Wot I Think: The Baconing

By Brendan Caldwell on September 6th, 2011 at 8:43 pm.


I was having my breakfast shower last Thursday when I got a message from Jim. So I got out of the water and put down my Wheetos. When I read the message bleeping away in my jeans I found it simply read: “The Baconing: Review?” I replied with a lengthy acceptance speech, pointing out many of Jim’s finer qualities.

I was naked. “A review of unprecedented amazingness please,” he replied. “No ‘editor called me’ intros.” I resolved to disobey him as soon as I finished my toilet. What do you think of THAT Square Brackets Jim!? [I think you are looking for trouble, Caldwell – Jim]

Anyway. I got back into the shower, sat down, closed my eyes and folded the flaps of my ears over my ear canals. In this way, I could hear nothing but the faint, distant patter of water on porcelain. This act is life’s F5 button and you should try it.

You know what else you should try? The Baconing. (Truly, I am the segue king. Do you see how I got from being wet and nude to being in front of a PC, blinking at all the pretty DeathSpank? And it is very pretty. Colourful cardboard cut-outs of trees and dogs and houses act as obvious movie set props among the 3D environment. Meanwhile, background cut-outs are silhouetted against the sky, their pop-up book animations looping constantly, and the whole world rolls ecliptically out of the horizon. Aw, just look at that. That’s lovely that is. Oh my, who left these brackets open?)


Remember when you were wee and you put your two fingers on the globe in the geography classroom? And then started running your hand along an axis, spinning the globe as you went, as if your hand was a giant, malformed man stomping around the world? Stomp, stomp, stomp. Goodbye, Budapest. Stomp, stomp, stomp. Goodbye, Hawaii. Yeah? That’s what it feels like to walk into the horizon in The Baconing. Well, nothing will ever feel that much fun again. Rather, that’s what it looks like it feels like to walk into the horizon in The Baconing. I hope that makes sense.

Admittedly, this visual lovely won’t be new to DeathSpank botherers. Neither will much else. In terms of running around and boshing things open with variants of a big stick, not much seems different. You still find weapons are either ranged, melee or elemental melee and many are reiterations of weapons you’ve already collected, which sucks a little variety out of the looting but not in any way that can’t be shrugged off. If anything, it’s worth checking out the item descriptions themselves. Weapons crop up with outlandish names. The Drill of Justice. The Extra Undeathly Blade. The Hellageddon. At one point you find a melee weapon in a mobster leprechaun’s casino called A Perfectly Legal Bat. The description reads: “Nothing wrong with carrying a bat around. IS THERE?”
And yet, not much else has changed either. You still hit baddies with sticks and you still collect all the loot and you still get bigger sticks and you still charge up a Justice Meter to unleash more powerful attacks. You still tick “auto-equip best armour” in the equipment menu because you’re a lazy nob-barnacle who simply doesn’t want to do mental arithmetic on his day off, not like one of those moany moaners who moan and moan about games being ‘dumbed down these days’ – “Mehhh mehh mehh, I don’t like fun. Mehhh mehh mehh, I want to click more things. Mehhh mehh mehh, Brendan, stop changing the settings on my game. MEHHH MEHH MEHH.”


Well, calm down. In fact, the only setting I changed was the difficulty, which on medium offers a stout challenge in response to some complaints about previous games being a little too easy. I switched the difficulty down a fair few times not because it got too frustrating but because I am rubbish at things and panic when faced with black slimes. Can’t stand those guys. Remind me of Guinness squits.

The rest of the enemies are fine and dandy. You’ve got your tribal island warriors, your undead legions, your ghouls, your leprechauns, your lions, beasts, dragons – all of which are well animated and lovely and detailed but none of which carry the same lasting charm as developed characters or the harmless fish bowls with mechanical legs that wander the beaches who flee screeching in abject terror as you approach them.

WhhhhrreeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEE! < That’s the sound they make.


All in all there doesn’t seem to be anything distinct from previous ‘Spanks in the way of swinging-swords-at-blobs. Not that the unflinching nature of DeathSpank Is In This Game: The Baconing is necessarily a bad thing. The dungeon crawling loop is still as appealing as it is in any other Diablonian spawn. And as [Jim] previously noted, it’s the personality of DeathSpank himself that carries you onward, even past the point where you otherwise might have gotten a little bored. All this despite the fact that Ron ‘I Invented Laughter, Bitch’ Gilbert left Hothead Games before development to saunter over to Double Fine to hang out with his good buddy Tim ‘Well I Made Grim Fandango So, Like, Whatevs’ Schafer.

A lot of this appeal is thanks to DeathSpank’s particular style of humour. It’s the pastel drawing of a child’s fairytale smudged with the twisted thumb of a doped-up newspaper cartoonist. I’m not just talking about the visuals style again here. I mean the style of the funnies. It’s reminiscent of that platinum age of children’s cartoons – the late 1990s to mid 2000s.

What’s that? The 80s!? SIR. Don’t talk to me about the 1980s. Screw the 80s, man. Screw every soulless cartoon ever made with the lone intention of selling toys that could turn into other toys. The platinum age of kid’s cartoons originates with Cartoon Network’s Johnny Bravo and The Powerpuff Girls. It peaks with Invader Zim and Fairly Odd Parents. You know this is true. Search your heart – or have you no heart? It’s this shiny peak of the modern cartoon age that The Baconing takes its humour from. A humour soaked in parody of Super Men and hung up to dry on the clothes line of Contradiction. I mean, it has jokes about willies too, like, but… yeah.


The only problem some may have with the humour is that it occasionally strays into the realm of Random. Which is a word that by now garners many sneers and rolled eyes. Perhaps forgivable. I don’t care if something is random (don’t you remember the good times? When randomness was once known as “surprise” or “the unexpected” or “the absurd”) but I know a lot of people can’t stand it. They can stand it less than I can stand DREADFUL 1980S SCHLOCK.

DeathSpank and co. can be nonsensical at times in this way but the comedy characters generally make up for it in their portrayals as cartoons gone truly wrong. These are genuinely entertaining characters, far removed from the non-descripts they so often lampoon. From The Mayor – a graphically realised fusion of Richard Nixon and Peter Mandelson – to Muto – a suicidal theme park mascot part Mickey Mouse and part Johnen Vasquez’ own ‘Filler Bunny’. I like them. I think they’re good. And I’m genuinely sad the multiplayer is limited to local co-op (WHY IS THIS SO?) with one player using an Xbox gamepad. Firstly, because I didn’t have any friends in real life to play with. Secondly, because I couldn’t then play as Bob from Marketing, the profit-driven Hammerhead shark.


Here is Wot I Deduce: The Baconing is worth a peek, even if you’ve never given Spanky a chance in the past. As a dungeon-crawler it’s mechanically sound. As an inventory-sorter, it is very satisfying. Most importantly, as a story it’s all a bit of light-hearted fun. Like eating your housemate’s Wheetos in the shower. You know – it’s tasty, it’s filling. It gets less funny the second and ninth time round, sure, but hey, that’s the law of diminishing returns. Or something. I don’t know, I’m not a fucking laughter economist. All I know is that The Baconing is quite good and you should try it.

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91 Comments »

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  1. Memphis-Ahn says:

    B Caldwell huh? I like this man.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      yeah, but he either showers in milk or he eats his wheetos with water.

  2. Brumisator says:

    Jeez, your overly long self referential intros… cut them short, man, you’re not famous enough to get away with them.

    • Jesse L says:

      I felt that with this one he began to become more famous, to me at least, purely on the strength of the lengthy intros.

    • World One Two says:

      Being famous isn’t a prerequisite for writing self-referential intros. Just saying, man.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      How do you expect him to become famous without long, self-referential intros?

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      Nah, it was funny. Nice words.

    • Metonymy says:

      I find I enjoy the low class britishness best, if I imagine each post is made by the same cheerful, intelligent but completely undignified ~30 year old. All you limeys sound exactly like Totalbiscuit, right?

    • meatshit says:

      Self-involved wankery is like a fine spice. Use it sparingly and it really livens up a review. Pour it on like this and you might as well rename the place Pitchfork, and nobody wants that.

    • skinlo says:

      Doesn’t bother me.

    • LockeTribal says:

      @metonymy – Brendy Caldwell is Irish I do believe, so think less Total Biscuit, more (hmmm, what to put here, as I have never heard him speak) either Liam Neeson or the Leprechaun from the Simpsons.

    • EOT says:

      @Metonymy: By that do you mean ‘Do you all sound like a middle-class Geordie eating a boiled sweet?’ No. No we don’t, and thank fuck for that.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’ve never been able to place Total Biscuit’s accent. The affected announcer-voice throws me off, I think.

      Unless you sound like Alan Shearer or Ross Noble, I can’t recognize you as a Geordie.

    • horsemedic says:

      TB sounds like my old flatmate, who was Welsh, but not sounds-like-strangled-turkey Welsh.

    • Ghil says:

      I’m guilty. I really like those intros. :P

    • Shadram says:

      Total Biscuit sounds like he’s from Leicester, or somewhere around there (ie, the Midlands, but not the Birmingham part). At least, I’ve got friends from there and they sound a bit like him on Team Speak.

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      I read nothing but the intros!

    • ix says:

      I like the looser writing styles on RPS, but this is just taking the piss.

    • EOT says:

      Protip: He’s from Newcastle. Even if you couldn’t tell that from his accent it’s right there in his YouTube profile.

      Though he did go to University in Leicester, so…whatevs’

      Also I’m pretty sure we attended some of the same avents at GW Newc/Metro in the early 2000’s.

  3. Balobam says:

    I have gone from glossing over any title pertaining to DeathSpank related shenanigans to actually desiring this game.

    Dammit Caldwell, you magician you.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I too was pleasantly surprised. Most reviews I’ve read just bash the game for not being Thongs of Virtue Plus Lots More.

      I may get this, but I haven’t finished ToV yet.

  4. hypercrisis says:

    The trailer for Deathspank made me cringe, and since you compared it favorably to ‘Invader Zim’ I can confidentally ignore this as a game that would piss me off consistently.

    • yutt says:

      You were “pissed off” by Invader Zim? A childrens’ show on Nickelodeon? Really? I understand people on the Internet are hostile about trivial and arbitrary things, but wow.

    • Balobam says:

      I think Invader Zim gets a bad rap on the internet for one big reason, it’s afflicted with the ever so common “Really-bloody-annoying-fan-syndrome” that seems to plague anything and everything.

      Not least of all my beloved Portal. Cake is a lie indeed.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Well, that and it was shit.

  5. abigbat says:

    Heehee, seamen.

  6. Xocrates says:

    I find the comment that the previous games were too easy a bit weird, since the reason I stopped playing the previous one (other than the fact that it was identical to the first minus the novelty factor) was because I ended up brutally underleveled even though I had, to the best of my knowledge, gone everywhere I could and made every quest up to that point.

    Either way, since this one seems identical to the previous ones, I’m not really in a rush to get it. They’re ok games, but as Mr. Caldwell said:

    “You know – it’s tasty, it’s filling. It gets less funny the second and ninth time round”

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    Anthile says:

    But can vegetarians play it?

  8. spindaden says:

    What a breathless WIT.

    “You write like a young man, eager to begin, quick to finish.”

    • Brendy_C says:

      I do all things in this manner.

    • Vandalbarg says:

      The fact your username here is the reverse of your name up there in the article reminds me of that Simpsons episode

      “L. Simpson please come to the office please. No wait, that’s too obvious. Erm, Lisa S., please come to the office please”

      Erm. Yes.

    • Balobam says:

      That’s what it reminded me of, I felt like I’d seen this happen somewhere before.

  9. magnus says:

    Seriously, I’m going to have to wait for this until Christmas, I’ve got bills to pay (BOO!) and I’ve just pre-ordered HardReset (HOORAY!), then there’s The Binding Of Issac, Rage, Skyrim and Saint’s Row : The Third. Eeeek!

  10. Om says:

    So it has something to do with DeathSpank?

    I keep trying to like Mr B Caldwell but the writing is so infuriatingly mad. It just needs to be reined in slightly and better structured.

    That’s a free tip from a nobody

    • qrter says:

      You’re not alone, I find his stuff kind of hard to read – it’s a bit like someone shouting in your face “I AM FUNNY!!!” over and over again. To quote mr. Caldwell back at himself: “Well, calm down.”

    • Buttless Boy says:

      It kind of reminds me of the embarrassing stuff I post online when I haven’t slept in a couple days (Hi everyone from the Grim Dawn forum!). Which I guess is fine on forums, but I’m kind of surprised to see that level of writing on RPS.

      The problem isn’t that it’s not funny (it’s not for me, but funny is relative), it’s that I read this and didn’t come away with any understanding of the game other than “it’s like DeathSpank”. And even that’s only useful if I’ve played DeathSpank before.

      Props to this Caldwell dude for all the Vasquez love, though.

  11. Kestrelio says:

    Hysterical read. Well done!

  12. busfahrer says:

    I think I’m weird.

    The original DeathSpank is one of my favourite games, I can’t really think of anything that’s wrong with it.

    But somehow not many people share that opinion…

    • qrter says:

      I really enjoyed the first game, then I got bored halfway through the second, never finished it. This new one doesn’t really appeal to me at all, for some reason.

    • busfahrer says:

      I will definitely get the second one at some point

  13. PanzerVaughn says:

    This article contained a immense ammount of faffing about, but it was the good kind of faff. “Faff away, Caldwell” i say “Faff like the wind!”

    Faff.

    • qrter says:

      I believe the correct word is ‘zany’. Which is an American word, so you know it’s bad.

      (I’ll lay off of mr. Caldwell now, plenty of people seem to like his style, I’ll shut up. ;) )

  14. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    I finished the original and this one (on PS3 though) and I quite liked them. The humor is quite good and another thing I liked was the the menus was quick and snappy (unlike Dungeon Siege 3). I found myself really using much of the ranged weapon in the end though since sometimes it felt hard to hit with melee without being hit myself (or I just sucked). In the end it’s a lighthearted hack and slash tale. I had a real problem with some of the arena battles, but then I found out about the blackhole item..

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    LegendaryTeeth says:

    A+++
    Would read again.

  16. LockeTribal says:

    Good WIT, sounds a good game, especially for those, like myself, who haven’t played either of the previous games.

  17. man-eater chimp says:

    That final simile is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen.

  18. Coins says:

    I think that these are very nice words. Does Sir Caldwell have a blog, by chance?

  19. johnpeat says:

    I want to like the Deathspank games but there’s been something missing – at least from the first 2 – they’re just a bit too, well, dull…

    There’s also the small matter of the shitty way they deal with PC owners – like not offering a DEMO (which the 360 versions must offer) – for example…

    You can’t be bothered to do a demo – I can’t be bothered to buy your game, basically…

  20. westyfield says:

    The Fairly Odd Parents was amazing. Probably my favourite cartoon when I was younger.

  21. nrvsNRG says:

    i love the DS games, they hit the right spot when i’m feeling not too serious…very pleasing games.

  22. McDan says:

    Excellent writing yet again Caldwell! You should write more, or show us a place where we can read more of your writings. Or both. And at some point have an entire article which is just a “so Jim called me” thing mutated and out of control to the point of swallowing the whole article.

  23. Deano2099 says:

    The combat sucks.

    It’s basically impossible to have a melee fight without taking damage. Yes, there’s a block move, but it’s not quick enough comparative to the enemy attack animations, and when there’s more than two enemies on you (so: all the time) it’s completely useless. The only viable tactics are to either kite them around while shooting and occasionally healing, wade in to melee until you’re low on health, then run off heal, and head back in, or just focus on one till it dies, die yourself, resurrect somewhere very near and go in again.

    It’s a real shame as if they bothered to actually make the combat interesting it could be a really good game.

  24. buzzmong says:

    Sorry, but I’m going to have to call you out on the cartoon references, one because you missed CN’s Dexter off the list (the original run was brilliant), and two because the early to mid 90’s offered some seriously good stuff. The Warner Brothers animated version of Batman was sublime, it also had Luke Skywalker playing The Joker. So there.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      Word. And Invader Zim was more the last, desperate gasp of genius from Nickelodeon than it was an example of a golden age. The Rocko’s Modern Life era was the prime of 90s cartoons.

  25. somnolentsurfer says:

    Fuck toys that turn into other toys. The platinum age of children’s cartoons began and ended with the Mysterious Cities of Gold.

  26. pazmacats says:

    This review reminds me about that police officer chatting with the cat on the tree. Only after that did not impress the girl who owned the cat did he climb up there.

  27. mkclin says:

    top quality goods that you will like,welcome to http://bit.ly/qkDqbZ ,there can help you to play the game so easy

  28. DOLBYdigital says:

    Hmm… too much time spent on long, irrelevant intros and trying to be funny and not nearly enough time spent giving a good impression of the game.

    I hope you get better at this Mr. Caldwell

  29. Legionary says:

    More Brendan please. He fills the KG/QS-style humour vacuum. :)

  30. dadioflex says:

    Next.

  31. Springy says:

    That was a lovely read; there’s a real affable quality to words written in the Caldwellian style. This is the only review of the half-dozen or so I’ve read that’s made me think that The Baconing is more than re-heated left-overs.

  32. Juan Carlo says:

    The platinum age of cartoons start with “Tiny Toon Adventures,” “Animaniacs,” “Pinky and the Brain,” and “Batman the Animated series” in the early 1990s. Also, to a lesser extent, “Ren and Stimpy” (without which half the cartoons on Cartoon network in the past decade would never have existed).

    That’s when cartoons first started getting smart and didn’t treat children like they were just idiots.

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    MonkeyMonster says:

    Brendy for President!

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    Harlander says:

    When did ‘platinum age’ become a thing?

    When is the uranium age?

  35. standardman says:

    B Caldwell, you make me laugh.

  36. ShaunCG says:

    Wot I Think: Brendan Caldwell’s review of The Baconing

    I enjoyed it rather more than I did my time with the demo of the first DeathSpank. As I paid money for neither, this is a win all round for me.

    I’m off now to eat Strawberry Clusters in the shower.

  37. Rozza says:

    So I’m guessing this is some sort of add-on, improvement, patch or upgrade to DeathSpank? Maybe this important context could have been mentioned to save me expending valuable mental energy to work this out from the text? In payback for my expended mental energy, this most frustrating form of punctuation on the planet (the unclosed parenthesis