The Baconing review
There’s very little in this comedy RPG sequel that players won’t recognise from lumpen hero DeathSpank’s last two outings. This isn’t necessarily a criticism: it means that The Baconing comfortably retains the puerile but pleasing humour that set apart previous entries from their grim RPG counterparts. Unfortunately, it also means that the distinguishing elements of the series – particularly the combat – are starting to show signs of wear.
The Baconing treads a similar path to the previous games, sending players on irreverent collecting quests and monster hunts. Where the game distinguishes itself, though, is in the world of Spanktopia. Having already mocked common depictions of high fantasy and 20th century warfare, the obvious progression was for The Baconing to turn its satirical gaze towards science fiction. However, the canvas of influences is far more imaginative than it could have been: there’s a postapocalypse feel to earlier areas, but it’s interrupted by a booming supercomputer that’s part Deep Thought, part ’70s edutainment program. Hothead has even managed to include a nod to Scorsese in the guise of a Leprechaun-run casino. Progression through the varied setting is certainly more linear than in the first game, but there’s a greater effort on the part of the developer to break the monotony of combat by adding distractions like wordplay minigames, outhouse-hopping puzzle sections and even an approximation of ’80s colourpunching memory game Simon.
The Baconing largely forgoes any need for players to grind through armies of enemies in order to progress. Despite this, occasionally a difficulty spike will halt progression and even on the easiest setting some enemies will require perseverance and saintly calm to defeat. Combat still has occasional feedback problems but has undoubtedly been improved, if not overhauled. The biggest additions are the ability to charge projectiles – meaning that your crossbow no longer borders on useless – and, more excitingly, the ability to deflect ranged enemy attacks with a shield bash. Both minor changes, then, but for the first time in a DeathSpank title it feels like you can survive on skill alone, as opposed to swigging potions and fleeing.
Despite all this, there’s a weary cynicism to The Baconing – the script is still amusing but the wordy humour has become so familiar that it’s in danger of being overlooked; the combat, while improved, is often the least enjoyable part of the game. The Baconing is undoubtedly a solid, entertaining addition to the series, but over-saturation has made this once brash and energetic adventure feel slightly predictable.