13 Nov, 2008

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode 2 Review

360 Review | Second verse, not as good as the first.
The boys from New Arcadia are back in the sequel to June's foray into random violence, foul language, and aroused robots, Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness Episode 1. The story continues where the previous left off, with you, the protagonist, finalising your temporary accommodation in just enough time to see it (yet again) destroyed by those dashing men from the Startling Developments Detective Agency, Tycho and Gabe.

Much of what was written in our previous review still stands; the gameplay, game design, and writing style are largely unchanged from the previous episode. This is both good and bad - fans of the first episode will get more of the same, but it's also unlikely to sway those unhappy with their experiences playing the first episode. Much like one of the main challenges faced by fixed-run episodic media in general, it seems highly likely that episodic games are almost guaranteed a declining viewership rate with each subsequent episode.

It's a hoedown, baby.

It's a hoedown, baby.
On a more positive note, a number of small changes have been made to the overall design, mostly for the better. There's now an adjustable level of difficulty, a much needed addition for those who found the first game far too easy. If that's not enough, there's now also an 'insane mode', unlockable only after beating the game. The collectibles are back, but wearable outfits with various status benefits now join the list of available items, one of which is only available after beating the game in 'insane mode'.

The creators have also made some small interface adjustments using the bumper buttons to make it that much easier to select specific on-screen items. The language has, if anything, been stepped up a notch; this isn't a game you'd want to play in front of someone with conservative tastes, especially not during one of the scenes near the end of the game. Prior purchasers are also rewarded, with one of the support characters only becoming available if a certain item from the first game was found.

The designers, evidently learning from the first game, have also significantly improved the architecture of the areas covered while playing; while there's still a lot of 'empty', the game layout feels more thought out overall. There's as much running around as in the first episode, but it's less noticeable this time around, driven largely by better encounter design, more structured puzzles, and less repetition in room art assets.

Sadly though, the game has issues. Achievements fail to unlock, the game hangs periodically, and restarting various encounters after dying can lead to random movement lockups, forcing a game reset and some replay time. None of these prevent an interested gamer from beating the game and enjoying the story, but they are frustrating.

Ah, yes. The life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Ah, yes. The life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
It's ironic too that given the improved level design, the game somehow feels more soulless than the first episode. The characters, while still as eclectic, lack the depth and attention they were given in the first game; instead, the design focus appears to have shifted to pacing and game flow, much to the detriment of the game as a storytelling device. Tycho and Gabe are reduced from a pair of mostly interesting characters with questionable and dark history into mere caricatures, a surprising step backwards given Holkins' and Krahulik's history and writing ability. The dialog has moved away from the friendly banter of close friends to becoming a reason to get the player to the next objective.

Overall, despite better design and stronger language, the game is somehow more generic than the first episode. Penny Arcade fans enjoy Penny Arcade because it's Penny Arcade and, unfortunately, it seems that that indefinable feel has been somewhat lost this time around.
The Score
Fans of the first will still enjoy it, but Holkins and Krahulik need to return to their roots. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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5 years ago
I want the first one to drop to 800 points icon_smile.gif
5 years ago
I'm still waiting for Episode 1 to come to our PS Store.
5 years ago
^ ditto, i downloaded the demo for the PC awhile ago, and it was a bit of fun. wonder where it is
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  1/4/2009 (Deleted)
  Direct Online by Publisher **
  Action RPG

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