DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue Review

By Rob Manuel - Posted Sep 20, 2010

Only a few months out from its original release, DeathSpank is back for round two with Thongs of Virtue. The first game was an enjoyable romp, but has the game changed enough to warrant downloading the sequel?

The Pros
  • Lots of fun hack and slash action
  • Entertaining and funny Dialogue
  • Even more to do and explore
The Cons
  • Game pacing is still off
  • Not much different, just more of the same from the original game.
  • Some graphical glitches

It was the summer of 2010. The yearly spawning of rare oil slicks frolicked in the Gulf Stream. Adrien Brody entertained thousands as the loveable tramp in Predators. Milk hovered around two dollars. And a little title named DeathSpank appeared in our download queue. After countless hours, a sequel appears yet again to take on the mantel and undergarments of our beloved hero. But has the game changed that much since the original?

Not really, but that’s not a bad thing.

DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue

The Smell of Napalm and Pie

With DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue, we pick up with our extra-exuberant hero after the conclusion of the first game just as he steps out of the world of swords and sandals and into the world of bullets and boots. As any can tell you, it is not wise to bring a broadsword to a gunfight.  Deathspank is quickly captured by enemy forces and thrown into a cartoon-style death camp. With little more than the potato peeler in his hand the rats on his shoulders, our beloved hero breaks free to learn that all the misery in the world is being caused by the remaining thongs of virtue corrupting the individuals entrusted with their safety. Just as before, Deathspank must find the wielders – if one can wield undergarments – and kill them to end their reign of tyranny.

Even if that means killing Santa Clause.

As before, the humorous touches that only Ron Gilbert can bring to such a game can be felt throughout. Sulking pirates pine for a bird to sit on their shoulder. Allusions to movie classics like Conan, Saving Private Ryan, and others splatter against of canvas of nearly every videogame cliché. There’s even a whore with a heart of gold who will do just about anything for a buck. The dialogue allows for some great moments, but unfortunately, most gamers will race through it just to get to the quest. On top of that, the humor itself really lacks focus. With a game filled with WWII soldiers, pirates, cowboys, space marines, skeletons, and Vietcong chickens; the game feels like it’s going through every joke they can pick off the floor of the Laugh Factory, hoping that the player will find something they’ll like. Some jokes work while the rest of them fall flat.

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You're a Warrior, Sent By Quest Givers, To Collect The Loot

You swing as sword and stuff dies. What more could you want out of a hack-and-slash? As with the previous game, weapons and items can be mapped to each of the face buttons as well as the D-pad. Throwing down with a single weapon will be able to get you through some of the shorter battles, but the game will actually block out an overused item for a couple of seconds. On the reverse side, you gain power multipliers by using a different weapon with each of your attacks. In a very smart and subtle way, DeathSpank rewards you for mixing it up.

Thongs of Virtue introduces ranged weapons that require ammo. Instead of that crossbow with an endless supply of arrows, you’re now mowing down foes with bazookas and machine guns that will quickly run out of ammunition if you’re not careful. This is a great addition to the game since most of my previous strategy relied on attacking from afar and finishing them off with a couple of swipes. Now, I need to think more about my inside game. This also brings the problem of other enemies now being able to hit you from a distance. Closing that gap between your enemy and the point parts of your weapons is rather critical. Occasionally, I got attacked off camera or they sniped me from just beyond the curve of the environment. While a welcomed change of pace, the system is far from perfect.



DeathSpank Don’t Surf

Speaking of pace, enemies typically scale with the adventurer in games like Thongs of Virtue. As you come across tougher opponents, players work harder to overcome the barriers until they reach the next level where they gain equal footing with their adversaries. DeathSpank, however, likes to watch you die. As in the previous title, Thongs of Virtue never indicates whether or not you should attempt a quest. If you die, you probably shouldn’t have attempted it. But then again, does the blame lie on you not having the proper strategy when entering a quest or should you grind to a higher level? While many of the quests can be completed as soon as you get them, some will be way out of your range while others you won’t be able to complete until much later in the game. It’s a slow and sometimes frustrating process of trail and grisly murder.

Along with the uneven pacing, there’s been little change in the presentation. The inventory system holds your stuff and little else. Comparing weapons or armor takes a couple of minutes of memorization and quick math as you highlight the different items. The second player option from the first game is back along with a new buddy, but once again, there’s not an online mode. Unless you happen to play with someone else in the same room, there’s little use for your superfluous friend. The map could also have used a bit of a change. Zooming in on the map will reveal location names and finished quest locations – but this only works for the section you are in. Flipping to different sections would have made it easier to know where to turn in quests (since it could have been hours since you picked it up) or see where particular locations reside on the map. It’s these little tweaks that would have gone a long way.

Better Than Disneyland?

This storybook world has a storybook look to accompany it. Trees, houses, and other background objects seem to pop-up from a horizon that’s always just out of reach. As beautiful and fitting as these pieces may be, they sometimes unintentionally hide enemies or other items that you need to pick up. Thong of Virtue hosts a bigger area than the previous iteration, but a good portion of that can only be crossed by pirate ship. There’s a lot of variety in areas as well from a POW camp to the rails of the Wild West. On the PS3 version, I found a couple of graphical hiccups as well as slow downs in larger areas – nothing major but annoying. Still, the cartoony and hand drawn look of the world and its characters only add to the humor that’s nearly bursting at the seams.



The War Will Still Be Here Tomorrow

While some improvements where made from the previous game, the bigger issues like pacing were not addressed. But also like the previous game, it’s a ton of fun to be had in this downloadable title. The addition of more formalized bosses and the areas around them where a great touch but the rest of the world lacks the same sort of focus given to these areas. For anyone who’s looking for a good hack-and-slash or feel the need to go questing, you’ll find a lot of fun in humor in this little downloadable title.