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

June 9, 2008

Episode 1 is not for everybody; it is for fans of the Penny Arcade comic strip. Characters and writing style that are instantly familiar to a fan of the comic will leave newcomers confused and probably a bit turned off. Just like the paperback novels aren’t a good introduction to the Halo universe, Rain-Slick Precipice is not a good first taste of PA’s unique humor and characters.

Mechanically, Episode 1 is a by-the-numbers active-time-battle (similar to Final Fantasy VII – attack when your bar is full and your opponents do the same) RPG. One change from the norm, however, is item use. Episode 1 heavily encourages the player to use stat-affecting items thanks to a low inventory limit and a cache of readily available trashcans to knock over for another bottle of Dr. Hardd’s liquid armor or Ultra-Mild weaksauce. As things progress there will be a lot to keep track of: attack, item use, and special attack counters for three characters, support character ability counters, and blocking incoming enemy attacks can get a bit overwhelming, but the game never feels cheap, and remember: HP is restored after every fight. Fans of the comic will recognize PA’s iconic art style that includes the player-created avatar in cutscenes and characters such as demonic fruit juicers, evil mimes, and random gods that happen to have forsaken the 1922 city of New Arcadia.

The main party is also instantly recognizable as the player gets to fight alongside steampunk versions of Gabe and Tycho whose dialog is familiar, sharp, witty, and uproariously funny. The humor extends beyond just dialog, though. Every object that can be interacted with has its own custom description text, and each is at least worthy of a chuckle.

Episode 1, like the comic strip that spawned it, isn’t for little kids. It is rated M, and for good reason. Krahulik and Holkins have managed to transition their witty – although vulgar – humor from static images on the Internet to a moving, well-playing, and altogether funny game. Episode 1‘s only real shortcoming is the price. Fans of Penny Arcade will most likely look at the 1600 point ($20 USD) price tag and purchase right away, but Rain-Slick Precipice is currently the most expensive offering on the arcade, and the adventure clocks in at only around eight hours which is fairly short by RPG standards.

Score: 4/5

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