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The Baconing preview: New blood


Producer Mike Inglehart and his team at Hothead seem to be serious about making The Baconing the best entry in the Deathspank series yet. Prior to jumping into my demo, director of marketing Oliver Birch showed off a 17-page Word document filled with complaints and ideas for improvement, taken directly from their community. You talked, and Hothead says it listened.

But one of the biggest changes is the addition of producer Inglehart, who recently joined Hothead and has been tasked with overseeing this third entry in the irreverent series. The Next Level Games transplant dove headfirst into refining the The Baconing, creating what he thinks is not only a funny game, but also one that is less monotonous than its predecessors. One thing is certain: it's definitely more challenging, as several deaths during my demo will attest.

Gallery: The Baconing (8/8/11) | 14 Photos

The Baconing picks up with Deathspank taking a breather inside his stronghold, bored after all his conquests. With the dullness too much to bear, Deathspank takes up the Thongs of Virtue -- the items he sought after and acquired in the second entry in the series -- and decides to wear all six at once. Naturally, over-thonging releases a gigantic, evil version of himself: the Anti-Spank.

In order to vanquish this evil version of himself, Deathspank has to destroy five of the thongs in the mystical bacon fires, leaving himself with one pair to battle the Anti-Spank. Makes sense, right? If I had a dollar for how many evil clones of myself I had to kill while wearing a thong ... well, I'd probably be earning more than Hothead's executive VP in charge of plot creation.

But narrative implausability and dark Spanks aren't the only worry for our hero. Enemies won't mindlessly fire at Deathspank from behind obstacles; they move about the battlefield and employ group battle tactics. Melee enemies will rush Deathspank and ranged enemies will fire from afar. "You're not going to be able to go through this and tap the A button or tap the X button and make it through," Inglehart told me.

Deathspank's got a few different ways to fight: the usual melee attacks; a ranged weapon that can be charged up; and a shield, which can be used to knock back enemies when things get a bit too crowded. Using all of these together adds depth to the combat, but it's nothing that hasn't been done before.

One question I had was in regards to co-op. Since Inglehart has inherited this franchise, he explained that there were decisions made prior to his arrival that shaped the overall game -- things such as the barebones co-op experience. "The focus has always been a single-player experience; that's the heart of it," Inglehart said. "It's always been about Deathspank -- he's the hero and the co-op guys attach to your hip and come along with you." Inglehart said that while there is a vocal community looking for a more expanded co-op experience, numbers show the majority only dipped their toes into the single-player side.

The Baconing will launch on August 30 for $15 on PSN, as part of the Play promotion. A launch date for the PC, Mac and Xbox 360 has not been announced.

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