The top-down action/RPG is something of a favourite of mine. Sadly, it’s been a fair while since anything in the genre really grabbed my attention. The Deathspank precursors to The Baconing really didn’t do it for me, so given that this is very much the same animal, I didn’t have a whole lot of fun with it.
I think the main reason The Baconing doesn’t quite hit the mark for me, is the rather contrived humour. Having played the previous two games, this humour gets rather trite. It seems to be trying to replicate Earthworm Jim’s kind of laughs, and in my opinion, falls flat. It smacks of Hothead Games – technically a very proficient outfit – sitting down and conceptualising the whole Deathspank series with the self-indulgence meters turned up to full power.
It’s all somewhat obvious, right from the moment Deathspank (the main protagonist) opens his mouth and lays on the regal arrogance like a muck-spreader – whatever occurs throughout the game, you know you’re going to be wading through a lot of that voice. This is great if you appreciate this kind of humour, and certainly in videogames, it’s not that bad of an effort. However, I don’t imagine many will see it as a real bonus to the game. It’s aspects like the wise cows, the general premise involving the thongs of virtue and the fact that you respawn in outhouses that attempt to lend comedy to the piece. No thanks. It’s notoriously hard to create an eight-hour adventure/RPG title that has enough quality comedy present to make it a positive feature. Sadly, Deathspank and Co. don’t do it for me.
So, the comedy isn’t great, what about the rest of the game? Gameplay-wise, it’s a funny mix of frustration and avarice. If you’re not feeling one, you’re feeling the other. Too often for me, the game pits you against overwhelming odds, and relies on the fact that you have approximately infinity more lives than your opponents. This, for me, is a fundamental flaw, and one that seems somewhat lazy compared to many other RPGs. Now, I understand that this is, by its very nature, a more quick and easy title than, say, Oblivion, but to completely negate any need for an engineered difficulty learning curve seems indicative of a company cutting corners – this being one of the largest corners that can be cut. I understand the concept very well, and indeed, the necessity to make this game more immediate than other action/RPG titles, but it does make something of a mockery of the RPG element of the genre.
As for the avarice, it’s a positive thing for me. The whole vicious circle of powerup=more baddies killed=more coin=more powerups is a pivotal part of the genre. It’s nicely levelled so that you’re not having to delve into your inventory screen every two seconds, but there is still enough loot around to retain that essential element of greed.
While the combat expands on most in the genre, it’s not a particularly fulfilling experience. It’s pure hack-and-slash territory. Simply having four weapons instead of one doesn’t make much of a difference to the overall feel. You’ll assign your most powerful weapon to the most convenient face button and mash it until it gets all gacked up with pasty goo and Pringle dust. There is a rather uninspired offline multiplayer mode in the vein of the series that lets a buddy drop in and out. However, it’s more of a one-and-a-half-player game in this respect, and serves only for disinterested girlfriends on a Sunday afternoon who want to get away from the ironing or whatever. You don’t, as player two, have your own life bar, inventory or anything interesting, but simply serve as a plucky sidekick.
Taking a backseat to this cavalcade of niggles is an occasionally brilliant slice of intelligence. Some of the puzzles are truly great, and enjoyable enough for me not to want to spoil them for you. However, these points are far too sparsely distributed to make them really worthy of note.
I didn’t come at The Baconing from a particularly favourable point of view, I’ll give you that. However, even if you played and liked the first two, the gameplay, comedy and aesthetic are all a little too similar to warrant any real accolade. It’s a nice looking game, and even if you don’t like the funnies, you can at least enjoy the fact that the world is a complete and coherent one. The lack of significant multiplayer puts a black mark against it, as does the rather moot combat system. I just can’t recommend it, regardless of how objective I am, and The Baconing will stay in my fridge until it goes all hard and gets thrown in the bin.
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