Monday, 09 August 2010 00:00

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

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So how well does it translate when you go from web-comic to video game? Rapid finds out.


Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One is a game that had mixed-expectations going in. One thing I wonder was what the game would actually be about since the web-comic is about two characters basically commentating on video game culture. I had my doubts if it could all translate into an actual video game in a meaningful way. However, the game’s greatest feature is that the writers did not miss a beat. The writing inOn the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One is spot on, and just as entertaining as their web-comic.


The game is set in an alternate reality where Penny Arcade’s protagonists Tycho Brahe and Jonathan Gabrie (Tycho and Gabe) are detectives of theStartling Developments Detective Agency. You start the game as a Penny Arcade-styled character of your own creation having had your house crushed by a giant Fruit Fucker (robot blender) named, Fruit Fucker Prime. The story is set in the city of New Arcadia circa 1922 where Fruit Fuckers, machines with demonic spirits bound to them are messing up the city and causing mass panic. It’s up you and the rest of the Startling Developments Detective Agency to track down Fruit Fucker Prime as well as search for your new home.

The game is full of Gabe and Tycho’s witty dialogue exchanges which fans come to expect from start to finish. The writing and visuals that writer Jerry Holkins and artist Mike Krahulik put into the game does make it feel authentic to the web series despite Hothead Games’ adventure RPG influence.   The humour is abundant from ranting about a robot apocalypse, and a prolific amount of pee jokes, to questioning the nature and logistics of needing to collect a mime’s invisible, yet crucial equipment to solve a case. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, my favourite is the certification process of “hobeef” but I won’t spoil it anymore.

The game features 3D environments and characters, rendered in the Penny Arcade Adventures comic bookie art-style and fully 2D animated cut scenes. Impressive is that even the character you created is animated in 2D during those cutscenes and stills.  The game also has a neat effect where it cuts away to a 2D comic book styled panel whenever you engage in a conversation tree with the characters.

In RPG fashion whenever you encounter an enemy you transition out into a
battle mode where the random-meter-filling “roll for initiative”- literally represents a dice roll determines which character can initialize actions first. The combat itself is a mix between ATB (Active Turn Based) you’d find in classic Final Fantasy games and real-time based. Basically you have control of all the characters but are limited to how frequent each character can perform certain actions. Depending on how long you wait for each party member’s action meter to charge determines if you can use items, perform a basic melee attack, or activate a character’s unique special attack. Using items requires the least amount of waiting to special attacks which require the most amount of waiting between intervals. When you do unleash a character’s special attack you’ll be thrown into a timing based mini –game which will basically determine how much damage that attack will inflict. If two or more characters have their special attack ready, you can then have the opportunity for a team-up attack. It basically then becomes a risk versus reward situation in which how much are you willing to stall in order to perform more powerful attacks versus attacking more frequently with less damaging attacks. Similar to other RPGs like Mario and Lugi Browser’s Inside Story you want to keep an eye on the battlefield during combat, if you get the timing right you’ll be able to block incoming blows and launch counterattacks back at your enemies.   Plus enemy types have different weaknesses and strengths to different kinds of weapons, be it Gabe’s fists, Tycho’s gunshots, or your character’s lawn rake.

One thing to keep in mind, despite the long winded title, this game is actually an incredibly short episodic adventure. The game can be completed in under a good 5 hours and there isn’t really much incentive to second play-through other than to collect any remaining collectables in the game, and perhaps gain some missed achievements. I would suggest if possible, attempting all of On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One's achievements or trophies on the first play through. Some of the achievements can be very difficult even on the easiest difficulty, but not impossible.  Perhaps one of the reasons it took myself a long time to complete this game is because I want to get all the achievements on steam the first time through. Unfortunately the game does not allow you to use a pre-existing save for a second play through. However, the good thing is you can use any of your completed saves in Episode Two.

 While I enjoyed On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One overall despite its briefness, this game is probably be slightly more geared for fans like myself, of the actual web-comic. There are some neat basic RPG elements in here, but the bulk of the enjoyment of this game is from what was mentioned about the game’s humorous and entertaining writing.

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