The Baconing Xbox 360 review
Publisher – Valcon Games (XBLA) – Developer – Hothead Games – Genre – Action RPG – Players – 1-2 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
Humour is often a difficult subject to portray in a video game, but ex-head of Hothead Games Ron Gilbert has prior form in this area, including the well-loved Monkey Island games. The Baconing is in fact the third game to feature Gilbert’s comic book creation DeathSpank.
The storyline sees the bored hero DeathSpank donning the six Thongs of Justice (as seen in the second game) at once. Unfortunately this has the side effect of creating a new force for evil in the world – the AntiSpank. Our hero must once again set out on a quest filled with violence, looting and bad puns to restore order, using the power of bacon fires to destroy the Thongs before taking on the AntiSpank.
The action consists of a series of quests and side-quests, issued by characters in the landscape that can be talked to or given objects from DeathSpank’s inventory. There are often multiple lines of dialogue, chosen from a simple menu. Most of the quests are of a simple “go there, kill that” nature. The hero can use a variety of weapons assigned to the face buttons to defeat the diverse enemies, including ranged weapons that can be charged to deal out more damage and the Justice weapons unleashed when the Justice Meter is full. Healing is down to potions and other items that can be eaten, activated with the D-pad.
Hints on what to do next appear in the Quest Log… and more can be gained by eating the Fortune Cookies often dropped by enemies or found in the many barrels and treasure chests that litter the landscape. When DeathSpank dies, he is transported back to the nearest Outhouse to continue his quest, minus a chunk of acquired cash. The Outhouses can also be used to teleport between areas, which proves handy when completing the many side quests.
The world itself is shown with a “curved Earth” style, the new scenery scrolling into view. The background graphics are clever, reflecting the comic book origins and with a healthy dose of variety. Enemies vary in size but all have some nice animation and characteristics. Sound is most typified by the pompous speech of the hero – funny at first, but ultimately proving a little repetitive. The same can be said of the stirring incidental music for battle scenes. Continuing gags in the dialogue about orphans and DeathSpank’s abilities will make the player chuckle, but it is disappointing to see large chunks of dialogue repeated when a character is encountered again.
What does let the game down slightly is the complicated inventory screen, ill suited to a pad. PC users get keyboard shortcuts, but in trying to cram everything onto the pad there have been some bad decisions. The grid used for choosing weapons and armour can prove confusing, and it takes some getting used to the idea of unlocking hints with the Fortune Cookies. Shortcuts – in the form of equipping the best armour automatically, and sorting a screen full of equipment – are appreciated. It does take a keen eye to spot the best items to use when overcoming a particular foe, and the need to constantly buy extra potions and food when faced with tougher enemies proves wearisome.
Here we have an interesting combination of graphic style, quirky humour and tried and trusted gameplay. For Diablo and Ron Gilbert fans, this third instalment will probably already be sitting on their hard drive. There is good gameplay and plenty of laughs in this downloadable title, but ultimately the grinding to see the quest through may prove off-putting to many players.