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Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode Two Review

4
  • XBGS
  • PC

The foul-mouthed humor remains equally well-spoken and vulgar, though the formula is starting to become apparent with Episode Two.

Yup, this is a Penny Arcade product alright!
Hothead Games and the creative forces at Penny Arcade seem to have established their rhythm with the second episode of their serialized steampunk action-adventure RPG. It's mechanically unchanged from the first episode, and it's roughly the same basic size and shape. It's all just as structurally sound, but it's apparent now that the gameplay, as lively as it can be, is a delivery mechanism for Penny Arcade's deeply referential brand of humor. It's rare that a game aims primarily to make you laugh, and Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode Two is pretty good at it.

With the peculiar setting of New Arcadia already in place, the bulk of the story in this episode revolves around discovering the origins of the massive Fruit Fucker Prime that demolished your house at the beginning of the first episode, before you got roped into all that lunacy with robot-building hobos and magical mimes. There are plentiful callbacks to the events of the first episode, and a couple of the major characters from that arc pop up in supporting roles here, making room for new characters like the unironically named roboticist Dr. Jonathan Crazoir, and Dr. Wolfington, huntsman extraordinaire and corrupt proprietor of the Cloying Odor Sanitarium. There's also a brief, drug-induced appearance by Penny Arcade faves Twisp and Catsby. You'll fight giant spiders, cause trouble in the impossibly monied part of town, attend a suffocatingly cliquish scientific symposium, and take part in the auspicious and storied tradition of robot monkey fights.

Absurdist juxtapositions are Penny Arcade's bread and butter, so it's unsurprising that Episode Two relies pretty heavily on alternating between deliberately straightforward blue language and clever word-smithery for its humor. While it's arguably a little filthier than Episode One, it doesn't feel lazy about how it gets its laughs. What's interesting about the structure of the storytelling here is how successful it is as both a standalone game experience and a smaller segment of a larger story. Once you finish up the six-or-so hours that Episode Two demands, you'll have accomplished some grand, fairly satisfying feats that bring a good amount of closure while keeping you excited about what Episode Three has to offer.

It's difficult to say if this gameplay can sustain two more episodes.
For all the farm-fresh chuckles that Episode Two provides, the gameplay beneath it all hasn't really changed. It's probably unreasonable to expect significant mechanical advancements between episodes, but the simplicity that made the quasi-real-time combat so immediately engaging in Episode One is starting to wear a little thin. There's still a certain hypnotic quality to the combat, but at a point it turns into something to do while you wait for the next bit of hilarity. There are other technical aspects that, without the newness of Episode One, are becoming a little more glaring. Long load times when hopping from one location to the next do the game no favors, particularly since it's something that you'll be doing a lot of. The polygonal interpretations of the Penny Arcade art style are generally awkward, and the sound design remains oddly spartan, save for a few pieces of orchestrated music and a preponderance of stock Wilhelm-style hawk screeches.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is shaping up to be a four-episode arc, and while I have no doubt that the Penny Arcade team has enough silly, vulgar material to power through the back half, I'll be curious to see how well the gameplay stands up. Between the quality of the content and the release schedule so far, this is probably one of the finest examples of episodic video gaming out there, though it's still susceptible to one of the format's implicit pitfalls--if it doesn't stay interesting, players won't keep coming back. For now, at least, the keen sense of silliness is enough to keep things interesting.
26 Comments
Posted by Shane394

Nice, I'll have to check it out, I loved the first one.

Posted by Geno

4 Stars? I was expecting more like 3 since it was just a carbon copy of the original with a little added content (which took 6 months to make). Good review nonetheless.

Posted by Zergvasion

I see you've been staring at my balls.

Posted by Scratch

Haven't personally checked it out yet. I did however like the first one. Meanwhile, my stock pile of games that I need to finish is getting bigger.

Posted by delicious_lie

I thought it was great, but i got weird frame rate issues on some of the cutscenes (on PC)
it was still all fun and hilarious but that just got annoying every now and then

Posted by Maxszy

I loved the first one. The comedy was great and what really made me get through it. The combat was alright. I didn't totally grip on to it as some did..but it was enjoyable to an extent.

I'll be picking up this second episode more for the sake of the story than anything else. Good review and like you, I worry that in time as the next two episodes come out, the functions will start to getting old.

Posted by Brackynews

The first episode's no-death-on-final-boss achievement is breaking me... still wanna go for it before I start ep.2.

Posted by KEITH1437

I tried the demo on Steam and it still was a blast. Might have to pick it up since I loved the first.

Posted by heavymtlhead

I didn't really feel that the gameplay was getting too stale in this game. There are a few areas they could tweak, but for the most part, the formula works and is still fun. I wish they would bring Ep. 3 out already!

Posted by Thoseposers

I'm a big fan of PA but i have yet to play these games. Which is a shame really cause i'm a sucker for point and click games and stuff.

Posted by McQuinn

I'm a fan, but not a huge one.  These  reviews make it very tempting though.

Posted by RoonilWazslib

15 dollars is better than 20, but I don't think I'm playing any of these game until the price is $10. I'd rather eat that El Chupabra taco.

Posted by JackSukeru

I played through the entirity of the first episode without knowing you were supposed to press a button to reduce damage when the enemy strikes you. Yeah...that would have made the game a lot easier.

Since my computer broke down and I lost all data from episode one, I'm a little reluctant to play this without getting whatever-it-is you get when you combine the two pieces of divX :/ A well, I'll get to it sooner or later.

Posted by Luthorcrow

Please don't encourage these tools.  If there is blight on the Interwebs/Internets its Penny Arcade.  In fact I suspect, in the waiting room for hell, their website is only one available.  Web comics are the dumping ground for banality but on the very crusty bottom of that dump is Penny Arcade.

That said, I did try to play the demo for the first game but between that fact that it wasn't funny and boring as cutting my pubic hairs I gave up.

Posted by WinterSnowblind

@Geno

Of course it's similar to the first, it's a continuation of the story which was always planned as episodic content.  Hence the Episode I and 2 titles.

Posted by MadMatr07

Hmm, never played the first one but I have been looking for a more lighthearted game then Dead Space, Left 4 Dead, or Gears of War 2 which I have been playing. Maybe I'll pick up the first one and check it out.

Posted by xplodedd

this was basically the original game.

Posted by halibut
Luthorcrow,  if you don't like Penny Arcade, then why the hell would you play their game? 

It's sort of like how I don't like being sodomized, so I don't drop the soap in a federal prison.  Maybe you'd be a happier person if you just ignored the things you don't like, instead of actively hating them.
Posted by Yatesy

Gah- I downloaded the first one on the recommendation of Ryan's four-star review, and I did not enjoy it. It just felt so basic and wooden, and the script, which I suppose I was meant to find funny, came off feeling forced and half-baked. The fighting was slow, contrived and tiresome and I just couldn't be arsed after about an hour and a half. Each to their own, but I'll be skipping this series altogether from now on.

Posted by borgmaster

first one was awesome and second was better, anyone who doesn't agree doesn't deserve to have an opinion.

Posted by giyanks22

Looks amusing

Posted by eleniel

I'm really enjoying these games, they're pure fun.  That the setting and story are so different from anything out there is part of what makes it worth playing.

Important note: right now there's a really bad bug in the PS3 version that will corrupt your save file toward the end of the episode, making it almost impossible to finish.  They're working on a patch that should be out soon: http://forum.playgreenhouse.com/jforum/posts/list/1243.page

Posted by Altered_Confusion

I think that this game, and the first one as well had so much potential but there was something missing from it to be the awesome game that it could have been. 

The attacks got old after a while, the dialog at some points was overly predictable, and when I finished each of the Episodes I was left thinking holy crap I just started to get into this game, finally, and its over?
Posted by darkjester74

I had a great time with these games, mostly because of the brilliant writing.  There is nothing groundbreaking with the gameplay, but its entertaining none the less.

Posted by Jared

I think it's time I give the first episode a try.

Posted by Luthorcrow

@halibut

I think you should try something before bashing it.  I thought I would test run in just to see if there was anything I was missing.

But somethings are just so horrible they need to be discouraged.