Two months ago, Justice invaded us with axe, sword and crossbow in hand to save the poor, the misfortunate and the weak. Regardless if they had lost a potato bag, had a fight with their spouse, searched for unicorn manure or atomic donkey heads, the inhabitants of a fantasy land needed DeathSpank. And after helping them in his own unique way, the hero of all heroes, the Dispenser of Justice, defender of the weak and, most of importantly, the guy who spanks death, is back in with the second episode of his adventure.
If you didn’t play the first DeathSpank, now is the time to do it, because Thongs of Virtue is based on the story of its predecessor, reusing some recurring missions as well. On the other hand, the environment is completely different this time around, as the producers gave up on the generic unicorns, dwarves and similar creatures (the Orcs were kept though) filled land.
Pistol-sword and the pink thongs
So, now we have “le battlefield” and some similar areas where soldiers fight infinite number of monsters, dark forests and the witch with the huge mole on the nose, robot factories, haunted farms straight out of the Wild West and very, very high mountains with snow on the top. Our hero must cross all these areas to recover, in true Lord of the Rings style, five pairs of underwear with magical powers.
Just like in Tolkien’s story, those thongs ended up on the butts of five people that managed to do only bad things despite trying to do good ones. Fortunately for the fantasy stories, the only one unaffected by this corruption is DeathSpank, so he must defeat the other “thong wearers” to save the world. And, among others, that means to search islands after finding a ship, map out the North Pole and have an unfriendly chat with Santa along the way.
Many missions are just like in the first game, more generic than they couldn’t have been, all the way courier quests. Some of them are so “give this package to X” straightforward that even our hero is sick of it and threatens to become an unstable postal worker. On the other hand, you are often on a quest for unusual things, because NPCs have weird tastes: Bearalope dung (bear – antelope hybrid), jungle donkey heads, a stage wagon stolen by banditos, acid/dynamite for the train conductor, you must learn stupid birthday songs and fight gods, nuns, brothel matrons, mother-dragon and papa-dragon. And to put the lit dynamite on the birthday cake, the teleportation system comes right out of the dedicated toilets (Outhouse), suspiciously similar to the smelly shacks at the back of grandma’s country house.
Thus, even though most of the missions are generic, the humor behind them, coupled with dialogues and ironic comments, makes you forget that all you do is furiously click the mouse, as there’s no brain activity involved. This Diablo style has attracted many players over the years and, even though I’m not a huge fan of Blizzard’s hack’n’slash, DeathSpank stirred a bizarre addiction inside my mind.
The boss battles are a plus, mixing fights and puzzles: to get into a monastery catacomb, first you must burn forbidden books; to attack a drunken pirate, you first have to kill the pink elephants around him; to find the Thongs of Cuisine, you must be the crazy cook and so on. All these puzzles are simple, but funny and constantly remind us that behind DeathSpank is Ron Gilbert, a name that doesn’t need any kind of introduction if you’ve lived through Lucas Arts’ golden age of adventure games.
Monster… what monster?
For increased efficiency, DeathSpank wears more than thongs. Hundreds of armors, weapons, gloves and amulets fall from the killed monsters or lay in coffers. There are shops too, but most of them are useless because you usually end up finding all their expensive objects just by killing things. Along the line of modern fantasy, Thongs of Virtue also has fire arms, from pistols and rifles to machine guns, bazookas and grenades with different effects (ice, fire, poison etc.)
The ranged weapons and four available slots give you quite a choice of how to conduct a fight. There are enemies that you don’t want to get too close to, so a machine gun is way better than the sword. Weapon combinations can be changed on the fly, but, even though there are so many items, there aren’t that many stats to handle: damage matters most, plus the armor bonus. And to simplify things even more, there’s a setting that automatically puts the best items from the inventory on the hero.
Furthermore, you don’t have to keep going back to town to sell useless items: you carry around a wonder shredder: armor goes in, money come out on the other side, so the lack of space never becomes an issue. This will stop you from losing time searching through hundreds of items, but also cuts out the fun of wearing full sets. But any gear change is visible on the hero and, at one time, DeathSpank was wearing polar boots with Persian cat fur, Medusa snakes shoulder pads, a rabbi’s hat and clawed gloves, a combination that will make you ROFL any time.