How he got his name, we may never fully know, yet for DeathSpank the action speaks for itself in the latest downloadable installment from Hothead Games. Combining hack-and-slash action, Diablo-esq leveling and weapons system, and a sense of humor to make even the most stoic chuckle, the hero DeathSpank has all the right moves for only a $15 download on the PSN or XBL.
Springing from the creative mind of Ron Gilbert (the same creative mind behind the Monkey Island Series), ‘Spank takes you on a journey to find and protect “The Artifact.” What that is exactly, nobody is really sure, but all that needs to be known is that it has to be protected at all costs. Although, when there is time for protecting, there is time for DeathSpank.
Following the long-winded trek to “The Artifact,” you find yourself battling an amalgam of different incarnations from the RPG world – slimes, orcs, trolls – only here they tease your pallet and amuse the brain. Slimes will explode for no reason other than to annoy and create a puzzle for a quest; orcs leave white horns that you have to somehow dye red.
To combat each dastardly foe, the Spank is coming stocked with an array of melee and ranged weapons to choose from, giving him an assortment of “Justice” wielding choices. With the option of customizing your button layout, you decide where you want your ranged weapon, sword, poison-inducing hammer, etc. All will have their own specific attributes and abilities: some will hit multiple enemies, while others knock them away. If you do it right, and combo your attacks correctly, you can fill a gauge that will let you strike with all the “Justice” the particular weapon may have. It’s an interesting concept that works wonders when you get tag-teamed by hoards of enemies.
Of course, going through the rich fields of lava, bashing demons for the poop will reap experience and thereby reward. Upon leveling up you are given the choice of choosing a card to take for your character, ranging from upgrades in faster movement, stronger melee or ranged attack, or even larger coin payouts. These upgrades let you tailor your play style as you go, so things don’t get too boring or overly complicated with stats or number crunching.
Aside from the fact that there is a lot of repetitive hack-and-slash gameplay, and that you may find yourself dying over and again in the harder difficulty if you are playing alone, the game is perfect for a long-standing PSN download. However, if you have a friend that wants to join in for an hour or two, turning on a second controller and having them play as Sparkles the Wizard helps bolster the gameplay with his healing abilities and other mischief-making potential.
I would actually say that DeathSpank had the potential to be a full-fledged game, rather than a mere download. Yet for what it offers and what it is, it brings the joy, the attention, and amusement that makes it more than worthy of anyone’s time.