Penny-Arcade.com have been around for just over 10 years now, and they’ve spent their time drawing comics, playing videogames and then bitching about and drawing comics about said videogames. Years passed and eventually the cries of “could you do better?” came echoing out across the internet. Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is their attempt at answering that question.
Episode 2 has recently seen release after Ep 1‘s somewhat rave reviews and places gamers back into the 1920′s fictional world of Arcadia next to Tycho and Gabe. But will people who haven’t played the first get as much out of this as those that follow the Penny Arcade writers religiously?
Being an avid Penny Arcade reader meant that my interest in this game was fairly high from the start, yet I had never plopped down the appropriate MSoft points for Episode 1 due to not really being grabbed by the trial available. There was something about the gameplay I couldn’t really come to grips with, and now I have played through the entirety of Episode 2 I know exactly what that something is, and I wish I had clung to it earlier.
The game, in essence, is a point-and-click adventure for gaming geeks. I don’t just mean the gaming geeks of today, but the D&D, Monkey Island loving, text adventure whores of yesteryear. Instead of pointing and clicking, however, you’ll be maneouvering your created character through the world, battling enemies in a fairly Paper Mario-esque style and pressing the A button on absolutely everything you come across, and everything you come across will have something new to read. There is a lot of stuff to “click” on, and a hell of a lot of reading to be done, but when 70%, or more, of the dialogue brings a smile to your face (should you enjoy Penny Arcade’s humour) it really isn’t much of a chore.
The story starts off as your house is crushed (again?) by a giant robot with a sexual appetite for fruit. Upon Tycho and Gabe’s appearance they ask you to help them once again to find and defeat whoever is controlling said robot, but nothing is ever quite that easy when it comes to “point and click adventures” as we all know that to progress there will always be characters with a list of things for you to do. In most cases these chores are things that naturally unfold as you progress through stages, but there’s always one that frustrates, and in Episode 2 it comes in the form of a receptionist who will only let you pass when given the right things. There are clues as to what she wants, and if you ask enough she’ll tell you almost exactly what she wants, but it’s the hunting about, the constant loading between stages and the back and forth nature of this mission that will undoubtedly upset a bunch of people who download this title.
But that is all part and parcel with this type of game. You’re supposed to feel slightly more intelligent once you’ve mastered the harder “puzzles”, or at least a semblance of hatred towards the annoying characters, and the guys behind Penny Arcade know this as they deal out witty commentary in the form of their cartoon counterparts; each emblazoned with their trusty upgradeable weaponry: a shotgun and their fists. Of course, with your trusty garden hoe added to the mix, you’re an unstoppable trio when it comes to the many interesting enemies you’ll encounter.
The battle system works in a similar way to most RPGs in that it is turn-based, you have to wait longer for the stronger attacks and everyone has to roll a D20 (20 sided die) before each round to see who starts with an advantage. Okay, so that last one isn’t so standard, but like I said originally, this game is for the gaming geeks. Each character has 3 circles representing the A (items), X (attack) and Y (special attacks) buttons. As time progresses the item circle slowly fills up, once filled the attack circle fills, and again once that is filled the special attack circle fills. Once a circle is filled you can use the appropriate action. However, if all three are filled and you merely go with using one of the many items (scattered about the world) your turn is over and all three circles need to be refilled. There’s a strategy to the battle system that needs to be mastered, and once you’ve unlocked the help of some additional party members you might even be able to increase the difficulty, but I’d recommend dropping it down to easy if this is your first time with a game like this.
It didn’t need to be said, but the animated cutscenes match the already known style of the webcomic beautifully, and while the in-game graphics do their best to mimic the style, they never really feel very polished. Animation is decent but the action is never close enough to really capture the Penny Arcade style.
How much you end up enjoying this game will depends purely on whether you love or hate the humour that comes from Jerry and Mike (Tycho Brahe and John ‘Gabe’ Gabriel respectively). Even people who aren’t big fans of RPGs should be able to enjoy this game on the lower difficulty and may even find themselves looking forward to future episodes. At 5 – 6 hours of length it’s more than worth the 1600 points, and it even plays in a way where you don’t have to have experienced Episode 1 to enjoy.