Games for the (long) weekend: The Baconing

Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac(s aapl), iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome enough to keep you busy until Monday, at least. Since this is a long weekend thanks to Labor Day, we’ve got an extra instalment to keep you playing.

Sometimes, a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously is a breath of fresh air. The latest DeathSpank sequel from Hothead games, The Baconing, is a perfect example, and a solid follow-up to a franchise that hasn’t disappointed yet. Plus, with over 10 hours of gameplay at just $15 on the Mac App Store(s aapl), it’s a good value, too.

If you’re new to the DeathSpank franchise, it isn’t hard to get up to speed. Basically, these are third-person point-and-click dungeon crawlers very similar in mechanics to the popular Diablo franchise by Blizzard(s atvs). Like Diablo, they’re role-playing games with quests and side-quests, and oodles of weapons, armor and items to gather and manage. Unlike Diablo, the DeathSpank games are completely irreverent and short on serious subject matter.

Hothead is the studio behind the original Penny Arcade games, and DeathSpank games fall right in line with that sense of humor. They’re juvenile, gross, pun-filled romps that are nonetheless remarkably well though-out and engrossing. The role-playing elements are streamlined for more casual play when compared to something like Diablo, and inventory management is made much simpler thanks to a “Grinder” in your inventory that lets you trade items for cash on the fly.

Graphics are a clever blend of 3-D polygon-based sprites and 2-D painted backdrops and scenery that blend surprisingly well. Voice acting is funny and pitch-perfect, and you can easily click through all the dialogue if you’d rather just get to the hacking and the slashing.

The Baconing improves on its predecessors (The original DeathSpank and episodic sequel Thongs of Virtue) in a number of ways. First, it cuts down on meaningless side quests while beefing up the primary quest line, so that you won’t find yourself missing things or completely forgetting to fulfill requests from NPCs. Second, it takes away a lot of what didn’t work or felt extraneous like runes that you could discover to unlock secret combo powers (I’d never use them unless by accident) or drops from NPCs and enemies that did little beyond clog up your inventory.

For something fun that satisfies any dungeon-crawling urges people may be having ahead of Diablo III’s anticipated release, you can’t go wrong with The Baconing. And if you’re new to the franchise, start at the beginning with the original DeathSpank and play all the way through. That’ll take you a little beyond just this Monday, though.