Wednesday, July 21, 2010

DeathSpank leaves a strange craving...

I can't quite place it...demos are usually just that - a sample of gameplay to give you a taste, usually over-patronizing in tutorials, and end way too early before you get to try out the really cool stuff.

The DeathSpank demo does none of that; the demo feels like the full game, there's no countless windows of tutorial messages to clutter up your limited experience, and at one point, there is a timer in the upper-right corner ticking down from 20 minutes - probably a timer for how much time left you have to play the demo. The timer could've practically have been irrelevant to me, since the game sold me before that even went up.

I'll admit, I really had no initial anticipation for Deathspank. All I knew about it was it was created by Ron Gilbert (of Monkey Island fame) and a couple of videos. It wasn't until I actually sat down with the demo that I heard for the first time what the game sounded like.

DeathSpank's voice actor has the baritone of Qwark from Ratchet and Clank, and the allure of Zap Brannigan from Futurama. His personality is the perfect mixture of suave and heroic stupidity. All his interactions with the locals are reminiscent of "Monkey Island" brand humor, with multiple dialogue selections to carry conversations on wide tangents. And while the voice acting can get as slow as being hand-fed every spoonful of syllable, everyone else's role shines through. (Just found out now that it's Townsend Coleman, the same person that voiced The Tick from the animated series. That explains a lot!)

If you've ever played any Animal Crossing game after Wild World, the environment will be familiar ground. The terrain is like a long conveyor belt, simulating a vanishing horizon near the top of the screen, and adjusts as you traverse the world. It's both a visual treat and a practical gameplay element.

What's probably the most engrossing part is what everyone touts as the "Diablo-like" equipment system, where you can equip yourself with items, weapons, and armor picked up as you progress. And the game spares no time taking itself seriously with item names like "Cleaver of Cleavening." What it boils down to is an RPG of mixing and matching equipment based on the situation, using what works best at that moment.

Bottom line, if you like Ron Gilbert humor and mindless enemy killings, you'll enjoy DeathSpank. Hell, in the time I took to write this article, I've downloaded the full game!
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