Before we dig too deep into Hothead Games' newest Xbox Live Arcade game, I have a confession to make. As hard as I, I just can't seem to get into Penny Arcade. Don't get me wrong, I still love attending the yearly Penny Arcade Expo, I think that Jerry Holkins (Tycho) and Mike Krahulik (Gabe) are extremely nice guys, and I have found myself agreeing with the site on more than one occasion. But there's just something about their regular web comic that I don't find entertaining. It's not a lack of trying, I assure you; it's just not my cup of tea.
Realizing this I wasn't sure what to think about their first game, simply called Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode 1. I knew that I dug the name and liked what I saw at last year's Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Washington, so I was more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and give this Xbox Live Arcade title a day in court. I'm so glad I did, because not only is Penny Arcade Adventures a fun turn-based role-playing game, but it's also laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end. It's not without a few problems, but in a small way this game has proven to me that Gabe and Tycho can, in fact, be funny.
While it's easy to call this first episode of Penny Arcade Adventures a role-playing game, that probably wouldn't be the best way of describing this quirky little title. In fact, the game feels more like a cross between the classic graphic adventures of yesteryear (Sam & Max, The Secret of Monkey Island, etc.) and a traditional Japanese RPG. If that sounds like an alarming combination then you aren't alone, but as you get used to it you'll realize that this is a natural pairing. Heck, the pairing fits so much that it surprises me that nobody had thought of it first.
On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode 1 takes place in a 1920's New Arcadia. The game tells the story of an average homeowner who gets swept up into an epic battle between good and evil after he (or she) gets their house destroyed by what looks like a large robot. Before long our hero (complete with a killer rake) is teaming up with Gabe and Tycho, the two proprietors of an investigation agency called Startling Developments. Together this team solves cases, battles evil characters and, with some luck, will find a place for our now-homeless hero to live.
This episode of Penny Arcade Adventures is split up into a couple of different tasks. For much of the game you're going to be walking around one of the three environments (which include your recently destroyed street, a hobo-infested city and a carnival on the peer). But as you progress through the game you'll discover that you're spending almost as much time battling some of the nasty (and often comical) villains, including fruit sodomizing robots, mimes, hobos and even a barbershop quartet. Hopefully you like turn-based action and solving cases, because that's what you're going to do in the Penny Arcade Adventures.
The most intriguing part of this game comes from the turn-based combat, which manages to offer a fresh coat of paint to this long-running genre. In battle each of the three characters has three different time-released things they can do - use and item, attack your enemy, or use a special attack. Basically the idea is that each option requires a certain amount of time for it to fill up and be selectable, so you can use your items without waiting too long, but if you want to use your regular or special attack you will have to spend a few extra seconds waiting for those to be time-released. This may sound complex, but I assure you after a battle or two you will be fighting robots, mimes and hobos like a pro.
Page 1 of 2