|System: PC, X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Hothead Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Hothead Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Is there possibly anything cooler than a video game about an online comic about video games? No. No there isn't. The forthcoming - deep breath - Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness will take such a rare and mystical beast and make it a reality. PA creators Jerry "Tycho" Holkins and Mike "Gabe" Krahulik have teamed up with Hothead Games to create the first in a series of video games based on their extremely popular online comic. As the release of episode one approaches, the game looks to be as funny and crazy as fans of the comic would expect.
As a webcomic, PA has spawned an immense following among a mixture of quasi-normal individuals as well as those who fall into the category of über-geek. Though they range widely across the spectrum, the one common trait that you'll find among the bulk of PA loyalists is a love, or at the very least a strong appreciation, for video games. The gaming industry is a seemingly limitless resource for satire, mined by Holkins and Krahulik with a dwarf-like proficiency. After many years of touting the games they love and lampooning others they are less affectionate towards, it seems only natural that their unique flavor of humor would find its way into a game of their own.
Penny Arcade: Adventures will be released in downloadable episodic format with new installments coming every several months. Each episode is expected to last about five or six hours. Content for the first and second episodes is currently in development, and Hothead recently gave a demo of On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness at the Penny Arcade Expo.
Players will start by composing their own 3D character which can be outfitted with a surprisingly wide range of components, allowing for tons of customization. You can pick different accessories, faces, body types, clothing, and more. Interestingly, once you've decked out your character, they will appear both in the 3D gameplay and in elaborate PA-comic 2D cut scenes. The developers have indicated characters will be able to retain their appearance, experience, and abilities gained from one episode to the next.
In the opening cut scene of episode one, your character is simply raking leaves outside his or her home when the earth suddenly shakes and a giant robot, which will be instantly recognizable to PA fans as a particular crassly-named juicing device, crushes your home and thunders off into the distance. Tycho and Gabe rush by in hot pursuit. Consumed by anger at the destruction of your home, your character brandishes their rake and sets off after the chaos to seek revenge. The 2D cutscenes are slick: they're drawn and animated in true Penny Arcade style. Other areas of the game are also pleasantly cartoonish.
The gameplay is a mixture of RPG combat and point-and-click adventure. The story takes place in a 1920s steam-punk setting called New Arcadia. Players will control their characters in addition to Tycho and Gabe. Each has their own special weapons, attacks, and abilities. Since the developers feel "random encounters really suck," the combat encounters are triggered by approaching the enemy. Battle is initiative-based and each action will require a specific amount of time to execute. In combat, your character will use a rake as their basic attack, Gabe will use his fists, and Tycho wields a tommy-gun. Executing a successful blocking maneuver will allow you to pull-off some powerful counter-attacks. Weapons can be eventually upgraded, and additional attacks will be unlocked as characters level-up. At the end of each battle, all health will be restored and experience points will be distributed. It appears your group will go toe-to-toe with some truly strange foes including scores of hobos, mimes, clowns, barber shop singers, and small fruit juicing robots.
While there's plenty of action, expect the story to be top-notch, as all of the writing and dialogue scripting is done by Holkins himself. There's a lot of interaction and conversation between your party and NPCs in the game. PA regulars will already be accustomed to the hilarious and often racy dialogue, but newcomers should be prepared for some mature content. It's a safe bet that wang references and other off-the-cuff humor will abound, however, that's probably just the tip of the iceberg. On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One is going to be a can't-miss title. Time will tell if the rest of the series will follow-suit. Expect grand things to come.
CCC Freelance Writer