*This review is based on the Xbox 360 version; PS3 version is also available.* DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue is the hilarious sequel to the original DeathSpank. While the game offers the same basic formula of the original, it takes steps forward with a more robust weapon selection, varied environments and a good deal more humorous moments.
The story picks up right where the first one left off with DeathSpank entering a battlefield as he hunts for the elusive Thongs of Virtue. Sandy, the enigmatic character who puts DeathSpank on his quest in the first place is back, and players are treated to her back story finally. She wants those thongs, and DeathSpank is her man to get them.
For those not familiar with the first game, it is recommended to play that one first as many story elements from that game make another appearance in this title. It almost seems that this should’ve been one, single game. However, a handy explanation of major events thus far serves as the introduction and catch new players up as well as remind fans of the first game what’s going on.
The Thongs of Virtue grant the wearer incredible power, but also create a serious flaw for each of the wearers. DeathSpank is tasked with finding, and subduing, each foe. Along the way, he will interact with a crazy cast of characters, many of whom will task the hero to the downtrodden with side quests. Others offer clues as to the whereabouts of each thong wearer, and it will be up to the player to figure out how to get to each of them.
Side quests are generally better implemented than the first game, however, many are still the old fetch quest and kill quest. Some side quests rely on the humor of the dialogue to get through, but at times the running back and forth, no matter the motivation, can get a little old. That said, the formula does offer more variety in gameplay, so the side quest issues of the first game tend to not be quite as troublesome in the sequel.
Gameplay has a couple new twists to it as DeathSpank has a larger arsenal to work with. The ranged weapons are more accessible, and more varied in Thongs of Virtue including giving the hero numerous guns to play around with. The player even gets a ship to navigate, but that comes late in the game, and winds up being a bit disappointing since despite covering a large area, there isn’t much to do on the open waters. The core hack-and-slash remains relatively untouched otherwise with DeathSpank obliterating foes, leveling up and collecting more loot to upgrade his armor and weaponry.
The same sense of goofiness is back, and perhaps a bit funnier than the first game. Spoiling the humorous elements would ruin the experience, but rest assured, this game is funny. DeathSpank’s ridiculous dialogue is back, and players have the same dialogue options which almost always results in a chuckle. Many enemies are back from the first game, but there are some new surprises which some players are sure to find humorous.
Visuals are much like the first game as it’s obviously built on the same engine. With a much greater variety of environments in T.O.V., visuals tend to pop out more than the original. Hothead Games seemed to know that they needed to switch up environments, and the new world in T.O.V. is all the better for it. Now, players will go from a POW camp to a pirate cove, a western themed area, and a special snow area full of igloos and reindeer to name a few.
Sound is nearly identical to the first game to the point where many of the tracks are the same. It’s a shame that new tracks weren’t written for the sequel, but they tend to be charming in their own right, so it only comes off as slightly distracting.
Co-op mode is back, and might be worth a look for a few laughs, but it’s just as disappointing as the first game. The second player has to share the health bar and isn’t customizable in any way. Co-op is also local only, just as in the first game was.
For those that enjoyed the first game, it only makes sense to try the sequel as it pushes DeathSpank to new levels. It is more of the same in many ways, but the new environments, weapon choices and funnier dialogue make this a worthy download. Underneath all the comedy, there is a story to be found that contains moments that can be seen as a bit sad and a tad serious; if Hothead Games plans another adventure for DeathSpank in the future, it would be nice to see them capitalize on those moments without letting it interfere with all the humor as it wound up being more compelling than expected.
Similar game recommendations: DeathSpank, Secret of Monkey Island (series), Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.
Purchase Xbox 360 version from Xbox Live Arcade; purchase PS3 version from PSN