Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode 1 (2008)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: Hothead Games

It was probably inevitable that long-running webcomic Penny Arcade would become a game itself. Here the PA protagonists Gabe and Tycho join with the player character in a roaring 20's, steampunk setting as they chase a towering robot that has crushed the player's house. The player joins their detective agency to get revenge and then find out the mysterious conspiracy behind the sudden swarm of smaller robots, murderous mimes, homicidal hobos and other strange enemies.

Gameplay consists of exploring settings like a suburban street and a boardwalk that is very reminiscent of old point and click adventure games using the mouse to move and click on things to interact or just to open a text box describing the clicked item. Combat is an active time battle system with context sensitive button presses used to block and use special attacks. Blocking is done by hitting the space bar at the right time as the enemy attacks (their health bar will flash). A perfectly timed block will result in no damage and an automatic counterattack, but timing is difficult. Otherwise it will result in a regular block that reduces damage, a partial block that lets more damage through or a missed block that lets all damage through and any status effects that the attack may inflict.

Special attacks take longer to charge, but do more damage. Killing an enemy with a perfectly executed special attack results in an Overkill that gives permanent bonuses to stats. Specials can also be stacked between the characters for double and triple attacks for more damage. Unlike most RPG's with throwaway battles for grinding, every battle here has the potential to be deadly, so blocking and item use for healing, buffing and distracting enemies is essential as are the support characters that can be summoned to help. Knowing weaknesses helps too like hobos are drunk and therefore resistant to Gabe's punches but are susceptible to Tycho's bullets.

The art-style is very in-sync with the comic art-style particularly the cut-scenes and dialogue screens and the steampunk setting is welcome, but a lot of the game may not gel with players that aren't already fans of the comic. It is very tongue-in-cheek and the humor might not come across to casual players. They may not understand Tycho's love for deep wordplay (resulting in the mouthful title) and why the robots are fruit rapists. There is a bit of a learning curve in the beginning too as players are walked through about 3 fights and then left to their own devices pretty quick. But the game is solid. Great combat, vibrant art and good humor.

Buyer's Guide:
Available for digital distribution on PC, Mac, XBLA and PSN.

Killer cat hairballs out of 5

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