The RPG had it coming.

DeathSpank, a comedy role-playing game from Monkey Island vet Ron Gilbert, simultaneously skewers and streamlines the venerable videogame genre one quest at a time. Released earlier this month for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the downloadable game is one of the best of the summer thanks to its sublimely silly writing and simplified RPG gameplay.

Players take on the role of DeathSpank, a hero clad in a blessed purple thong and in search of an artifact called “The Artifact.”

The object you seek is just the first of many MacGuffins scattered throughout the adventure. Gilbert and his team at Hothead Games have crafted one long wild goose chase. Sure, DeathSpank must rescue orphans, slay mythical beasts and defeat evil overlords. But he’s also tasked with fetching a taco, special-ordering a 6-by-6 square of green felt and convincing unicorns to poop.

The whole ridiculous affair is made all the more entertaining thanks to oddball characters, masterfully executed running gags and an over-the-top voice performance by Michael Dobson, whose voicework is one part The Tick, one part Gary Owens. Play DeathSpank without exploring every dialogue option and you’re committing a cardinal sin.

DeathSpank plays a lot like Blizzard’s seminal hack-and-slash Diablo. You’ll dive into screenfuls of enemies, hacking and slashing until only loot remains.

If you don’t like sifting through massive inventory screens, you can choose to have the game automatically swap in any cool new gear you find. But if you don’t rifle through your goodies every so often, you’ll miss out on truly clever flavor text and hilarious item naming conventions — more subtle digs at the RPG genre.

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DeathSpank also makes leveling up easy. Every time you ding, you’re given the choice of upgrade cards. One makes you hit harder. Another may give you more long-range damage. The last might give you more gold when enemies die. It’s stat management for the numerophobic, suiting the breezy feel of the game just fine.

Those who demand customization and depth will find it. Adventurers eventually discover a wide array of magical arrows, spells and weapon combinations. Since you can map all of the game’s death-dealing implements to the D-pad and controller buttons, you’ll have lots of room to experiment with a wide array of one-two punches.

But DeathSpank is mostly about finding the next thing to whack, then whacking it before it whacks you. Only a few of the nastier boss fights take more than one try to get right, though you’ll always have a super-powered spell or potion in your sack that’ll do the trick.

DeathSpank isn’t the sprawling zillion-hour epic that most folks expect from their role-playing games. The game only takes a handful of sessions to finish. And you’ll be hard-pressed to pry yourself away: Rewards come frequently, and it always feels like the next one is only a couple of steps away.

Its Ron Gilbert’s goofy writing and warped world-building (executed in a handsome style that feels a bit like the Mad magazine margin cartooning of Sergio Aragones) that makes DeathSpank worth playing.

There hasn’t been a funnier, more singularly creative videogame since Brütal Legend. And where Double Fine disappointed some with odd game design choices, DeathSpank does nothing but please.

WIRED Funny writing, quirky world, well-honed gameplay.

TIRED The game is over before you know it, and DeathSpank’s adventures may not continue.

$15, Electronic Arts

Rating:

Read Game|Life’s game ratings guide.

This post has been written by Gus Mastrapa on July 23, 2010 12:42 pm couresy of blog.wired.com/games.

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A $300 bundle to be released in November will contain a new 4-GB model of Xbox 360 and the Kinect controller.

Images courtesy Microsoft

Microsoft will sell Kinect for $150 this fall, making the camera-based motion controller — which promises to turn videogaming into a full-body experience — the most expensive standard-issue peripheral on the market.

Kinect, an Xbox 360 add-on that uses cameras and voice recognition to transform the way players interact with games, will come bundled with Kinect Adventures, the company said Tuesday. This collection of action mini-games is one of the stronger titles Microsoft showed at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last month, where the Xbox maker touted the power of the upcoming motion controller. Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal, will be released Nov. 4 and will work with existing Xbox 360 consoles.

Microsoft also said it will introduce a $200 version of its newly redesigned Xbox 360 Aug. 3. This entry-level console is identical to the $300 model except for its matte finish and storage capacity. Instead of a 250-GB hard drive, it comes with 4 GB of onboard flash storage. A Kinect bundle with the 4-GB Xbox, the new motion controller and the Kinect Adventures game will cost $300.

“$150 is an appropriate price for the Kinect,” said Electronic Entertainment Design and Research analyst Jesse Divnich in an emailed statement. “Kinect should not be viewed as a typical video game peripheral that is retired from one’s active playlist after 90 days, but rather a consumer enabling device that has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with all forms of media on a daily basis.”

Microsoft’s competition is also putting together bundle packages to attract value-minded consumers this Christmas. Nintendo recently introduced a new bundle for Wii, packaging its MotionPlus add-on and a second game with the hardware for $200. Sony will package its Move motion controller with a PlayStation 3 and a game for $400 when the new peripheral launches Sept. 19.

Introducing a $200 version of the Xbox 360, the price point at which analysts believe most consoles are sold, is important to Microsoft’s appeal to the mass market. Xbox 360 saw high sales in June, thanks in part to the new console design but mostly because Microsoft is clearing older models from retail stores at heavy discounts. The Arcade Xbox 360 model, which the new low-end version will replace, is currently selling for $150.

Microsoft direct of product management Aaron Greenberg says the stock of Arcade models won’t last long. “They’re moving quite quickly,” he said. “We always have that transition overlap time period, but doing it over the summer should leave us pretty clean well in advance of the holiday.”

The only disadvantage to the new Xbox model is that Microsoft won’t be selling standalone hard drives yet. The 4-GB console includes a slot for a hard drive, but none will be on shelves. Greenberg pointed out that users can expand their storage by using USB sticks of up to 32 GB.

Microsoft doesn’t imagine customers will buy the 4-GB unit and then immediately want to add a 250-GB hard drive.

“You’d have to be pretty bad at making decisions” to do that, Greenberg said.

This post has been written by Chris Kohler on July 20, 2010 12:00 pm couresy of blog.wired.com/games.

The new model of Xbox 360 caused a good deal of console sales in the month of June, but discounted old hardware sold more.

Microsoft’s redesigned box accounted for 40% of the 451,700 Xbox 360s it sold in June, said Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter in a note to investors on Friday.

But, he pointed out, nearly as many sales — 35% — were of the inexpensive Arcade model, which Microsoft reduced to a clearance price of $150. The retailer Wal-Mart offered a $50 gift card with each Arcade purchase, thus temporarily lowering the effective price of the hardware to a rock-bottom $100.

The balance of Xbox 360 console sales were made up of Pro and Elite units, which were also reduced in price by $50 as Microsoft clears them off shelves to make way for the $300 Slim box. So the price drop that spurred the majority of Xbox sales last month won’t last.

Microsoft has not announced a package for the redesigned Xbox 360 at the $200 price point.

Photo: James Merithew/Wired.com

This post has been written by Chris Kohler on July 16, 2010 2:34 pm couresy of blog.wired.com/games.

GTA 4 Released

May 1, 2008

The has patiently awaited the sequel to perhaps the largest series in the world of gaming, grand theft auto. Grand theft reached its must-have status that sells consoles with the release of gta 3, which was the series first foray into using a 3d game engine. Gta 3 and its two successors on ps2 were system sellers, and the newly released gta 4 appears to be no exception. I played my copy for the first time last night on xbox 360. I was impressed as always of acting hilarious antics one has grown to expect from the series, but I did have a gripe with the way cars handle. Rockstar changed driving from arcade crazy controls to tighter more realistic controls that have not seemed to go well with the audiences I have spoken to at this point. That aside gta 4 is a must have.