Penny Arcade Adventures Episode 1 Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox 360
Release date:
May 21st, 2008
Hothead Games
Hothead Games

Penny Arcade Adventures Episode 1

It's that rarest of games, a licensed product that doesn't suck.

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
June 18th 2008

After years of ragging on or praising every game that got their attention, Gabe and Tycho have finally put their money where their mouths are and released the first chapter of Penny Arcade's four game episodic series, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One. The jump from web comic to video game has been almost flawlessly executed, and Precipice merges Penny Arcade's rude, bizarre humor with a fun RPG combat system and some light adventure elements.

A bit of advance warning, though- Precipice is M for rude language, among other things, and there's no way for this review to avoid using some of it to describe the game. I've never seen a four letter word jump through a monitor and start pounding on anyone, though, so we should survive the use of the phrase "fruit fucker" just fine.

The writing is sharp and funny, the town is filled with bizarrely interesting characters to chat with, and it's even fun to click on random street junk for the unique description each item gets.

It's a beautiful evening in the suburbs of New Arcadia, a perfect time for your custom-designed avatar to get some yardwork done. It probably would have been a productive end to a lovely day if a giant steampunk Fruit Fucker didn't flatten the house with one stomp of its enormous foot as it rampaged through the neighborhood. You quickly join up with Gabe and Tycho, who show up hot on its heels, in an attempt to find out what the hell that was all about and, hopefully, find a new place to live during the journey.

There's something wrong on the streets of New Arcadia, as if a giant robot stomping the house flat wasn't clue enough. Normal-sized versions of the Fruit Fucker are roaming the street, feral hoboes infest the back alleys, and dark mimes are engaged in their quietly evil pursuits. Their asses aren't going to kick themselves, and that's where the fast-paced RPG combat comes in. Fighting is organized in the usual "bad guys on one side, good guys on the other" format, with the attacker leaping to his chosen target to deal damage before falling back to the starting position. What sets the fighting apart is the timer that effects all the actions.

Each character has three abilities- Item, Attack, and Special Attack. Each action icon has a ring around it that fills up over time, with Item the fastest and Special Attack the slowest. The clock governing both character and enemy action is always ticking, making battles a fast-paced affair, and it's a lot of fun to work Precipice's RPG-lite features to blast through New Arcadia's bizarre horde of baddies. Only having to pay attention to health, attack, defense, and speed streamlines the RPG elements nicely, helping to remove the focus from planning the fight to actually engaging in it.

Combat is only a part of Precipice, with the other half being the story and adventure elements. While the player avatar is mostly silent, limited to choosing paths in the dialogue trees, Gabe and Tycho engage in enough strange conversations to make up for it. The writing is sharp and funny, the town is filled with bizarrely interesting characters to chat with, and it's even fun to click on random street junk for the unique description each item gets. Adventure gaming is more than just good dialogue, though, and that's where Precipice basically falls on its face. Quests are little more than "Go here, do that", without a single puzzle to solve anywhere. Clicking on a device sitting in the middle of the floor to complete an optional side-quest isn't going to make me strain my arm by patting myself on the back for being clever.

While the adventure elements are weak, the writing and combat make up for it nicely. The enemies are pleasantly difficult without being overly brutal, items for both healing and stat effects are plentiful, and combat is always engaging. The story won't be winning any awards with its fruit-violating robots, mimes that worship dark gods, cannibalism, mad urine scientists, and cool gothic horror/steampunk setting, but Precipice stays entertaining from start to the To Be Continued non-conclusion. True, that's only 7-8 hours, but they're good hours of solid gaming. On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is funny, bizarre, profane, and fun. Now where's Episode 2?

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