DeathSpank takes the Diablo formula and bashes it on the funnybone. Originally available on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, it gradually found its way onto other platforms before coming to the Mac at the end of 2010.
The game sees you take control of DeathSpank, a self-proclaimed “dispenser of justice” who roams the land in search of “The Artifact”, all the while dispensing said justice with a bunch of ranged and melee weapons, and stopping to collect loot. The control scheme is reasonably streamlined. Unlike Diablo and similar games, there are no skills to speak of. Simply equip up to 3 weapons and use them simultaneously to fill up a “justice meter”. Filling the meter allows DeathSpank to perform a powerful attack (based on the weapon used).
There are several other neat twists on the formula. The main one is that there are puzzles to be solved in order to complete some of the missions. These usually involve collecting or using inventory items, and there’s even the old-school adventure mechanic of having to combine items together. It’s refreshing stuff, and to prevent you from getting stuck, you can consume fortune cookies which will give you a series of hints as to how to solve a problem. Levelling up allows you to choose one of three “hero cards” which give you slight bonuses.
Written by Ron Gilbert (of Monkey Island fame), the relentless humour will either be a major selling point for you or will grate on your nerves (all the dialog is skippable though). Mechanically, the game is sound, and many of the major irritations of the genre (like having to constantly backtrack or return to town to sell loot) have been removed (such as just being able to convert unwanted loot into cash straight from your inventory). Artistically, it’s all very stylised, with the 3D environment being decorated by cardboard cutout-styled trees and other furnishings. There’s a great variety of critters to fight and environments to explore, so there’s quite a lot of fun to be had here.
Performance & Quality
There are limited options to speak of (just resolution and vertical sync) and while the game seems to run fine, the frame rate feels very low, no matter how the settings are adjusted.
The xbox 360 controller (which is highly recommended for this game) will work but you’ll have to manually configure the button mapping through the options screen- it detects the controller correctly but not which button is which.
A friend can join in and help you on your adventures, taking the form of wizard/healer character “Sparkles”, but unfortunately it’s local co-op only; there’s no option to link up via the internet.