How can you hate something that's wrapped in bacon?
Behold DeathSpank, the Vanquisher of Evil, Hero to the Downtrodden, Champion of Earf, Dispenser of Justice! Baconer of Baconing! After vanquishing the corrupt wearers of the Thongs of Virtue and subsequently saving the world, DeathSpank decides to strap on all six thongs at the same time for the ultimate
wedgie power to administer justice. But he's been too good, too successful, and now he's bored. Then out of the dark abyss, a giant shadowed Megazord-sized AntiSpank suddenly terrorizes his city of Spanktopia and he soon learns that it is an embodiment of the dark energy manifesting from his wearing of all six thongs, which was never meant to be. Thus begins his journey to eradicate AntiSpank's waves of Cyberorques and destroy the five excess thongs in the bacon fires around the world.
Why bacon? Because bacon makes everything better. I mean, would you play a game called "The Veganing", where DeathSpank must bash evil poachers with the might of celery sticks and organic eggs? Okay, maybe that would actually work, but that's what is so great about this franchise and Hothead Games—the humor. Take away the over-the-top lines of dialogue that have the same frivolous exaggeration as The Tick, the nifty pop-up-book environments, the whimsical character animations, and the constant jabs at British orphans, and The Baconing merely becomes an action RPG without much personality.
That said, The Baconing shares the polish of its first two DeathSpank titles with a clean framerate, approachable combat, quick-and-easy inventory system, and superb cel-shaded modeling. It's everything that we've come to expect from the series. Players can still equip four different weapons, assign four shortcut keys to potions and orbs, attack and block with swiftness and ease, and strike back with a righteous deathblow once the justice meter is filled. Veterans will notice that the combo system, the push-back of the block, the fortune cookie hint system, and the differences between the various justice powers have been retained. DeathSpank's loins remain largely intact.
Thankfully, the combat system has been upgraded enough that it isn't a total carbon copy. Ranged weapons can be charged, turning a basic single shot into a rapid-fire burst of arrows that explode on contact at high weapon levels. In fact, this new attack alone can completely decimate enemies no matter what level they are and is so powerful that players will likely shoot themselves into a nearby resurrection outhouse; many times, the terrain can fool players with how steep it really is and cause accidental daisy-pushing. The strategy of standing back with caution has also been bolstered by the ability to shield bash, which not only knocks back and occasionally stuns enemies, but also reflects projectile attacks if struck back at the right time.
Last but not least, the roster for two-player drop-in-drop-out cooperative play has been expanded to include a host of new characters, the best of which is, hands-down, Bob from Marketing. He's a hammerhead humanoid shark in a classy suit who can fire laser beams from his eyes, dig underground to evade attacks and surprise enemies, and devour foes with a vampiric chomp that deals a significant bite of damage while healing DeathSpank in the process. In fact, I wish I could just play the game as Bob from Marketing. And from what I hear, he makes a mean Powerpoint presentation. Don't wanna mess with that.
Though The Baconing is more or less just another DeathSpank title, with an okay story and final boss, it shows the franchise is consistently at the top of its game. Its silly brand of humor and graphics are iconic and show off the action RPG genre, which is privy to generic hack-and-slashery. Though the DeathSpank franchise is in danger of sizzling out if it begins to get too repetitious, this 10-hour adventure is still well worth the $15 (1200 Microsoft Points). Now venture forth and rescue the manlings!