The third and most recent episode of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is a bit of an unusual follow-up to the first two installments. For one thing, the story’s rather bizarre (and that’s saying something considering this series). For another thing, the graphics are a bit… retro.
To get the story out of the way, there’s no player character in this game. Instead you can control any of the main characters in the group, like Tycho, Gabe, Anne-Claire, and Jim the Skull. You also get a new addition to the cast: Moira, Tycho’s ex-wife-turned-private-detective. And with her addition, we get more focus on Tycho’s backstory, his family’s relations with the occult, and their obsession with the imminent end of the world. Dr. Blood from Episode Two returns with a suitably larger role in the plot, being every bit the man of legend that the last game made him out to be. On the whole, this is a much darker story than the previous episodes.
One thing I miss about the previous games is the way dialogue was handled. A little bar would pop up from the bottom of the screen and you could see characters’ reactions and dialogue rendered in the same style as the Penny Arcade webcomic. It made the games a real treat for me, having read just about every PA strip there is. The dialogue system here is more of a classic style, which fits the visual element.
If you’ve ever played the early Final Fantasy games, then the gameplay should be familiar. Zeboyd Games specializes in developing 8-bit and 16-bit-style video games like the kind that once made Nintendo such a powerhouse. Movement and combat is two-dimensional, though the same fighting RPG system is in place.
I have to admit that I didn’t really get much out of this game, though that’s not because I think’s it’s low-quality (far from it!). Even though I grew up in the Nineties, I never really played any video games; my first serious game was playing Star Wars: Jedi Knight III: Jedi Academy in the early 2000s. I never really spent any time playing old-school games like Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, or Sonic the Hedgehog. My game collection consists of more three-dimensional and immersive games like Portal, Jedi Academy, Republic Commando, and–naturally–Penny Arcade Adventures.
Having read about the delay in getting this game made and having to change from Hothead Games to Zeboyd Games as a developer, I can appreciate the change in gameplay, but it just doesn’t have the same spirit as the first two did for me. I could argue that the series has been hit with trilogy syndrome and the third game naturally fails, but that’s not the case. It’s simply not my taste, though I daresay a lot of people can find a lot to love about it.
On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is available for purchase and download through Steam.
Bibliography: Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. Designed by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Developed by Zeboyd Games. Release date: June 25, 2012.