- Developer: Zeboyd Games
- Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Indie (Reviewed)
When the Penny Arcade video game series was first released, it seemed like the sort of gamething that had been specifically created for me. They combined a game with the writing and art style of the Penny Arcade comics with a fast-paced action RPG combat system, and set it in a universe that looked like a cross-eyed combination of steampunk and the Cthulhu mythos. That’s my peanut butter and chocolate right there. While the series has undergone some, shall we say, hiccups, getting to this current point (including but not limited to a falling out with the original developer, Hothead Games), this next stage of The Rainslick Precipice of Darkness is well worth the wait.
“a forceful trip down memory lane”
It’s been a couple of days since the events of Episode 2, and our stalwart heroes Tycho (the talky one), and Gabe (the smashy one) are still neck-deep in occult mysteries. Not ones to rest on their laurels of banishing not one, but two eldritch gods in the previous episodes, they soon get caught up in the seemingly apocalyptic portents of another evil god. Without going into any real detail (this series’ greatest strength, at least in my mind, rests in the story and writing of Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins, and shouldn’t be spoiled) you’ll end up traveling around the town of New Arcadia, beating up, amongst other things, fantastical creatures, mimes, the homeless, possessed furniture, bank tellers, space aliens, and eventually mind-bending deities summoned from the nether realms of man’s nightmares, in a bid to stop the world from prematurely ending.
Oh, and Fruit Fuckers. You’ll also fight Fruit Fuckers. Don’t want to forget about them.
Penny Arcade Episode 3 is all about combat. If you’ve ever played any of the SNES Final Fantasy games (and specifically Final Fantasy 5), then Episode 3′s RPG mechanics should fit like a cordwained shoe. You line up on the right, they line up on the left, you pick and unleash an assortment of attacks and items to beat the ever-loving hell out of your opponents whilst simultaneously attempting to not yourself expire, until one of those two previous conditions is met. Rinse, repeat, with the occasional entertaining dialogue and scene change to round it all out.
When a game revolves around battling, you hope that it has enough quirks and wrinkles to keep the player interested, and Ep.3 doesn’t disappoint; early into the game a class system is introduced (didn’t I tell you? Final Fantasy 5!), giving you a wide variety of roles, from the Gentlemen (a healer), to the Crabomancer (a defensively-minded mage), or everyone’s crowd favourite the cardboard tube samurai (who brings the damage to any fight), among a myriad of others. Each class levels up individually, gaining new skills and abilities as they strengthen up over time, so you’re constantly being bombarded with new weapons in your repertoire to try out in combat. Plus your items are renewed and your health is brought back to full after every battle, so little time is wasted on party management.
Really this entire game is something of a binary state–you’re either fighting fools, or reading dialogue that advances the plot. And while despite it’s constant additions the combat does get somewhat tiring when closing in on the game’s conclusion, by that point you’ll likely be compelled to see how the story wraps up, and won’t mind slogging the last dozen or so battles.
Episode 3 is straight up old school, which I suppose should be expected considering it’s developer, Zeboyd Games, made their name creating Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World, two indie classic RPG homages. The game never top out past 16-bit, which to some hoping for more of Penny Arcade’s signature art style may come off as disappointing, but for me it felt like a powerful wave of nostalgia washing over me. I was back in the days of elementary school, playing games on my SNES
emulator after school and getting lost in the fantasy unfolding on my screen. Only this time with more cursing.
The music also manages to hit all the right nostalgia points as well, managing to sound like but not too much like the combat and menu chiptunes of past classics. As someone who’s something of a connoisseur of chiptune songs, I thoroughly dug the soundtrack, and if your music tastes have any room for some old fashioned square waves, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as well.
I can accept this game may not be for everyone; it’s a forceful trip down memory lane, so if you missed (or were not at that right age to witness) the golden days of SNES RPG gaming Penny Arcade Episode 3 may not be for you. If however you have fond childhood memories of Saturday mornings marathoning Final Fantasy, or if you even just played the first two episodes and want to continue the storyline ( if you haven’t played Episode 1 or 2 , by the way, than might I suggest going back and giving them a try as well) I wholeheartedly suggest perching yourself On The Rainslick Precipice of Darkness. Yes the combat becomes somewhat stale in the last couple hours (of its roughly 10-12 hour lifespan), and it really is predominantly fighting monsters interspersed with reading plot-advancing text, but these are all trifling arguments compared to the amount of old-school fun I had.
- The combat keeps adding new wrinkles and techniques, even late into the game
- A story that mixes steampunk with HP Lovecraft is like crack cocaine for my soul
- The writing is sharp, and the graphics will pleasure your nostalgia circuits
- The combat bogs you down by the last couple hours of the game
- If you’re immune to nostalgia, and never played Ep.1 or 2 in the series, you may find little connection