A Game for Those Who Love Tooltips
I know momma always said not to judge a book by its cover, but DeathSpank? Really? OK, terrible name aside, a big part of what makes DeathSpank DeathSpank is the writing. There has clearly been a whole lot of time and thought put into every bit of text and voice over in the game. Ron Gilbert's humor is evident everywhere, and while I personally am not always a huge fan, there's definitely some stuff that made me laugh out loud while I was playing.
Many of the characters in the game are throw away standards for this type of game (to the point that DeathSpank addresses one of them as "Generic Non-Player Character" at one point during your adventure), but there are a few standouts...well one. Eubrick the old retired hero who gives you a great deal of your sidequests throughout the game has some really great lines, and some pretty bad duds. The game gets a T rating, so in theory it's aimed at 13+, but that's clearly not the case. If you've already hit puberty, don't expect to get a whole lot out of the humor here. Granted I laughed a few times, but when every single line is clearly going for some kind of laugh, it ends up just feeling like the game is trying way too hard.
But that's all OK if the gameplay makes up for it. After all, how many great games really have awesome writing anyway? Well, unfortunately DeathSpank doesn't have a whole lot to offer here either. As a hack 'n' slash RPG, it doesn't really do anything that hasn't been done better before. Character progression is very straightforward. You kill dudes, you level up, you get better loot, rinse and repeat. You do get special cards each time you level that might give you a bonus like "increase melee damage by 5%" and while you can only pick six different types of cards and they are upgradable, there are really only 3 or 4 that are all that useful anyway. So you'll end up getting those, and picking a few others once they're fully upgraded just because they're there.
Armor almost always provides a health boost and no other bonus, and there's an "equip best armor" toggle that automatically equips better armor as you pick it up. There are a few resist sets, which I kept in my bag thinking I might need them, but I never did. You also have no real special abilities as everything is tied to items, many of which are consumable. There are a few different types of weapons that use your Justice meter, and these have different effects which can eventually be combined with elemental weapons, but you're probably just going to find one and stick with it since switching between them is a pain. There are some spells too that come in the form of consumable items, but I almost never used these as reequipping new spells once you run out of the old ones is just not worth it. You can really get through most of the game just mashing A, X and occasionally Y. Blocking does matter for a few enemies, but they're in the minority.
Overall, DeathSpank simply fails to be all that funny, engaging, or heck even all that long. For 1200 Space Bucks it's a decent enough deal, but really only if you're a huge sucker for loot lust games or if you just love Ron Gilbert's sense of humor, which again, if you had to shave this morning, you probably don't.
Edit: I should add, that as a huge sucker for loot lust, I did enjoy this game, and that the item tooltips are by far the funniest part. It's certainly not bad, just not a game I can recommend to folks who don't already know they're going to like it from the press it's gotten over the past weeks.