An unexpurgatedly adept guise stratagem pastime...
I honestly ended up receiving exactly what I expected from Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. It's a very proficient turn based RPG, with a layer of PA's crude humor wafting around and thru the entire proceeding. If you like old school RPGs (especially Chrono Trigger), and you like the humor found within the PA comic strip, then you're going to find a lot to love. If you don't like either then you should just turn back now, save your $20, and spend the money on all new underpants for your dresser drawer.
You start this game out in the character creation area where the selections are limited, but fun none the less. You can determine the sex along with a hand full of different hair style, clothing, head shapes, and all can have their shade of color changed via sliders. It's not a deep system, but it pays off in the end because your creation gets transformed into a 2D version that will appear in all of the games eventual (if short) comic strip style cut scenes. After the creation phase you are plopped down in the town of "New Arcadia". It's a very Lovecraftian setting where science, ancient spirits, and the wild west commingle. The Vincent Price meets Patrick Stewart narrator welcome you to the world just before your house is crushed by a ten story tall Fruit..."Robot", who is being chased by PA staples Gabe and Tycho. Before the game is over you will be enlisted to join Gabe and Tycho's detective agency called "Startling Developments" and enlisting the help of the likes of Tycho's niece, Ann, your very own Fruit Robot, and a...cat. Throw in enemies like mimes, bums, clowns, and barber shop quartets, and you can feel the tongue firmly in the cheek.
The story, for the most part, is completely nonsensical, but always funny, and I honestly don't think I would want a PA RPG to make too much sense. The thing that really carries this game isn't that surprising. The humor wins the day in Rain Slick, and a really nice "easy to learn, hard to master" RPG fighting engine ends up being the real surprise in the end. Upon first glance it seems like a very standard turn based system like a lot of the earlier Final Fantasy games, but there's a real depth to the system once you learn it's subtleties. The best thing about the system is that all it's options are used, and in the end are vital if you're shooting for PA's 200 achievement points. All the statis items come into play, the support characters are sometimes essential for just buying yourself some time to regroup, this game's version of "limit breaks" are also a nice card to be able to play in a pinch, and blocking with timed trigger pulls is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. During my first play thru I didn't even know that blocking was an option until the last boss fight. I spent most of the fights scrambling to use healing items just to make it thru the standard fights. The second time thru, knowing the blocking system existed, made for a much more stable and fun experience. With all the items in the player's arsenal being viable, and with all the options being made available during some fast paced fights, it makes for a pretty fun gameplay experience where there's always something do besides wait for the next attack animation.
The game also has a small hand full of unlockables. Most are concept art, but some are new music options, and even a hidden PA comic strip. It can also be said that a lot of the humor can be found in just exploring the zones and talking to NPCs. Some of the descriptions of items and store fronts can be real gut busters. Stores like "It's Like Fudge" or "Hats Now!" or descriptions of what are inside some of New Arcadia's seedier trash cans are sure to make you grin, if not chuckle.
If there's any complaints they're pretty small. The game IS short. I finished my first time thru at just under seven hours, but it is only $20. I spent $60 on Call of Duty 4 and didn't get much more than seven hours out of the single player campaign. The graphics and audio are really nothing to heap praise upon either. The 2D cut scenes are really awesome, but the 3D stuff is pretty substandard. The audio too is just so-so, with only about three background tunes total and minimal voice work. The game almost screams to be done in a more "Paper Mario" style, with less text and more narration and voice overs. Add in the fact that there really aren't that many enemy types and that you will find yourself revisiting and re-revisiting the same four areas over and over again (of which Ann's room is only one room and hardly a full fledged area) and you have some pretty dominant elements for tedium.
At the end of the day though all you really need to do is ask yourself, "Do I like RPGs?" and "Do I like Penny Arcade's style of humor?". If you answered yes to both, then play the game. If you answered no to one or the other, you might walk away disappointed. If you answered no to both, then you better go buy those underpants. I answered yes to both and totally enjoyed my time with the game. There's a lot worse ways to waste 20 clams, that's for sure.
+Surprisingly deep, fun, and fast fighting system
-Limited to four areas