DeathSpank spreads its plot pretty thin, sending you on a lengthy quest in order to recover a mysterious object known as The Artifact.
What ensues is a series of fetch quests in which you pummel a menagerie of opponents and collect loot. Sound familiar? It should — all of the press leading up to DeathSpank cited its homage to the Diablo franchise. With Ron Gilbert at the helm, however, the game doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a love-letter to the hack-and-slash classics, but it often trips over the butt of its own jokes.
With about eight hours of gameplay on offer, DeathSpank's one of the longer PlayStation Network games around. There's even local co-op for those who need to entertain a yawning partner.
A bit like Borderlands, but from an isometric scrolling perspective; DeathSpank's a gorgeous looking game. The art-work is stunning, as is the seamless nature of the way the world changes depending on your location. It's a vivid world packed with variety, and one we'd love to return to.
Though DeathSpank gets repetitive, it's hard to deny the joy of looting. The first couple of hours are heaven, as you upgrade your character and continually switch your arsenal. Sadly, DeathSpank loses some of its sheen in later hours — and you'll be too set in your ways with a formula that works to bother experimenting with the various loot upgrades.
DeathSpank may not be as funny as it thinks it is, but there are some genuinely comical moments in the game. The crass, self-aware humour is a hit when it lands; but it's not often that it does.
Like Captain Qwark on ecstasy, DeathSpank is almost certainly the most irritating video game protagonist of the year. His macho exuberance is mimicked by his square-jawed appearance, but the character gets tiresome quickly. Addressing characters with "Greetings" everytime he speaks to them may be comical for the first five conversations you take part in, but by the time you reach the end of the game you'll be hitting the Circle button like no other. DeathSpank's selling-point may be its writing, but its vocal work kills any humour in the dialogue. Not that DeathSpank's particularly funny in the first-place - there are some stand-out moments that will have you giggling, but much of the game's comedy is far too crass and obvious to be considered anything other than witty.
DeathSpank's health system is tied into an eating mechanic, which has the protagonist scoffing on snacks to recharge his health. In the heat of battle, this is incredibly frustrating, as to eat you have to essentially run away from the action and avoid interaction with any objects. It's slows the pace of what is otherwise a fast game, and spoils the joy of running through hordes of enemies chopping their heads off. In places, DeathSpank's an unnecessarily difficult game, with poor level design placing you in sticky situations that can often leave you dead in one strike. Thankfully, death is barely punished by the game - though the constant respawn, restart encounters that can occur later on are prone to annoy.
DeathSpank's UI can be a bit of a head-ache at times. Despite the map being relatively small, the game assumes you have knowledge of all its locations, without ever offering waypoints to guide you through the environment. Navigation throughout the inventory can also be clunky, with unorthodox button prompts for simple tasks.
The extent of DeathSpank's content is a timely nod at the current state of the downloadable games market; but it's also the game's Achilles' heel due to repetitive design. DeathSpank often leans on its writing to carry the experience, but despite its biggest marketing hook being the name of legendary video game comic Ron Gilbert, it's unlikely to illicit much more than a sympathetic smile.