At it’s heart, Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness
is a by-the-numbers action RPG and thus the gameplay is pretty easy to pick up and understand. In fact, it’s made even easier by the cartoon style of the game’s graphics which make everything look like a caricature of a caricature.
Throughout the game you control your own main character during the exploration phases, with Tycho and Gabe following behind and various support characters hovering in the background.
Much of the exploration side of things is built round what I like to call the ‘Metroidvania’ design in that you’ll enter a new area, explore it to the limit of your abilities and then have to fall back to retrieve an item or permission to go any further. It’s a clever way of padding the game out by making players traverse levels more than once while still making the process rewarding.
In Rain Slick
though everything is centralised and the location you’ll keep returning to will be the room of Anne-Claire, Tycho’s whizz-kid niece. Anne is only a little girl and can’t really adventure out much on her own (though she can support you in combat once you unlock her abilities) so you’ll spend a lot of the time retrieving clues for her as to the nefarious origins of The One Who F***s Fruit.
Unfortunately, this is one of the main weakspots of the game and it’s a shame that it becomes so apparent early on at just how repetitive parts of the game can be. It’s not a truly bad thing because the game itself is episodic and thus quite short, but the game does essentially go through the same motions from the get-go and the fact that it’s punctuated mainly by box-smashing and combat doesn’t do a lot to relieve the tedium that can set in after a few hours.
Thankfully though, the combat itself it inventive, fresh and exciting. Fights are conducted in real-time with all three characters under your control, though actions are essentially turn-based thanks to slow-charging times for each activity. At the start of every fight one character or enemy is randomly selected to go first (“Roll for initiative!”) and that person can immediately do a basic attack or use an item, though special attacks take longer to charge.
Meanwhile, the abilities of other characters and enemies are slowly charging too and you can switch over and unleash these as you want. Special attacks take the longest to charge and are powered via small ten-second mini-games, but there are also support characters who can pitch in too. Our favourite was a cat found in the first few minutes whose attack was licking himself – but who had a 1/2000000 chance of coughing up a devastating hairball.
That or the Mimes who throw imaginary boulders.
is a funny, foul-mouthed and constantly surprising game. There are things about it that we love, like the in-comic way the world is presented or that the first words we heard an NPC say were “Holy s**t, did you see the size of that giant f***ing robot?
However, there are some clear limits to the brilliance of the game and the clever dialog and classic Penny Arcade humour can only take the game thus far, even if the efforts and influence of Ron Gilbert are both tangible and inspired – especially when it comes to theNarrator’s dialog.
The main thing that stops Rain Slick
making that leap from simply a good game to a great
game though is the fact that thegameplay feels overly padded and repetitive. While progressing through quests, scouring for new items and exploring the impressively detailed and hilariously described locations is all very fun, eventually you realise that the bulk of the game is one big grindfest.
That’s not all bad news. There are people who like grinding, apparently. Still, the fact that the gameplay is so formulaic is a flaw and the game, while not long, is about long enough for the Penny Arcade style of humour and over-explanations to start grating for some people. Not me, you understand – but some
Most of that stuff is by-the-by though and for the most part Rain Slick
is an enjoyable episodic romp in which you know what you’re getting almost straight away. It’s the classic action-adventure formula with RPG frills and some funnies on top, but the real test will be whether the pace can be maintained and the gameplay improved over subsequent episodes because although the game is fun, it isn’t without flaws.