Genre: Role Playing Developer: Publisher: Classification: M Release Date: 23rd Sep 2010 Platforms:
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For those of you that missed the original DeathSpank, I weep for you. Silently, and manly, but weep all the damn same. The bastard lovechild of loot hunting Diablo (or for the non PC friendly, say Borderlands) and Monkey Island (due in no small part to creator Ron Gilbert's involvement), DeathSpank was filled to the brim with pop culture references, frequently broke the fourth wall and had more
weapons than The Matrix.
Predominately concerned with traditional RPG fetch quests, it told the story of our heroic hero DeathSpank, wearer of the mystical purple Thong of Justice (yes, you read it right), champion of the downtrodden and all around nice guy. After an armour clad red haired lass sets him on a quest to recover the mysterious Artefact, DeathSpank finds himself battling an army of orques and fairytale creatures, like gingerbread men and unicorns, giant Pips, leprechauns, ghosts, ghouls and greems as he massacres his way to the tyrant Lord Von Prong.
Along the way, he carries out many side quests for self aware NPCs, and the whole romp took about eight or so hours. I loved it. It was filled with involuntary giggles, puerile humour, a brilliant elevator music styled score that worked magnificently well, and was extremely satisfying. But defeating Lord Von Prong and liberating him from his corrupted thong was only the beginning (as the open ending alluded). After moving from flights of fantasy, DeathSpank vaults into modern warfare and proves that you can never have too much of a good thing.
Dishevelled, gaunt and weaponless, we find our hero in a WWII internment camp, peeling potatoes, musing on his situation. Armed with his mighty potato peeler of justice, he seeks to escape the camp (disguised as an orque), recover his weapons and enter the fray. After some classic comedy ala Hogan's Heroes, he escapes and meets up with the same gingernut fair maiden. It appears that there were six thongs created to watch over and protect mankind. DeathSpank has one, the Lord Von Prong another, three more are known, and have corrupted their users, and one remains missing.
The stage is now set, and the mighty vanquisher of evil must wrestle these once bastions of hope from their moral coil to remove the tainted thongs from their person. Only then, can they be returned to the bacon fires from which they were forged, and destroyed completely. Sounds crazy? Yes. Ridiculous? Indeed. Hilarious? You betcha! It's this sort of irreverent and insane humour that had me guffawing and snickering when I knew I shouldn't, and it doesn't let up for an instant.
The world you traverse is beautifully presented. It is a sort of rolling world underneath your feet, with each new section distinct from the last and mirroring a certain theme, be it Western, oppressive factory, spooky forest, Vietnam jungle, WWII battlefield or French village each are instantly recognisable.
Though DeathSpank and his adversaries move about in a third person 3D world, all buildings and structures have a marvellous 2D flat pop-up book quality about them that just grabs your attention. As you negotiate through the world, each new section has a teleporting outhouse that activates once you pass it, operating as both a save point and means of quick transportation.
Your main quest is to obtain a means to get to the North Pole, as the wearer of the Thong of Generosity has become twisted and evil, and it's up to you, and a Patton-esque General, to storm the beaches and bring Santa to justice. Yes. Santa is the big bad. Priceless! To reach this end, you'll perform many tasks to acquire a pirate ship to get to the North Pole, defeat two other thong owners, find a slew of weapons and treasure, and laugh your arse off while you're doing it.
Barrels and treasure chests are littered throughout the land and, as well as fallen foes, cough up armour, food items (to restore health), potions, orbs and most importantly weapons. You'll also grab fortune cookies, that can be used to unlock hints if you're having trouble with any particular quest.
The majority of your time will be spent going to and fro, levelling up and slaughtering enemies by the thousand (my count was nearly 3,500 by journey's end). You have a veritable smorgasbord of options in your arsenal. There are standard melee weapons like hammers, swords and axes, all with laughable descriptions, and elemental weapons with unique abilities like fire damage, frost, electrical or poison.
As you kill, your Justice meter rapidly fills (or for executing a perfect block) and when it announces "Justice Ready!" you can unleash a powerful attack. Some can stun, others electrocute, but my personal fave was the spinning tomahawk, which turns you into a whirling dervish of pain as you whittle any enemy's health down to zero. You can also unlock runes to bolster these attacks using two specific weapons in conjunction when justice is ready to be served.
The biggest difference between Thongs of Virtue and its prequel is the use of ranged weapons. DeathSpank had only traditional fantasy items like crossbows, but this sequel has bazookas, sub-machine guns, shotguns, revolvers, ray guns (which overheat so use sparingly), flamethrowers and grenades that do devastating damage. Even you are not immune, so use wisely and at a distance. Each operates differently, with the revolver six shot quick draw highly effective, and targets multiple enemies. The hardest decision you'll have is what to keep/save in your inventory and what to grind down for quick cash.
As I mentioned before, the tone is infantile and littered with pop culture references and insane situations. From the French Village you first visit of Beux Knuckle, with the armourer Poque le Tete (think about it), to the librarian at the Bookatorium where you can find fine books like "Shy Girl, saves the day, gets sparkly vampire", to the freaked out outpost soldier shouting "Game over, man!" repeatedly, and it carries right through to quests and NPCs.
Perhaps you'll help Lawrence in the desert form a militia, go big game hunting to unlock that "Molten Warfare" armour. Maybe you'll help the damsel in distress find her lost feminine hygiene products or defeat a river-dancing leprechaun king with a four leaf clover shield and watch as he grows with each hit until he's a mere pair of legs on your screen.
Two that stuck in my mind were the infiltration mission where you had to locate a vest and cover it with six pieces of "flair" before you could get past the receptionist in an obvious Office Space nod, but the boss battle against the wearer of the Thong of Cuisine took the proverbial cake. In an Iron Chef styled kitchen, before you face off, you have a cook off with a samurai clad Japanese judge deciding the winner. If you talk to him, he responds in Japanese, and I happened to notice an instructional book on the language at the Bookatorium.
I raced back, checked it out and unlocked a short cut scene and trophy. When I returned, he told me what his favourite dishes were and I made it accordingly. Once the boss battle begun against Wartton Wandelranger (the other chef), the Iron Chef sent some ninjas to assist, making a tough boss battle a piece of piss and an extremely memorable gaming moment too boot.
The finale against Santa is fantastic, as well as an interesting twist for fans of the series afterward which I won't spoil. If you download it, you'll also get a bonus quest set in a snowy cave
against a Talking Tree which is about half an hour or so, and well worth it for weapons and armour, with the prize "Shank's Bloody Motor Saw", as EA's arcade titles show each other some crossover love.
Coming in at about 16-20 hours for under twenty bucks, DeathSpank Thongs of Virtue surpasses its predecessor in every way, and though it does suffer from minor frame-rate issues in the latter sections, it is one of the most rewarding and fun-filled bits of gaming I've had, and I eagerly await the next instalment.