DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue Review

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DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Hothead Games

Platform: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Reviewed on Xbox 360

DeathSpank: Dispenser of Justice, Vanquisher of Evil, and Hero to the Downtrodden wouldn't be the man of justice he is were he not wearing one of six magical thongs. DeathSpank may be the only thong-bearer not corrupted by his wedgie-inducing undergarment. In DeathSpank, the eponymous hero has recovered one of these thongs, but four more remain before the world can truly be safe for the downtrodden.

Kyle Ackerman

If the first DeathSpank was a cross between the Monkey Island games and Diablo, DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue extends that by adding a touch of The Lord of the Rings crossed with a Victoria's Secret plan for world domination. Since the release of the first game, word has snuck out that DeathSpank was intended to be a single, extended game featuring many more than the six thongs that made it into DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue. The bitterness even leaks out into the plot of the game itself, with references to upper management crushing plans to forge further thongs.

DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue ventures into a World War II-style setting (there's even an entire set of "Greatest Generation" armor that makes DeathSpank "want to get off the lawn") and a Wild-West setting. The game further ventures into piratical and Christmas themes before moving to a secret moonbase. Poke at the edges of the setting enough and you can even unearth a cave full of the orques who move the props and backdrops around the world, and discover an island occupied by the orques on the Hothead development staff. Realizing this was all envisioned as a single game encompassing both DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue, I won't claim that things are more coherent, but the game's incoherence is more consistent.

DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue is decidedly funnier than DeathSpank, in part because it fits the genres to the jokes rather than focusing on a single, quickly empty fantasy setting. Because DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue is more packed with content than DeathSpank was, leveling and side quests are more productive and entertaining. But the game did get tiresome when it insisted on jumping me back and forth between teleporting outhouses just to further minor quest lines.

This new game also does a better job with weapons, particularly in the way it provides ranged weapons (from ray guns to bazookas) that are both more useful and entertaining. Given how significantly both questing and weaponry are improved, if this game and its predecessor were intended to be part of a single game, why was much of the good content packed into the back end? Was the goal to bore players with problematic stretches in DeathSpank so they would never get to the later content?

Not every joke was a hit, but the humor in DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue was far better, and the game contains a lot more of the adventure-game style item finagling. Even boss fights were far more interesting in that they relied more heavily on puzzle elements than actual combat. Where the game fell short was in the action-side of the action/RPG formula. The combat just isn't that interesting, and the first DeathSpank completely exhausted my capacity for mindless hacking while rapidly switching between weapons to fill my "Justice Meter."

DeathSpank could have been an exceptional game, had both DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue been packed into one game barely longer than either episode. Then the content and the occasionally clever wit would have overwhelmed the so-so combat. As it is, the more DeathSpank I played, the more acutely aware I became of the padding between the fun.

In hindsight, I would recommend playing DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue instead of DeathSpank, but certainly not in addition.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on October 24, 2010 9:07 PM.

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