this game takes the standard action RPG, gives it a purple thong and an amazing script, and leaves you wanting more by the end of it.
Our hero ‘Deathspank’ is partaking in an epic quest to obtain ‘The Artifact’, a magical item that is linked to his destiny. To say anything else would spoil the fun, but suffice to say the game has its tongue firmly planted in cheek when naming characters and items. Simply taking the mick out of the genre isn’t enough to make it a solid game though, and luckily Deathspank has a couple of extremely intuitive features that all dungeon crawling producers would do well to look at (I’m talking to you Blizzard). Instead of having to return to a shop to sell your regular full sack of useless potions and weaponry, Deathspank has a grinder in his bag that allows you to turn them into money, anywhere. This completely eliminates the need to return to a shop every 5 seconds to trade in ‘Sword of uncomfortable Silences’ for enough cash to buy you a ham roll and a back rub from some non-descript npc, and while anyone that has played Diablo – or the excellent Torchlight – will know that micromanaging your inventory can be fun, at the same time when an army of goblins is nibbling your bum, you just want to pick up everything you find.
Which leads to another great feature, but not one that I used. If you forget to pick anything up, the items are sent to a chest in the main town called ‘Lost & Found’ which you can then pick up at any point. No more back tracking required for valuable items or armour. These features take away some of the tedium of the genre which I applaud. The combat is similarly refined, with a combo system and special weapon mechanic that’s easy to learn and fun to implement on lowly chickens to fearsome dragons. The art style is colourful and the animation on all creatures superb.
However, it’s the audio that gets the top prize. The music loops pretty much constantly between 3 tracks, and at no point did I find it annoying; in fact at several points this week I have been humming along to it without warning. The dialogue too, is exceptionally well-polished. If there is any advice to give, I would go through all available conversation choices, as you’ll never know quite what will be discussed next. It is genuinely funny, from my initial tears at Deathspank’s horror at a ‘magic seal’ being used to defend ‘the Artifact’ he is searching for, to the entire population’s hatred of orphans.
It is a rather short experience, but at 1200 points you’re getting the most enjoyable XBLA experience since Castle Crashers and Shadow Complex, which, let’s face it, weren’t exactly long games. But they were GREAT games. This is the category that Deathspank falls into, beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Deathspank is such a fun character to inhabit, a rare hero in that he actively wants to collect Unicorn poo for downtrodden peasants, create tacos for old heroes, and dispense justice to the forces of evil. An actual hero, one that is both appealing and likeable for the fact that he loves what he does and never grumbles. If you aren’t speaking alongside him in a heroic voice within 20 minutes of playing, I’ll eat my large, pointy hat.