The Baconing Review
I’m usually a big supporter of goofy, over-the-top games that make rainy afternoons fly right by. And I love the zany atmosphere in The Baconing, which is certainly the most appealing part of Hothead’s production. DeathSpank is one of the strangest, most genuinely amusing downloadable titles available and the sequel is equally attractive (in an absurd sort of way). But some of that comedy falls a little flat this time, the weapons don’t feel as distinct or powerful, and the repetitive nature of the gameplay gets irritating, especially towards the end. It’s still fun and the RPG elements are great, but it doesn’t qualify for the elite.
In regards to graphics, The Baconing is even more inspired than its predecessor. The environment is more detailed and the developers have implemented little hills, which can be used for valuable cover. They really put a lot of effort into the character design, animations, and backgrounds, which change frequently. From a nightmarish Disneyworld to a retirement community for ancient Gods, you will explore plenty of new areas. I think some of the effects could’ve been a little more effective but besides this minor flaw, the game boasts a unique flair.
At first, I loved DeathSpank’s cheesy bravado, and the assortment of well-voiced NPCs added spice to the adventure. But it wasn’t long before I started to grow a little tired of the hero’s significant swagger and the music selections are questionable. They work to some extent (and it depends on the level) but they don’t always fit the quirky action, and the sound effects are decent without being impressive. However, that being said, if you enjoyed the audio in DeathSpank, there’s no reason you won’t like the music, voices and effects in The Baconing.
That’s really the overarching theme you’ll find in this review: if you liked the last game, you’ll probably like this one, even if the repetition seems ramped up. Let’s start with the story: after vanquishing every baddie on the planet, our intrepid hero is bored. There’s nothing to do. And then suddenly, a huge foe begins roasting the hell out of the earth and lo and behold, it’s DeathSpank to the rescue once again. Unfortunately, he realizes that by wearing all five Thongs of Virtue at once, he created the AntiSpank, who is now planning a full-scale takeover.
The answer? Burn all five thongs and make the AntiSpank vulnerable. …yeah. Anyway, this is a hack ‘n slash action/RPG that has you facing down swarms of enemies. You can switch between weapons and gizmos with the four face buttons (and assign new weapons into those four slots), and items and special pieces of equipment (like grenades and health potions) are handled by the four directional buttons. At first, you’re outmatched and with eight total actions that can be executed, you might feel a little overwhelmed. But you’ll soon find pieces of armor and plenty of experience.
The control is fine even if I always wished my weapons had more reach. There are ranged weapons, of course, but the melee weapons just have no reach at all. It’s part of the game, of course, but it just bugged me. Then there are the Weapons of Justice; when your Justice meter is full, you can unleash a particularly damaging area attack with a particular weapon. For instance, the first you’ll have at your disposal is a dragon that flies overhead and drops firebombs on attacking enemies. You’ll come across various NPCs that offer you quests, and there’s always something to do. It’s just extremely linear, that’s all.
And there are still some parts of the gameplay I simply don’t like. Blocking is essential but I don’t like the way the mechanic works- you hold the R2 button to bring up your shield, but holding it also causes the shield to charge; after a certain time, he throws back the foes and they’re stunned. It’s automatic. I want to be able to control when that happens and if it happens. Furthermore, because you’re often switching weapons and items around, I found it difficult to always keep track of whatever I had equipped for the four face buttons and four directional buttons. Also, too many weapons felt the same.
Lastly, the repetition really gets annoying as the game progresses. You do basically the same thing all the time, despite the evident role-playing-like depth, and you tend to die a lot. There’s no real punishment for dying but even so, the process starts to feel exhausting after a while. The good news is that because of the inherent entertainment factor, the great atmosphere, and the somewhat addictive nature of the combat and action/RPG style, the adventure feels worthwhile. Besides, there really is a lot of variety and the two-player co-op feature is an absolute blast.
The Baconing is a competent, fun, and mostly diverse title with plenty of kooky humor. It’s a decent option for those who never played DeathSpank, and if you did play the first game, you’ll probably like the similarities found in the sequel. Yeah, the weapons aren’t all great, you can die quite a bit, and the repetitiveness gets irksome, but I have to say, it’s still funny and it’s still solid in terms of mechanics. DeathSpank is one of those likeable characters that can start to chafe over time, but come on…with that name, he’s always allowed to kick ass and take names.
The Good: Atmosphere and style are big highlights. Solid control and mechanics. Depth and diversity is satisfying. Plenty of in-game content. Co-op action is tons of fun.
The Bad: Music doesn’t pack enough punch. DeathSpank’s personality gets tiring. Gets very repetitive. Can feel a tad overwhelming.
The Ugly: “No, I am not fighting this guy again.”
9/3/2011 Ben Dutka