Who names their child DeathSpank?
When I told my wife I was reviewing a game called DeathSpank, she looked mildly alarmed. Frankly, I had no idea what I was going to play, because all I knew was the title myself. Visions of killing and S&M, outside of that hidden folder on my hard drive, suggested themselves. However, what I did not expect was to be so vastly entertained by this hilarious Action RPG.
[image1]DeathSpank is in fact the name of our hero, as he makes obvious by clearly announcing “I am DeathSpank!” to nearly everyone he meets. Equal parts MediEvil, Monkey Island, and The Tick, DeathSpank is a game with a hero who dispensens Justice on his epic quest to retrieve The Artifact. In his way is a variety of nasties to slay, some sent by his arch-enemy Lord Von Prong, who wishes to slay DeathSpank and take his purple thong.
All of this Justicing is achieved though a surprisingly robust loot-based RPG – don't let the cartoony look fool you. There is a huge variety of armor and weapons, from swords to crossbows, to a gun that shoots chickens at your foes. In a Diablo-like system, they all have names and stats, and if you check the box for “equip best armor” it all stays quite easy to manage, with you only having to choose your weapons.
Using those weapons is a simple matter: Just hit something until it stops moving, collect your loot, and onward!, to the next quest or side-quest. Most missions are pretty straightforward, “deliver this” or “slay 20 of this other thing”. Some, however, are a bit more inventive and have multiple solutions, often using some inventory puzzles a la Monkey Island – Ron Gilbert, the creator, showing his roots.
[image2]The land of... I'm not sure, it has a name, but the main town is called Pluckmuckel, which is a brightly colored, silly place. The game's cartoony graphics fit perfectly with the humorous vein in which it was written.
And that's really the great part of DeathSpank: It's genuinely funny. One mission has you literally knocking the poop out of some demons with a special Poop Hammer. Another has you placating a bratty orphan who, after rescue, just won't get into your Orphan Bag. A talking tree will send you on a quest for a Black Light, a trippy poster with the words “Keep On Truckin”, and the album Live at Budokan. When the taco lady informs you she's working to pay off her student loans, DeathSpank's Tick-like response is “Egads! They're lending out students now?”. I half expected him to shout “Spooooooon!”.
[image3]There are tons of optional dialog choices, and you'll want to hear them all. I've played plenty of full-priced games that didn't have this much (or such talented) voice work.
But wait, there's more! At any point, a friend can join in the fun locally by playing as DeathSpank's partner, the mighty wizard Sparkles. Sparkles helps out by shooting and burning things, and also healing DeathSpank.
Plus, there's even more than that, because DeathSpank isn't some weenie little diversion; it's a full-blown, long RPG with a huge overland map. Which at 1200 MS Points (or $15) is more bang for your buck than just about any other title out there. I find it very easy to recommend - a clear bargain and a great blow for gamer justice!