I’ve gone through phases with Penny Arcade over the years. At first, I was enamored with the comic strip, hungry for each new update and over-the-top zinger. I even went back through the archives and watched as Mike Krahulik’s art and Jerry Holkins’ joke-telling evolved, sometimes in ways that made me cringe and occasionally in ways that spoke deeply and directly to me. For a while there, I tuned in for their reality style show about the behind-the-scenes stuff, as well as watched a bit of Strip Search. Plus, this is the company that puts together PAX, a powerhouse of a gaming convention I’d love to be involved in somehow, some day. Still, recently, their handling of criticism often feels too childish and dismissive, which is maybe why it’s taken me three years to click “play” on Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, bought and installed back in 2012.
I’m going to shorten that title to PAA: Rain-Slick for the purposes of keeping this blog post from being unnecessarily lengthy–or more lengthy than usual. I do ramble from time to time. Moving on, this is an episodic role-playing adventure from Hothead Games set in an alternate 1920s version of New Arcadia. You play as whoever, custom creating a man or woman in the art style of the comic. I made a dude who kinda looks like me, but is named Carl and doesn’t have a full beard. Suddenly, Carl’s home is destroyed by a giant robot. This is in fact a steampunk version of Fruit Fucker Prime, a popular little side character devil from the comic strip that….well, it likes making fruit juice, if you will. You join Tycho Brahe and Johnathan Gabriel in pursuit of this mechanical beast.
PAA: Rain-Slick is a mix of genres actually. It’s got some point-and-click action happening where you can click on nearly any item for a description, as well as that active time battle system from Final Fantasy when battling menacing, fruit-loving robots, creepy mimes, and smelly hobos. One must also consider QTE button prompts when attacking or blocking for extra damage, similar to actions in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and the timing on these all differ based upon the enemy. If you’re good enough, you’ll score a free counterattack. Spoiler: I’m never good enough. There’s a variety of items to use to boost attacks, weaken defenses, and distract enemies for a bit, and knowing what to use when is vital to staying alive. I will say here and now that I’m a big fan of RPGs that heal your entire party after every fight, as it lessens the amount of time one spends in a menu every few minutes to keep everybody healthy and hearty. Yes, Final Fantasy IX, you’re a mega-culprit of this.
PAA: Rain-Slick is mostly linear, just like Costume Quest, but you can devote extra time to search out all the little robots or collectibles. There’s no grinding, however, as there’s a set number of enemies in the game to defeat, which means you are never over- or under-powered for any fight. You are always right where the developers want you to be, but this means there is little customization for your party, other than spending scrap to upgrade their individual weapons for more damage. I was hoping to collect a bunch of goofy weapons, especially when you consider your created avatar wields a rake from the get-go. It’s also quite contained, limited to three smallish areas to explore, and a safehouse to gather information via Anne Claire and upgrade your weapons. I’m not terribly opposed to back-tracking, but it does feel somewhat limiting here.
Sometimes a relatively short, straightforward RPG is good for the soul, and even though I’m not in love with all the jokes or writing or gameplay mechanics here, it’s sating my thirst. I’ll most likely move on to Episode Two of PAA: Rain-Slick after polishing this first adventure off, and I hope to see some changes down the road. Like more customization or better timing clues in combat. Also, no more quest lines based around urination.