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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gameplay: DeathSpank

Having recently joined the rest of the world in enjoying the incredibly well designed Torchlight - I was overjoyed to see that DeathSpank was hitting the PlayStation Network last week. DeathSpank is essentially Diablo for Monkey Island. Which is to say - it's pretty awesome.

There's more of the former than the latter in the game in terms of mechanics - so if you don't like hack and slash action RPG's, you probably won't suffer through enough to enjoy Gilbert's immense sense of humor - though it might be close. The character DeathSpank is essentially The Tick with a broadest sword and no Arthur to keep him in check. The graphics are a slick combination of 2D cartoon and 3D effects, the overall production from voice work to sound effects is pretty top notch and the RPG mechanics have been simplified to make the game extremely accessible.

Actually, if I had any complaint it would be that the game is a little too accessible. My inventory is cluttered with potions I really don't need (except for healing). There is offline 2 player co-op with the second player as DeathSpank's trusty friend Crackles ... but Crackles is essentially just a walking turret without any upgrade paths or inventory of his own. The "justice meter" mechanic is slightly flawed since the uber-attack uses the same button mashing as any other attack, leading to several unintended overkill blows. DeathSpank's inventory management is simple, but also so shallow that you eventually feel more like you're just doing spring cleaning than actually configuring.

These are minor aspects to what is otherwise a brilliant game, though - and aspects which are really just victims of a design which is trying to streamline fun and remove frustration. The goal is to have enough action RPG to get to the adventure game concepts - heavily displayed in the character conversations but also apparent in the slightly less successful puzzles which suffer from some of the same interface problems as every other adventure game puzzles, i.e. letting the user know that a random noun or verb is really what they require. This is, again, a rather small nuisance and rather easily corrected with the ingame hint system.

It's a great game, with a beautiful style and possibly the best sense of humor available for digital download right now ... highly recommend.

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