At the end of our review of the original Deathspank back in July, we made clear our hopes of how it wouldn’t be too long before the purple thong wearing hero got another outing. Little did we know that HotHead Games had actually been working on another game for the titular hero, produced in tandem with the first, and were set push it out the door around two months later. So while you sometimes get what you wish for, does it come at the price of it being released too soon?
Thongs of Virtue (ToV) starts almost straight after the cliff-hanger ending of the first title, with Deathspank getting a little wakeup call about his pursuit of The Artefact and his place in the wider universe. Now a prisoner of war, Deathspank must first escape his captors who’ve left him armed with little more than the regal coloured thong on his crotch and a potato knife for a weapon. Once free it’s time for him to track down the other thong wearers and ladle out rich bowls of creamy justice.
Since this game was developed alongside the first, there are no tweaks nor changes to the gameplay. In fact it plays identical in style and approach, so if you didn’t like the first then you aren’t going to suddenly become smitten with this.
The immediately obvious change to ToV is that it quickly tries to shed the one-track fantasy stylings of the first episode, initially choosing more of a World War II theme. Those who’ve played the original will know that it was always a bit fast and loose with its fantasy setting to start with, but now Deathspank will be equipping guns instead of crossbows and enchanted pith helmets instead of ye’olde magical helms. It also goes off even more on a tangent in different areas with Pirates, Ninjas, Robots and even Santa.While all these might sound like peculiar jump in subject, it actually fits the unique world of Deathspank.
Aside from a new co-op sidekick and the change in scenery, that’s pretty much all that’s different about ToV, since the combat, questing and brilliant comedy dialogue are all the same as before. This is undoubtedly ToV’s biggest issue, since it’s impossible to shake the feeling that you’re playing nothing more than an expansion pack. Even some of the enemies from the first game are recycled, although in fairness there ‘s also plenty of new enemy types to pummel.
You don’t need to have played the original game in order to play ToV and ordinarily that means newcomers aren’t left feeling intimidated. Unfortunately with such a small gap between releases it’s hard to understand why anyone would choose the second game in the series as their starting point, especially when it costs the same and does nothing to address any issues. Oddly, for the same underlying reasons, this causes similar feelings when looked at in reverse – there’s no incentive for players of the first to pick up the second (other than them really enjoying it of course). There’s no ability to import your levelled up Deathspank and no bonuses from having a save game from the original. As well as being disappointing, it feels somewhat lazy, leaving the two titles in a weird sort of limbo – almost like conjoined twins who are actually connected via a rip in the space time continuum.
There was already a lot of content on offer in the original Deathspank if you bothered to complete all the side-quests, so you can see the developer’s quandary if they’d made the decision to bundle the original and ToV together as one big title. This would have left it suffering from feeling far too long and repetitive, however it should serve as a warning about the perils of developing two games in a series at the same time. If you aren’t going to leave enough time to sit back and critically appraise your work or try and alter things, then you’re just going to end up with something that feels like more of the same.
From that viewpoint we’re disappointed to say that ToV is something of a failure, since it now means that neither title has been given enough space to breath, and the higher end price point makes it feel a bit rich too.
All this might seem like we’re making out Thongs of Virtue to be a bad game, which it clearly isn’t, given that it follows the formula of the first and we loved that so much. It’s still funny, entertaining and has that Deathspank charm, but its rigidity and timing means it’s impossible for this release to come anywhere near the first title. These make it one for the die-hard Deathspank fans who we’re left hankering for more at the end of the first, which can’t have been very many.
We’ve been taught something of a lesson about being careful what we wish for.