Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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

Penny Arcade, the world's first gaming webcomic, is kinda popular. Through its relentlessly professional update schedule over the course of 13-14 years, it has remained consistently funny and has even expanded itself with a charity and convention. Among the many games created around the series, one of them was a video game, this one specifically, developed by Hothead Games and released in 2008. While originally intended as a four-part episodic adventure, the studio decided to move on to other projects after only two were produced, leaving the remaining episodes in jeopardy until its cancellation. But with Zeboyd Games finally launching an official third episode after four years, I returned to OTRSPOD, in what must be at least my fifth playthrough, and still found myself laughing.

The story is excellently written. While it starts with a simple tale of revenge, and a new home, with the help of  Gabe and Tycho, it eventually involves elements of the Cthulu mythos and Penny Arcade series to form a unique atmosphere that manages to have an identity all on its own. The webcomic's style of humor is also brilliantly displayed in both the dialogue and descriptions of whatever is in the game world, allowing your experience to be a never-ending stream of laughter. Penny Arcade's unique style also resonates within the overall visuals, which are stylized to resemble Mike Krahulik's art style in 2008. This translates very well in 3D and the 2D interstitials are amazing in motion. In this sense, through making no missteps in preserving a signature style, Penny Arcade Adventures is right on the mark.

In terms of combat, this is where I had mixed feelings. Don't get me wrong, I liked the combat system; It mixes really well with the game's RPG standing, using real time combat in the vein of Final Fantasy while also using contextual button presses to carry out each character's top level attacks. My only problem was balancing against the enemies. True I played the game this time on Insane Mode (again), but it gets a little tiresome when they can get in at least two attacks before you can do anything about it aside from blocking quickly enough, even if they don't have a speed buff in use. This is especially prevalent with the penultimate boss, who might as well be broken for his incredible speed, almost non-existent blocking window, and having one abused attack initiate a strength debuff if not blocked properly. Fortunately this challenge is not insurmountable provided you have enough items at your disposal, which can be found in the world with relative ease if you know where exactly to look.

An early example of combat (click for better view)
When all is said and done, Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One is a very good downloadable title. Its humor is excellent, the style is utilized to its fullest and the combat is very solid. Combine that with an excellent story and quest design and you've got an adventure just waiting to be taken. Fans of Penny Arcade will definitely enjoy it, but even newcomers will be pleasantly surprised and end up having a good time.

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