A niché extravaganza by no minimal means.
Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One
There comes a time in every reviewers life where they must consider what difference their own taste makes. You could have the greatest skill in history when it comes to writing, and you could present opportunities for discussion for years to come with your quirky insights and notice of in-game oddities that nobody else realised but all that makes little difference if your taste differs too vastly fom your target audience. It's particularly obvious but all the same important to realise that if tell people that a game is astounding and they buy it, things can either go up for your reputation or down in quite a hurry. If they agree then with luck you'll progress furthur into your field and go on to prove just why you should be respercted as a reviewer. If they disagree then you can be the subject of much slander with gamers criticising you for having them waste their money. All in all, you can be put into situations where telling the truth leaves you in a cacth-22 environment. Ethics or job?
In the case of Penny Arcade's first game, the sole necessity relies upon the humour which the duo have spent almost a decade establishing. Throughout the game, the jokes come thick and fast, and although the game is very much intended for the fans of the webcomic, it is not a target so narrow that other casual gamers will find themselves completely lost amidst the often crude and occasionally clever in-jokes. One thing to be said about Penny-Arcade is that their humour is not the sort to rely solely on what they have posted in the past. Although there are references that come thick and fast, it's often in the execution that the jokes are made funny. Although one could criticise this very review for being bias, it's only fair to mention that I myself have only been reading Penny Arcade for a few months and am not overly well-versed in the plethora of comics the ever expanding company has produced, nor am I overly familiar with many of the characters. It's probably fair to say that the best way to determine whether the very tongue in cheek styled humour of the game will apply to tickling your fancy is to spend an hour or so browsing through PA's lengthy back catalogue. It's free and is almost like a demo for the game, only without the interactivity (which is certainly an odd suggestion in a r1eview for a video game...)
Also important to note, in the context of personal taste is my own attitudes to RPG's. Although as a child I spent a great many hours enjoying Pokémon on my flourescant yellow GameBoy (original model, of course), ever since those days of youth I have found myself increasingly turned off by the recent wave of 'real' RPG's. What I mean by this is that RPG's have taken a turn in either direction of the grand Westernmobile: Either they've taken the Asian approach of creating entire worlds, completely impossible to compare to our own, whilst retaining the classic turn-based gameplay, or they've attempted to keep things Western and real (to an extent of course) relying on our own abilities to comprehend what we're seeing and playing, whislt bringing to the table real-time combat. As it stands, throughout my experiences of RPG's since those fabled days of Pokémon Yellow I've often found myself turned off by the constant moving in one direction or another, with developers rarely considering what could be achieved if they tried to merge the two subgenre's of Asian and Western Role Playing Games, my scathing review of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion being a prime example of my complete and utter hatred of the absolutism that has plagued the order.
Naturally, when I read more about PAA, the humour, the turn-based gameplay and the seemingly realistic setting (realistic in terms of appearence rather than the likelihood of the events taking place in the game) my anticipation for the game found itself on the rise. One of the initial turn off's, the knowledge that the title was being distributed via episodic gaming, became a turn on as I pondered the possibilities of seeing it as a sort of demo so I could make up my mind as to whether it would be truly worth continuing. That said however, the thought of paying such a price for just one episode may still reign heavy over some gamers heads and for those I would reccomend playing the demo or trying a friends copy first. The story also inspired a good deal of wonder within me as it really retains the Penny Arcade style of looking at things through a conventional mirror and subsequently smashing the glass to find something fresh and, in this case, funny. The story itself is filled with the necessary twists and turns to keep you on your feet but is so riddled with eccentricities, it becomes difficult to discern where the hilarity stops and the plot begins. I feel a great deal of sympathy for whoever has to fill out the Wikipedia page for Penny Arcade Adventures. One of my few qualms however, comes in light of the story. Although you can easily get a good 4-5 hours out of On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One, it feels like there is only about 3 hours of plot in there. After a brief introduction, it doesn't seem like the story is really going anyehere until the end of the first act at which point it's almost as if everybody working on the game created some sort of cocktail consisting of cocaine, coffee and red bull to really kick it into overdrive.
Another brief issue with the game is the fact that it is an episodic game. Although the whole point of the title is to reel you in, the game achieves this all too well, so much so that after the explosive climax has unwound, you find yourself so anxious for the next chapter that there's nought to do but either play the game again or email the developers asking them what's taking so bloody long.
All that considered, though means very little. There is nothing mentioned above that should really influence your opinion and that reflects my own tastes. As far as I'm concerned, the one thing that really sums up whether I was going to like this game or not was the title and if you think, as I do, that it's pretty damn catchy, then you'll probably love this game.
Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One. Just say it to yourself.