Ron Gilbert and Hothead Games have put together a most unusual character in Deathspank. You play as a brutish barbarian called Deathspank. His ultimate goal in the game is to find the one item called ‘the artifact’. This particularly bland object holds unbelievable amount of power to the wielder. Along the way, Deathspank runs into enemies ranging from power demons, very unhappy dragons to poison shooting plants. There’s a lot to see and do in the world that surrounds our obnoxiously loud hero.
On the Wikipedia page for Deathspank it describes the game as a cross between Diablo and The Secret of Monkey Island. That’s a very accurate description of the title.
The customization that came with Diablo was revolutionary for its day and it’s been nearly replicated perfectly for Deathspank. As you conquer and kill enemies in the game you come across weapons and armor. You can also obtain both by visiting randomly placed vendors. You also acquire goods through the completion of quests. You have a s**t ton of quests in this game. Anyway, you can mix and match armor and weapons. You can basically create Deathspanks defense/offense to your own liking. There are so many different ways to suit up the old boy that you will have a unique experience separate from most gamers. For example, I wielded spiked armor with a hammer that knocked the poop out of demons. On top of this I got a powerful sword and a goofy looking 1920s football helmet. Each item is individually catered for a specific purpose, but mix and matchable with other items. It’s one of the stronger points to the game.
Moving on to leveling, but still sticking with the Diablo comparison, you have some interesting things that go on when you level up in Deathspank. Once you take out enough enemies you eventually have a ‘level up’ indicator (very comparable to Dragon Age: Origins). Once you’re in the clear from fighting, you simply press the ‘select’ button and it takes you to a series of cards (that look like Magic the Gathering cards). You get to pick and choose how you want to level up Deathspank. You could increase the damage of your hits by 10% or increase your shield protection or even have a 10% increase in the coins you gather once you dispose of enemies; simply put there is a lot of role-playing elements in this method that provide a wide variety of choices for our hero to upgrade.
As for the controls, it still has that Diablo feel to it. You run around and hack/slash creatures. Each button is assigned a particular weapon; you can carry four weapons at a time. As you level up you get more powerful with damage done, but to keep it even the enemies get a bit more difficult as well. The directional pad holds things like food and potion. You can quickly down a healing potion to get back energy during huge fights. For the most part this is ingenious, and done before, but there is a caveat to how this method works. When you drink a healing potion it’s instantaneous healing. When you eat a chicken leg you have a tiny little timer that comes up about your life bar in your HUD that slowly works its way clockwise. For every 1/4 of the meter you get 10+ health points back. If you are hit by an enemy during this period of time you are interrupted and the process stops. I’ve been playing this game for five days (yes, I’m a slow gamer) and I’m not too thrilled by this method of healing through food. This same ‘time’ method is also repeated when you unlock treasure chests. If you are interrupted then the process stops completely and you have to start over. It’s not a huge deal, but it does annoy me just slightly.
Shifting gears just slightly, there’s also a great deal of The Secret of Monkey Island type humor that pushes the story of the game. It’s a fully voiced-over game that brings a wacky story. You run into moments where you can see Ron Gilbert’s hand print pretty prevalently. Deathspank can only be described as a loud, boisterous hero that is either way too dumb or just sitting in a class of his own above everyone else (or both). When your character interacts with other characters he says things like, “Hello, little orphan girl!” or “Greetings, Demon Witch!” I know you can see how this dialogue plays out, so expect that throughout the game. There are moments completely taken from Monkey Island. For example, when speaking with people you get a list of responses to choose from. Again, it’s a technique directly from Monkey Island.
So with a nice balance of humor and a fantastic balance of gameplay, how does the game look?
The game is very cartoony, but surprisingly detailed. It’s a world that is widespread, but limited mostly until you do certain things to progress. It’s completely based on a spherical type of land shape. If you can imagine a cartoon character literally running on top of a spinning ball then you can imagine Deathspank. The game does shift to a east-west motion, but for the most part it’s a very rounded world with cool methods of changing landscape. The environments in the game are extremely detailed, but again very cartoony. For example, when you reach the ‘demon’ portion of the world at the beginning you’ll see a blue sky shift to a black sky and very well-shaded shifts from green pastures to red, scorched landscapes. The transitions are usually smooth and they’re all led by cel-shading type of animation.
The character models of the game are unique. Deathspank’s change from armor to armor or weapon to weapon is reflected well by his onscreen character. That’s one thing that’s making a lot of reviewers happy about the game and something that will push gamers to purchase it. The customization is pretty specific and welcoming to the eyes.
Simply put, the game looks fantastic all-around.
Rounding things out here, the amount of time it takes to complete Deathspank is around 7-8 hours. The experience can last a bit longer, but it’s close to that range. For $14.99 on PSN that’s not a bad experience. Considering that a game like Limbo costs the same amount and you get half that time, it’s not a bad price (though, if you have played Limbo you should definitely check that out). The replay value for Deathspank is pretty high. I’m not going to give much away, but you’ll be happy to run through it again.