Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One

For those of you who are unaware, Penny Arcade is a highly popular gaming webcomic by Jerry Holkins (the writer) and Mike Krahulik (the artist) that began in late 1998 and continues to this day, updating every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This comic is most certainly not for children, but in any case it is very funny and the art has greatly improved over time. Due to the strip's popularity, it has since expanded to include a charity called Child's Play, a convention called PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) that runs twice a year, a few card games, various forms of merchandise, and a video game, which I will be talking about. Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness (OTRSPOD) is a planned four-part game series starring Gabe and Tycho, the main characters of the webcomic, with Episode Three coming out next week. The first two installments were made by Hothead Games, both released in 2008. And now without further ado, here is a review of Episode One, released early that year.

After a giant robot destroys your house one day, you not only seek revenge on whoever did this to you, but also a new place to live. At the start of your quest you meet Gabe and Tycho of the Startling Developments Detective Agency, who are also investigating the giant robot. Together, the three of you dig deeper into the mystery and discover that some darker force is behind it all, one that threatens to silence all of existence forever. Though the story sounds simple enough from my description, it actually gets more complex as the game progresses, though in a way as to not be confusing. After you play it more than once though, hints dropped in earlier parts of the game start to make more sense and you get a better understanding of the greater workings of the OTRSPOD universe.

The graphics of this game are really well done, with character models that perfectly translate the art style of the comic (at the time) to a 3D plane. During conversation with an NPC, the game pauses for an interactive comic panel to appear at the bottom of the screen, reverting to the regular 2D art of the webcomic. This is also done during cutscenes, which switch scenes much like comic panels and gives the player an idea of what Penny Arcade would be like in motion. Overall visually, the game looks really impressive and it shows that the developer took great care in keeping with the feel of the comic on which it is based.

I have gone this long without mentioning that OTRSPOD is an RPG, so a couple things deserve mention. Firstly, there is a moment before you start playing where you get to customize your character's appearance and name. There isn't an expansive amount of options available, but even with the pool you are given there is still a multitude of combinations that you can create to give yourself a unique look. The other item of note is the combat system. I'm not very experienced when it comes to RPGs, but I thought the real-time battle system used was really well done, and at times I had to really think about what I wanted to do when faced with a swarm of enemies. However, a couple things did actually bug me about the combat, namely the fact that enemies can sometimes attack you multiple times before even a single basic attack in your party has finished charging up, in addition to a boss closer to the end of the game that was particularly difficult to take down.

Outside of combat, save for a few situations, the usual Penny Arcade style of humor truly SHINES in this game, more often than not turning it into an unforgettable laugh riot. Throughout each area there is a vast number of things to look at, often including jokes in the description about what it is you are learning about. There are even series' of jokes that form bigger jokes, including an eggplant shaped like Abraham Lincoln (referencing an early strip), sinister-looking mailboxes, and a Mr. Bear's Hell Circus (which even combines with another series of jokes), among other things. There's also a wide range of jokes that can be made, including a good deal of lowbrow humor, but that doesn't stop the game from being any funnier.

There's also a number of extras to be found in this game, including concept art and music tracks from the game. These extras are pretty well hidden, so unless you look up where they are you may find yourself searching every nook and cranny of each location for them. In the end, locating all of the concept art is worth it, since it will also allow you to access a Penny Arcade strip exclusive to the game.

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One is a game that no one should pass up, especially if you are a fan of Penny Arcade. Much like the comic, this isn't exactly a game for younger audiences, but I can still guarantee that you will have an amazing time. Those who don't like real-time combat in an RPG might like this game a little less, but the story and humor alone are reason enough to give this game a try.

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