Oh, Steam, your sales are just irresistible. I bought a game that was $60 a few short months ago for $10 via Steam (more on this next month), then turned around and bought both Penny Arcade Adventures games in a $3 double pack. Now I'm reviewing the first one, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 1.
I had been interested in both Penny Arcade Adventures games for some years now. I've been a fan of the comic strip for about ten-odd years, I love their sense of humor and cartoony art style, and I love oldschool RPGs and adventure games. I should love this shit! Well, I did like it, but love is a strong word for such scant offerings. This isn't a bad game, but it's short and that's after artificially lengthening its gameplay time.
The basics of the game are pretty solid. You're a suburban homeowner (a player-created character from a modest selection of preset skins) who witnesses his or her house's destruction via giant robot. Pursuing the robot, you encounter Jonathan Gabriel and Tycho Brahe, a pair of paranormal investigators doing their investigation thang. Armed with a garden rake, you accompany the duo in chasing after the robot, not quite prepared for what's ahead.
This game is really silly and hilarious, with the storyline taking some very strange turns. You start out smashing up Fruit Fucker robots and hobos, and eventually bring an end to an evil cult of mimes and barbershop quartet singers. That... pretty much sets the tone. The general interface looks a lot like Hothead Games' other signature series, Deathspank. Cartoony 3D sprites shambling around a super-deformed, colorful world. Cutscenes sometimes go into comic panels that look pulled right from the pages of a Penny Arcade volume, and even more sometimes are fully animated. These panels and animated scenes look fantastic, but the main interface seems clumsy. It doesn't help that the game has some annoying issues with scenery hit detection and pathfinding, as sometimes your character will get stuck during a simple traverse because of a trash can next to you or even behind you.
Combat is pretty simplistic, but no real beefs here. Your three characters can use a variety of items, perform a normal attack, or a special attack. Each of those attacks has a longer delay before you're able to use it, so you can spam items rapidly or slowly wait for a special attack. The three characters essentially have inverse speed and attack power. Tycho hits the hardest, but he's the slowest. Gabriel can attack quickly, but does the least damage. Weapon damage can be upgraded twice per character, which isn't much at all, but then again this game is really short.
Look, the framework for a solid RPG exists here. It's just that the scope of the game is so lacking that it lets everything down. There are three zones in the game to travel through, and walking from one end to the other of any of them takes about five minutes. You go through each one multiple times throughout the story. This is unacceptable for a full-fledged game. Episode 1 stretches 1.5 hours of gameplay into about 4 by having you repeat every pathway with fetch-quests, item collection, and new waves of enemies. I enjoyed this game because it was funny and had some good mechanics in place, but I hesitate to recommend this game to others because of its tedium and quest design. It's worth the couple bucks I paid, but maybe not very much more.
Games Beaten: 2011 Edition
1. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
2. Primal Rage
3. Torchlight Hat Trick
4. Ghost Trick
6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
7. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
8. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
9. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
10. Tales of Eternia
11. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
12. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
13. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
14. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
15. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
16. Dragon Age: Origins
17. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
18. inFamous Evil Finish
20. inFamous 2 Good Finish
21. Big Bang Mini
22. Final Fight: Double Impact
23. Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
24. Cthulhu Saves the World
25. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
26. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
27. Disgaea Infinite
28. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
29. Jeanne d'Arc
30. Dragon Age II
31. Jade Empire
32. Cthulhu's Angels
33. DeathSpank: Orphans of Justice
34. Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
35. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
37. Prince of Persia '08
38. Final Fantasy IV: Anniversary Edition
39. Professor Layton and the Last Specter
40. inFamous: Festival of Blood
41. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
42. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
44. On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode 1
I won't jump on Rain-Slick episode 2 just yet, but I might later if I need a quickie one-day game to finish off the list in later goings-on. Not sure what #45 is going to be yet, but I have a few possible candidates. Happy trails.