Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One review
Penny Arcade: The RPG Episode 1
Based on the Penny Arcade webcomic series, Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness Episode One (say that three times really fast) is actually a rather simple RPG that feels like a combination of Final Fantasy 4-9 and the Mario RPGs, while having aspects ripped out of those old point and click adventure games. Having said that, unless you feel like every RPG/adventure game has to be complex in order to be worth your time, this is definitely something worth trying out. I, myself, am particularly picky with RPGs, and even though this is quite simple, it's actually rather fun to play through... once. But that one time will be very entertaining, unless you don't like Penny Arcade, in which case, you have no soul.
Story: Your home is destroyed by a giant robot, so it's up to you, Tycho and Gabe (the main guys from the Penny Arcade series) to search for information on said robot, find it and destroy it. Oh, and there are mimes who want to kill you. Not much to write home about, except for the dialogue, which contains the stunning wit that the webcomic series is best known for. It's so well written and funny that you'll find yourself forgetting that this is just another apocalyptic scenario. You don't necessarily have to be a fan of Penny Arcade to get the dialogue - in fact, the only thing missing here are the subtle little jabs at games and gaming websites that you'd expect from Penny Arcade. I guess it's just Duke Nukem who has the balls to do this in a video game. Ah well, it's just something fans will miss and will just have to live with, but everyone else will still enjoy it..
Gameplay: Even though the story is pretty much the star, unlike LA Noire, On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness prefers to make sure that its gamelay is crafted just finely enough to make it simple and fun. There are a couple of different elements, but I'll be honest in saying that one is done much better than the other.
I'll start with the not so good element, which is the adventuring. Mostly what you have to do is go through parts of town to talk to people and find clues. Most people will want certain items, which will require you to look for them. So if you don't like fetch quests, don't bother with this game - the fetch quests aren't much better than what you'd expect, perhaps with sprinkles of humor thrown all over them just to lessen the impact of the fact that you're just doing a fetch quest. Ah well. The puzzles you'll occasionally have to solve aren't anything that'll bust your balls or anything. No need to combine items and set them up in a specific fashion - actually, all you're doing is finding stuff. Nothing that's really entertaining, perhaps except whatever lines of dialogue or actions appear on screen...
But then there's the combat, which is mostly well done. It's pretty simple, but it's that GOOD kind of simple where it doesn't try to do more than what it does right. It's in real time, but it's set out like your typical turn based RPG. Basically, you have three commands - attack, special attack and items. You select the command and then wait for a bar to fill up. Yeah, it's basically like the ATB system from Final Fantasies 4-9, but the difference between them and this is in some added interactivity. Whether it's blocking or executing special attacks, you may be required to press a button or two every now and again, like in the Mario RPGs. This prevents battling from ever really feeling like a drag when you have to do heaps of it because you need to keep on your toes... one missed block may cost you the match... well, not really, but just make sure you're able to get it down.
Really, the only thing wrong is just how forgiving this game is. There's almost no risk involved as your characters instantly heal after each battle, fleeing is easy as shit against all but a few bosses, and you can reload a fight after losing on top of being able to save anywhere... furthermore, the game never really gets harder; it actually gets easier as you progress. The funfactor soon follows the difficulty in its downward slope, as even though everything around you is still worth a chuckle, actually playing it just goes from fun to "meh". It's never crap, but to go from enjoyable to "well I just want to finish this because it's kinda fun I guess" is just a slap in the face.
Replay Value: Because of all of this, there's almost no incentive to replay the game. Not to mention, the jokes are definitely not quite as funny the second time around as they were the first time. Really, the only thing keeping you coming back are achievements. Some of them aren't bad, but the rest just feel more tedious than rewarding... eh, I suppose any way is better than none...
Controls: When you're in battle, it's as simple as clicking on the action you want, while pressing space to block when you're about to be attacked. It's all very simple and easy to get the hang of. As for adventuring, well, it's point and click as I may have mentioned, so obviously, you'll be clicking to navigate your character. Again, very simple, but it manages to work out.
Graphics: As far as the graphics are concerned, both sections get ticks. The 3D graphics have that cartoony look, which is suitable given the license. Sure, it may look a little like it was meant for the PS2 or Gamcube, but again, it really suits. There isn't a huge variety in the environments, but I'll forgive that, because each of the environments look fantastic. There's quite a lot of detail without it looking realistic, keeping that cartoon vibe. Then there are the 2D graphics, which retains the look of the webcomic. The only problem is how the cutscenes are presented. Having them presented as comic strips is a great idea because it'll remind you of the look and feel of the webcomics, but it feels like THEY could've taken up most of (if not all of) the screen, and not the in-game graphics. Perhaps it's because the 3D graphics aren't quite as good as the 2D graphics. Plus, there could've been some more flash animation... what little you get here is great, but it's so great, that it's quite disappointing to only get so little, especially since some scenes would've kicked more ass if they went that route! Oh well.
Audio: Unfortunately, the audio is something that could've been better. The soundtrack sounds good, but nothing remarkable or anything worth a damn. Oh, and the instances where carnival music plays... just no. I understand that it may have been put in for humorous purposes, but... just no. Now, the voice acting is barely existent... which is unfortunate, because what voice acting there was, was pretty good. The narrator does a good job of keeping your attention, but then he stops existing after the first third of the game.
Overall: The first episode of On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness proves to be a fine start to a potentially fantastic series. The writing is spot on with a lot of funny parts, and the combat engine is straightforward enough to stay entertaining for the duration of the game. There are some pretty weak elements, like the puzzles and the lack of 2D animated scenes, but they're easy to overlook in favor of a game that's entertaining as hell.
Replay Value: 4/10
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