Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.Back in 2010, Ron Gilbert, the mind behind such gems as The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, Day of the Tentacle and, more recently, The Cave, teamed up with Hothead Games to create a new action RPG with an emphasis on fun. That game was DeathSpank and is probably best described by Ron as "Monkey Island meets Diablo." It was soon followed by the sequel, DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue, which continues the story of the first game. A year later, a third entry, DeathSpank: The Baconing, was released, although this one had no input from Mr Gilbert.
Deathspank sees the titular hero in his search for a mysterious artifact, known only as The Artifact. It's a tale of heroism, evil and bacon. The gameplay mostly follows the Diablo mould of smashing your way through hordes of creatures, most of which drop delicious loot and new equipment, allowing Deathspank to become more powerful and gain new skills and attributes. Attacks are mapped to the face buttons and include melee and ranged moves. They can be chained together into combos that fill a Justice Meter that, once filled, can be used to unleash powerful special attacks. Death holds little impact in the world as, similar to the BioShock (Xbox 360) Vita-Chambers, ol' Spanky can respawn at nearby Outhouses so he can jump straight back into the action. As well as the action, Deathspank spends a lot of his time interacting with NPCs to further the story and take side-quests. These interactions include branching dialogue options and are where the game gets its close link to Adventure titles of old.
The main draw of Deathspank isn't necessarily its gameplay or its graphics. Whilst a serviceable RPG with loot galore, a host of creatures to kill across varied locations and a progression system that works just fine, these elements take a back seat to the game's hilarious dialogue. Some of the humour comes from the animated cutscenes that pepper the story, but the majority comes from the interactions with the game's NPCs. Many of these weird and wacky people offer Deathspank side-quests, most of which involve going and killing some creatures to collect something the NPC has lost or desires. On his journey, Deathspank must collect demon dung, rescue orphans, pester monks and get into a spot of bother regarding some thongs. Fans of the humour of Monkey Island and The Cave will definitely find their fix here.
Having said that, aside from the humour, the game plays very well. Although Deathspank's journey is mostly quite linear, the areas that he explores are varied and you don't spend so long in one area that it begins to get tiresome. The game has three difficulties settings and isn't particularly challenging, but that allows it to be more fun than frustrating. There are no times where you need to grind out kills just to level up enough to progress through the story. Yes, the combat isn't particularly complex or refined, but that just means that it's easy to pick and play.
Additionally, the game features a drop-in drop-out couch co-op mode, meaning that you can have someone grab a second controller and join in the game as Deathspank's Wizard sidekick, Sparkles. This makes the game great to jump into and enjoy when you have a friend over.
DeathSpank has a very easy achievement list. Although only two of the achievements are directly tied to the game's story, the rest will mostly happen with normal progress in the game. Many are cumulative, such as killing 100 chickens, drinking 50 potions and killing 2,500 enemies, all of which you'll get naturally long before the game ends. There are also a few achievements tied to side-quests, such as the spelunker missions and Queen Greem hunts, but you'll also find none of these extra quests too challenging. In fact, the only achievement you might not get before the story is through is for reaching Level 20, but you probably won't be far off so the post-game grind will be minimal.
Only around 13,800 TA'ers have taken up DeathSpank's adventure. Of that number, almost 60% (8,300) have completed it. Our community have voted it 4.1 out of 5 from 2100 votes, whilst Metacritic puts the game at 79/100.
While we're here, we should probably take a quick look at the sequel stats too. Thongs of Virtue has 7,000 players and a 44% completion, with a community vote of 4.0 out of 5 and Metacritic score of 78/100. The Baconing has a much lower player count of 2,700 with a 22% completion. It gets 3.9 out of 5 from our community and a less favourable 64/100 on Metacritic.
The game and its sequels can currently be bought from the Xbox Live Marketplace for US$14.99 / £9.99 each or your region's equivalent. However, each one has been on sale a couple of times in the past, although none have so far this year and The Baconing hasn't for over two years now.
If you're looking for a few hours of funny fun to while away a rainy afternoon, look no further than DeathSpank to tickle your funnybone and give you a quick and easy gamerscore boost. And then, while away two more rainy afternoons with its two sequels.
If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!