Grant Brünner, March 24, 2010
With PAX East coming right around the corner, we’re looking at seeing the long-awaited third installment of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness getting announced. That said, we shouldn’t forget about the first two episodes in the series. Available for $15 each at PlayGreenHouse.com, these non-traditional RPGs offer a lot of laughs. If you’re a fan of Penny Arcade, you’ll absolutely love this series.
Consider this review a refresher course for world of “RSPD.” Unfortunately, it has been a long while since episode two launched. This is a series that has been stuck in the world of Duke Nukem Forever for quite some time.
Interacting with the World
To move your character, you use a point and click interface. If you want to move somewhere, you click on the area of the floor where you want your character to go. To interact with objects, you simply click on them, and then a dialog window pops up.
When you’re talking to a NPC, you are presented with a dialog tree. You have a selection of a handful of options to choose from when you’re deciding what to say.
At any time, you can bring up a menu that lets you jump between locations. Instead of having to do unnecessary traveling, you’re just a couple of clicks away from being where you need to be.
When you enter a battle, you control the actions of your character, Gabe, and Tycho. The game uses a turn-based engine based around a timer. Each character chooses their action when their turn comes up as decided by whose timer runs out next.
You essentially get to choose from three different actions when your turn begins: Normal Attack, Special Attack, and Use Item. The normal attack and use of an item work the way you’d think. You click on your choice, and then it is executed. The special attack is by far more interesting. When you use your special attack, you have to complete a series of button presses in the correct way to finish your attack. The better the attack, the harder it is to pull off.
This 3D environment is very fitting when you consider the transition from gaming web comic to whacky Lovecraftian RPG. The scenery is beautiful without being too taxing on the GPU. Even if your computer is a couple of years old, you’ll probably be in good shape.
Most interesting, we get to see some beloved characters in a 3D world. Not only do we get to see Gabe and Tycho, but we also get to see Ann, Charles, the Fruit Fucker, and Div. If you’re interested in seeing these characters in somewhat different roles, you’ll be very happy.
Cut Scene Graphics
When we switch to a cut scene, we drop the 3D world in favor of a super-stylized 2D representation. The story unfolds via “Comic panels” in the style of Mike Krahulik’s artwork in the webcomic.
Interestingly, your customized character will display in both 3D and 2D areas. The dynamic representation really shows the polish this series has. Hothead Games really took the time to show this franchise the love it deserves.
RSPD doesn’t take place in the present, and our beloved dynamic duo aren’t video game playing misanthropes. Instead, the game takes place in a Lovecraft-like version of the 1920s while Gabe & Tycho are misanthropes obsessed with detective work. To get an idea of what we’re dealing with, here is the opening poem from the first installment:
Four Gods wait on the windowsill
Where once eight Gods did war and will
And if the Gods themselves may die
What does that say for you and I?
That’s right… We’re given the task of killing off gods. Each installment of this series puts you up against a new and terrifying god. The first game has you fighting a Cthulhu-Mime, and the second game puts you up against a giant Fruit Fucker. Original, no? Don’t worry, though. You have the support of Tycho’s niece the entire time. Her bedroom is the game’s hub. She’ll let you know what you need to accomplish to move the story forward.
You’ll be dealing with a ton of crazy characters and side stories the entire time. In the second game of RSPD, you’re tasked with breaking an important figure out of a mental institution. Bad things happen there, as you probably can imagine.
As expected, the vast majority of the enjoyment of this game comes from the dialog. The clever writing of Jerry Holkins really delivers on the funny. If the web comic tickles your fancy, so will the game.
In sum, the first two episodes of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness show so much potential for the series. We were promised four episodes in total, but three and four have been missing in action. Let’s just hope that the rumors are right, and we’ll see an announcement sometime in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, you can drop $30.00, and play through the excellent first two installments in the series. Weirdness will ensue. I promise you that.Follow @macgasm