As this is a game based on one of my favourite web-comics I had high expectations of the humor, art style and overall design – and I wasn’t let down. Suffice to say Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One has taken all the sarcasm and toilet humor of Penny Arcade and compressed it into this one title, so odds are the rest will be uninspired sequels. Did you detect a hint of sarcasm?
As you may have guessed - or even expected from a Penny Arcade-inspired game - this title breaks several clichés around western RPGs or even Japanese RPGs. For one thing you don’t start the game in bed and you aren’t a poor farmer. You control an anonymous suburbanite who gets dragged into the adventure when something resembling André the Giant’s old juicer steps on his house.
Unfortunately, I’ll have to stop short of using the official name of the ‘juicers’ attacking the town because, although every good Monty Python fan knows “it’s the most useful word in the English language”, the second half of it isn’t appropriate for a review. From here on in he’s out for revenge, teaming up with John Gabriel and Tycho Brahe as they fight the invading juicers.
Battles are the traditional turn-based affair. The system itself - as with the rest of the game - is a little different. You switch between characters manually as you wait for their attacks to recharge. Although it is easily done on the Xbox 360’s controller it’s still not as intuitive as having the relevant character selected automatically as it does in most other turn-based RPGs.
However, if you have a character that charges up much faster than the others it can come in quite useful as you can switch back to get another shot in without having to wait for the others to recharge. Unfortunately, switching between characters manually can be a nuisance in the heat of a boss battle, especially when it comes to healing as you have to select a character with the item option available and then select the character to heal. The system can be confusing at times and gets in the way more than helping.
As you run around the world you come across items hidden in crates and garbage cans. Although you will find the usual healing items that in most RPGs can be used from the inventory screen, here they can only be used in battle. This means if you have a character that’s barely hanging on to life and the rest are dead after a tough battle you will have to enter the next in that state right down to the last charge level. It can pose quite a problem if you’re heading into a boss battle as once you use an item you have to wait for the character’s move to recharge again before attacking, leaving every character open to attack and making your party sitting ducks ready for the juicers to juice all over.
Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness does a lot of things a little differently from the generic western RPG. Unfortunately, some things work better than others. No doubt the system will be refined with the sequels to come.