Well where do we start? Any game that features a hero that goes by the name Death Spank must a little out of the ordinary and that's certainly the case. This is my first encounter with the hero of this game and was not at all sure what to expect. To be honest I had seen Death Spank's first game offered on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade and passed on it, thinking that it was not for me. Therefore I faced the prospect of reviewing this title with a little dose of intrepidation.
But then a voice inside of me said, "No wait, you could be prejudging it. Go on, what's the worst that can happen?" So I accepted the task and here it is.
Our victorious hero having defeated the relentless evil hordes of his first adventure was bored. Heck even heroes must get days where they do not know what to do, where to go and therefore find themselves at a loose end. So what was Death Spank to do?
Suddenly a light bulb goes off above his head and he thinks (a novelty thing for sure, muscles he has a plenty, but the same cannot be said for braincells!) I know, I'll try on all of the thongs of power that I acquired after my first adventure! And who is going to stop me from trying them on all at the same time! Well maybe someone with an ounce of common sense may just have said, err are you really sure you want to do this?
But alas there was no such voice of reason resounding inside his head and so, for better or for worse, that's exactly what Death Spank does. So was this a good idea? Err no! Indeed wearing all of the thongs created the Anti Spank! Yes the Anti Spank, a monstrous, gigantic dark thing of very nasty stuff indeed that starts ravaging the land around him! And so begins the quest to undo the damage he has done, and to do that, he now needs to find the Bacon Fires that will destroy the thongs and enable him to battle the Anti Spank in a climatic final battle!
What you have here is a free roaming environment to explore. It is dotted with points of interest such as the lost and found where items can be stored and collected again later if needs be. Look out for barrels that will contain food, or money and occasionally additional armaments and potions. Vendors will sell you armour, weapons and food as well as potions. If that's the case then why have the vendors? Well whilst exploring the landscape you could find yourself short on potions for instance and then will come the realisation that the last vendor was some way off, so get to smashing those barrels.
Some barrels however are loaded with nasty surprises. Red barrels (as is standard for most games since Doom brought them in) will explode, others will release toxic clouds of gas, some will unleash ice particles and others fire. They are clearly marked so be aware of them. But although they can hit the unwary they can be a life saver when encountering enemies. Let them come close to the barrels, take aim and if you get the timing right, you can do some serious harm to the enemies that are coming at you.
These barrels will re-spawn as will the enemies in the area which is useful if you need to level up. Levelling up increases your health as you'd expect and allows you to use better armour and weapons. It also gives you three choices each time you do that can effect your hero or indeed his sidekick (more on that later)
These bonuses look like cards and the good news is they can be stacked. So in time you are going to have a pretty powerful hero and a more than useful partner. In single player mode however, your sidekick is not there, he only turns up in cooperative play mode so bare that in mind.
You will find bonuses aplenty and enhancements galore, some better than others. You can cut out the problem of working out which armour enhancement will suit you better than others, by opting to have the A.I. automatically equip the best armour. Everything else though you will have to sift through yourself. Feel free to experiment and mix and match. You have plenty of slots to be filled and in fact it may seem a confusing set of options as you have two boxes for your inventory. One for every day items and the other for quest related objects so keep that in mind.
Most of the time quests will be of the 'find that creature and beat it', but others are a little more novel than that. One quest means you have to take names off of gravestones and use those names to rig an election. Another has a jealous princess that wants to spoil the garden of her rival. Sabotaging her flower beds isn't enough, try running her ornamental fountain by dumping the manure from a Dire Beast into it!
The key point though is find the bacon fires and use them to destroy those accursed thongs, only by doing this can you defeat the nasty Anti Spank!.
Simple enough in some cases but slightly bemusing in others. The left stick moves the hero, and the X, Y, A and B buttons can be used as hot buttons for the weapons that you have collected. What you collect can be assigned to any button you like and an on screen display will remind you of what has gone where. Now this is where it can be confusing in some ways. You see the D-Pad can also have items assigned to it as well. Again you can assign food to be consumed for healing (potions as well, and some can be used to temporarily boost your armour or give a brief dose of invulnerability) or launch grenade attacks and it can result in a finger slip and doing something you didn't want or mean to so watch out for that.
The left bumper brings up a map that is not particularly well detailed but does show the locations of out houses that you have found and activated. These can be used to teleport around the map, cutting out the need for wandering around slaughtering re-spawned monsters, but then again if you are close to levelling up... It's up to you how you handle that situation. They are useful though.
The right bumper brings up the inventory screen and the bumpers can be used to scroll through the pages of it. The controls remain the same for the sidekick in co-op play. Oh and a point of interest here, if you are weighed down with some useless tat and you are some way away from a merchant, and there is no outhouse in sight, you can access the inventory and send these items to the grinder. This converts trash into cash. Useful indeed although you'll get better prices from merchants.
The left trigger charges some attacks, and the right charges up the shield. Do this correctly and it will send out a stunning wave of energy slowing some enemies for a few precious seconds. There's a lot to get to grips with but you will get used to it with a little patience.
They look as if Terry Gilliam has discovered cell shading. Buildings look like cardboard cut-outs or have the look that they have come from a child's pop up book. The landscape is brightly coloured and again look as if they have been taken from a colouring book. This is NOT a criticism, it's the look of the game that gives it an almost fairy tale look that suits the mood of the game rather well. Some may not like the looks of this game, but I appreciated the mood set by it.
I can't call it atmospheric but it suits the mood of the game nicely. It's not an outstanding soundtrack and it doesn't stick in the head either, but suits the setting nicely. To be honest you are to busy questing to take an awful lot of notice of it.
Sound effects are adequate for this title. Blows sound nice and meaty and explosions have a nice bit of 'oomph' behind them. Creature sound effects are a little samey for want of a better description, growls, hisses and the like. Maybe if they taunted our hero from time to time that would have given us an extra fun factor. Creatures react well to being caught in a blast from an explosion, and fire effects and smoke are nicely rendered for such a 'cartoony' looking game.
Vocal talent is adequate for the title. I cannot comment on lip syncing as there is none present in this game but the dialogue is suitably tongue in cheek, and borders on the cheesy from time to time but this is quite deliberate. The main character is a typical cartoon heroic buffoon, that will remind some people of the Tick. Witty asides aplenty, some mild innuendo but no bad language make this a family friendly title.
There is no multiplayer but the co-operative play is as fun as the single player mode. There are three characters to choose from, the most useful being Steve, who rides into battle on a unicorn. He can cast a rainbow that will heal the two of you in one go, and can spin sending projectiles hurtling into your foes in a deadly tornado of destructive destructiveness! The other two? Well as Steve is the only one I have had used with me, then I cannot comment on them. See for yourselves, but Steve seemed by far the obvious choice!
Bright, colourful and suitable for most members of the family aged 10 upwards. Like some other recently released titles for Xbox Live, this is a nicely priced game that will keep you amused for some time! The co-op play is both fun, challenging and satisfying but it's not essential to play this in co-op mode. It doesn't force this option upon you at all. Easy to play once you get used to how you kit out your button layouts (see below). There's also the possibility of DLC to expand the lifespan and replay value.
The deployment of items in your inventory may initially cause confusion and some undue frustration. Most quests are simple to understand as far as knowing where to go and what to do, but others are a little more confusing. Take for example, the quest that means you have to help a computer entity called Z.I.M.O.N It says as an objective you have to find the two halves of a six digit code. One half lies to the north of the Z.I.M.O.N complex, the other to the south. But the sticking point is, is it IN the complex or OUTSIDE it? Its not sure. I read it as being IN the complex but there are areas that you cannot access. Same can be said for the exterior area as well. So this one quest has been a stumbling block and has me scratching my head in confusion. I will do it, don't get me wrong but I could do without the aggro generated by the lack of clarity. This isn't the only example but this is the most obvious one that makes me say, "Well where the heck am I supposed to be going?"
A fun title that will bring a slightly daft smile to most people's faces that can appreciate the humour. Inventory issues and some lack of clarity in some quests may provide moments of head scratching if not open confusion leading to slight annoyance. But on the whole, it's a fun packed, humour laced adventure that's at a decent price and I'd say at least take a look at the demo. I may even take a look at Death Spank to see what joys that had to offer. I recommend this if you are after a light hearted and fun game that provides a change from the usual RPG and first person shooter shenanigans. Worth a look.