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Adventures with DeathSpank

I am not the target audience for DeathSpank. My partner enjoyed it though, and since I was curled up sick on the couch for a couple of days I gave it a try.

DeathSpank is a stupid but well-meaning hero, searching the land for a mysterious artifact and aiding the downtrodden. It's the standard action-rpg formula given a cartoon make-over and infused with constant attempts at humour.

I have to wonder now, who exactly is the target audience for DeathSpank? Even on hard difficulty it often feels like skipping through the landscape casually squashing enemies. I can't imagine that's very satisfying for fans of games like Diablo and Torchlight, where I am assured there is more chance of being swarmed and overwhelmed.

DeathSpank certainly isn't very satisfying for those of us who prefer more strategy with our combat. If the enemies do have useful tells I couldn't see them among the busy scenery*. There are some weapon combos and other tricks, but it's mostly going to come down to button mashing.

I have to assume the combat in DeathSpank is also going for the light-hearted approach, to go along with its comedic vision.

I am not well qualified to discuss comedy, perhaps. To me, most comedy comes spontaneously from life, and I don't see much need to seek out a more crafted version. A lot of the funniest game moments for me were completely unintentional. Sentences with unintended double-meanings are pretty common, especially in translated games.

When I do seek out deliberate comedy, on one end of the spectrum I enjoy cleverness or subtlety. Alternately, I sometimes enjoy incredibly over-the-top humour. DeathSpank is somewhere in the middle, at the point where humour falls flat for me. It's not particularly clever, but it also plays the world surprisingly straight. Silly is fine, but it needed to go a lot further to work.

A lot of the obvious gags in DeathSpank involve toilet humour or sexual innuendo. Those things can work, but I expected more. Good lines were rare.

I really hated the characters. DeathSpank himself isn't too bad, since I'm used to over-done heroes. He was quite inconsistent though. He reads like a stupid person written by a smart person. Use of the term "oxyoxymoron" springs to mind. After complaining about a magic seal due to cruelty to defenceless sea creatures I don't accept his language stretches to mangling oxymoron.

I wanted to hit just about everyone DeathSpank met. The dialogue is rubbish, and the deliberately hammy and strangely pronounced voice acting grated on me. I'm not normally very sensitive about voice acting, but it was incredibly forced.

Bong the Potioneer wasn't bad, I'll give them that much. Of course, he was particularly chilled about the whole thing and so unlikely to ram a weird accent into my poor brain.


*The cartoon style kind of cool, but really gave me a headache after a while. I possibly need new glasses, but I don't think that would have helped much.


DeathSpank runnning from an enemy, surrounded by distracting pink scenery.