DeathSpank Review

"Hey, ‘ave you got the orphans?" "Why, yes, they’re right here in this bag." "Well, did you poke holes in it?" "The orphans or the bag?" "Either is fine."

Hothead Games and Ron Gilbert (the wit behind Monkey Island) take irreverence and humor in gaming to their adventure-game boundaries in DeathSpank, blending the ideas and writing of The Secret of Monkey Island, the topical knowledge of a modern gamer, and the birds-eye hack-and-slash adventuring begun in games like Diablo II and Fallout. Want a hero who draws his epic strength from his even more epic purple thong? Got it. How ’bout a widely branching looting system supported by scads of side quests with objectives like "Collect the Demon Poop"? Got that too. It’s a great-looking, great-feeling, and hilarious misadventure, and certainly worth the $15 it will run you on Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network.


Let’s start with the basic premise. DeathSpank is the satiric hero to end all heroes on a mission to recover "The Artifact" (I think it’s actually a strip of bacon) and dispense justice in a variety of ways, mostly by destroying, delivering, tricking, or collecting. Most objectives, both on the main quest and for side quests, will involve going to a new location and destroying the hilarious variety of enemies (see Butterpig, Major Miner Demon, Prong Weekend Warrior, etc.) in order to save someone or retrieve some item for them. So for the most part, you do feel like an errand boy, but often in a kind of sarcastic way. By that I mean that returning ingredients to a wizard may result in his creating a two-eyed cyclops that must then be defeated to save the land. It’s an interesting way for the game to simultaneously mock and support the go-there-get-this style of gameplay that has become incredibly common in mission-based action-adventure games, and refreshingly so.

Graphically, DeathSpank looks like Wind Waker meets Paper Mario. The combination of the 2D, flat environments mixed with the 3D, cel-shaded sprites is as cartoony as it is storybook. Travelling from one area to another on the fairly expansive map sees drastic changes in an extremely lively color palette, and the cutscenes play out in a completely different cartoon style, often at the best, most unexpected moments. The music follows in playful suit, often a fusion between surfer-tune guitar and hard rock, but always changing and flowing based on the location and situation. It’s one of those games where you can tell the team had a lot of fun in development, pouring really imaginative details into every aspect including, of course, the writing and voice acting.


This is where the game positively draws attention. Yes, there are a ton of side quests that will keep you busy for hours. Yes, there’s some solid balancing and there are refreshing RPG elements like limiting exploration by enemy levels in specific areas. But the lines are just incredible, ranging from the reconciliation of a farming couple because of discarded dirty magazines to a few videogame-industry-specific jokes. There’s little I like more than a game, or any other media, that’s willing to be "self-aware" in a clever way.  DeathSpank is that kind of game, the kind that comments on its own menu, that pokes fun at World of Warcraft, and that makes fun of gamers themselves! To that, I say well done and other developers would be wise to allow that kind of irreverence, boldness, and character to creep into their writing and design. And the voice acting is top notch, too. You’ll have to hear it to know what I mean, but it fits, is never unconvincing or frustrating to listen to, and does justice to a difficult set of lines.

DeathSpank’s a genuinely funny gaming experience (a feat not easily achieved), a fun portion of hack-and-slash action and loot collection, a thongful of orphans, orques, chizards, and kangamoos, and it’s only $15. It won’t blow you away with innovation or graphical prowess, though every aspect is enjoyable, effective, and responsive like a game should be. DeathSpank is worth it for the cheeky demeanor, simply put, but well worth it for sure. So grab your epic controller of heroic awesomeness and prepare for an epic adventure of heroic awesomeness.

4 out of 5


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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