Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One
System: Playstation 3
Developer: Hothead Games
Release Date: October 23, 2008
I am a casual fan of the Penny Arcade web comic, not an avid reader but I still take the time to peruse the site every now and then. I like their brand of video game humor — I will never forget their hilarious God of War comic — so when I saw that the Playstation Network was offering their two video game titles together for a total of $3 I had to pick them up. The first episode of Penny Arcade Adventures, titled On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, is a mashup of old school point-and-click adventure games and modern day RPGs.
After creating your own character, the game begins with a giant freakin’ robot destroying your house. Naturally, this is a total surprise and your character has no clue what is going on. After heading down the street in pursuit of the robot, you encounter Gabe and Tycho (from the web comics) who join you on your adventure to figure out what the hell is going on. Along the way, you meet a number of bizarre characters including “Fruit Fucker” robots, urine-soaked hobos, and devil-worshiping mimes. The sarcastic Penny Arcade humor is always prevalent which is what sets this game apart from other like-minded ventures.
The general gameplay consists of basic point-and-click fare as you wander throughout a mere four locales. Clicking on random objects generally produces a humorous response, and some reward you with bonus items. It is worth taking the time to see what every click-able item has to offer. Every now and then the characters will encounter an enemy (Fruit Fuckers, hobos and the like) that will bring about a turn-based RPG battle.
These RPG battles are where the game drags a bit. Each character has a timer that must get filled up before they are able to perform a standard attack, team attack or use an item. While you plan out your next move, enemies are constantly attacking you, which requires you to conveniently hit R2 at opportune times to either dodge or block their attacks. This element keeps you on your toes during combat and makes sure there is always something going on. The problem with the battle system is that switching between your characters manually is a bit of a chore and can cause some serious issues, such as when you happen to miss hitting the block button during an enemy attack. Also, blocking can be incredibly difficult. Some of the enemy attacks are hard to judge, and I found myself missing blocks by just a split second and not getting any credit for them. Couple all of this in with the fact that battles are often quite lengthy and it is clear that some improvements could be made here.
Still, even with its problematic combat system, Penny Arcade is able to ride its comedic roots to respectability. This is a game that is built on humor, and without it, Episode 1 would be mediocre at best. Hardcore fans of the comic will assuredly grade this game higher than everyone else, and I don’t have a problem with that. I just can’t help but feel that a more polished combat system would have made this game a lot more enjoyable. At a meager $3, I wholeheartedly recommend getting this, but I would never advise picking it up at its original $20 price tag unless you are a diehard fan of the comic.