Under the cover of humor and witty dialogue, Hothead Games has delivered a wild action-RPG in the form of DeathSpank. While it isn’t the end-all, be-all of loot infested video games, DeathSpank serves up a quality offering of fantasy action.
DeathSpank is littered with side-quests, and can easily become a black hole that envelops all your free time. As part adventure game and part hack-and-slash, the side-quests are the bright and shining armor for the title since the main story arc isn’t anything to write home about. Out to play a little Indiana Jones, DeathSpank (main character) accepts a mission to retrieve the mysterious artifact known as The Artifact – how clever! Without any flesh to keep the story together, the plot is as dry as a bag of bones; although the dialogue is much better, even with the clichés.
Unbeknownst to the hero, much of the world knows of DeathSpank, but his reputation isn’t favorable. Similar to New England Comics' blue hero, The Tick, DeathSpank isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He’s often oblivious to the world around him, the danger he recklessly throws himself into, and is, for the most part, lacking of any intelligence. Much of his interactions to the world around him are direct and to the point, though he often misses the point of why he must accomplish his objectives set before him. DeathSpank's ignorance produces some laugh-out-loud moments, even if they are only briefly enjoyed.
As ridiculous as DeathSpank is, the game never crosses that bridge of unnecessary comedy. The characters you meet are often charming, clever, and offer their own brand of humor to story. Whether it’s Eubrick, the retired hero who lives among “Stoopid Chickens” or Snitch the Leprechaun who needs to be committed to protective services, the world is entertaining to embark through. Even so, you'll likely skip through much of the dialogue as DeathSpank and his cohorts ham it up, and instead, get down to adventuring.
What holds DeathSpank together is the simplistic combat that is controlled with the four face buttons of the controller. To perform combos, players must alternate between attacks to achieve the 7x attack modifiers. The breezy control scheme makes DeathSpank is a joy ride from beginning till end, even though the difficulty level is fairly on the easier side – hardcore looters will want to look elsewhere for challenging dungeons.
To appease the appetite of hack-and-slash fans, players are able to switch up their armor, accessories, weapons and usable items throughout the entire game as new equipment is obtained from fallen enemies, treasure chests, and non-playable characters. DeathSpank must evolve to face the hordes of enemies he encounters, but advancement isn't limited to collecting weapons and armor. You must choose cards as you level-up to increase speed, melee attacks, ranged attacks and the like.
There’s also a throwaway cooperative mode that is only available offline for local play. While this doesn’t hinder the enjoyment of the single-player campaign, it’s disappointing that there wasn’t any online thrown in for good measure. The offline co-op pits the second player as a wide-eyed wizard in a pink wardrobe named, Sparkles the Wizard. Sparkles tags along for the journey and is capable of healing DeathSpank, cloning himself, and attacking with a ranged attack. The issue with the cooperative mode is that Sparkles doesn’t receive his own health bar and instead shares with DeathSpank. This alternatively creates a dilemma that both players have to be careful when heading into a brawl.
Even with the shortcomings of cooperative and the narrative, DeathSpank still ends up being a joyous romp through a fantasy-filled world of evil unicorns, kidnapped orphans, and sinful monks. There’s not much else like it currently available on either console downloadable service, so players who have $15 to spare on a game offering close to 15 hours of gameplay, DeathSpank is recommended.