Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Updated Impressions

Tycho and Gabe from the popular Web comic are coming to a PC or Xbox 360 near you, soon.

Fans of the popular Web comic Penny Arcade know it to be many things: smart, vulgar, irreverent, vulgar, witty, vulgar, and so on. Those elements are certainly on display in Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One, a graphical adventure game that features Gabe and Tycho from the comic strip, along with other characters. What’s not so familiar, though, is the setting, an alternate 1920s universe where suburbia, pre-Great Depression America, a lot of weirdness comes together. With the game due out in the second quarter of this year, we got a chance recently to watch an extensive play session that showed everything from character creation to combat to the first boss fight. What we saw will appeal to Penny Arcade fans, however its colorful style and even more colorful humor may strike a chord with those who haven’t read the strip.

Penny Arcade Adventures will let you battle evil robots and hobos alongside Gabe and Tycho.

The demonstration that we were given expanded a bit on the one given at last August’s Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. It’s 1922 in New Arcadia, the fictional burg where Gabe and Tycho run their detective agency, Startling Developments. You, however, don’t get to play as either of them. Instead, you create a new character minding your own business when a giant robot crushes your house. There’s no motivation like good old-fashioned revenge (forget high-minded ideals), so it doesn’t take long before you join up with Gabe and Tycho and battle robots both big and small, along with hobos and other foes. This isn’t an action game, though, but an adventure game with a fairly involved and deep battle system.

The entire first level of the game is a tutorial of sorts, and it has your character (who can be either male or female) battling down a suburban street against Fruit Fornicator robots. (Yes, fans of the series will recognize the robots have a different name in Penny Arcade, but we’re trying to be clean, here.) Basically, you’re raking the leaves in your front lawn one day when a super-sized version of the Fruit Fornicator stomps on your abode and takes off down the street. With your rake in hand, you go in pursuit, having to battle smaller robots along the way.

The combat system looks like its taken from Final Fantasy and other Japanese role-playing games, but it’s not a strict turn-based affair where your characters make and move and then the enemy takes a turn. Instead, it’s a simultaneous system where characters can attack or execute an action as soon as they are able. Whatever action that you select for your character, from attacking an opponent--using a buff to temporarily boost your attack rating or speed, a debuff to strip away an opponent’s buff, or using an item in combat--activates a cooldown timer that must run down before you can make another movie. Once the timer runs down, you can perform another action. If you have a party containing Gabe, Tycho, and your character, you’re basically juggling all three of them at once. For instance, Gabe might make a melee attack, and afterwards while his timer is cooling down you might have Tycho execute a special ability, and afterwards while his timer is cooling down you might have your character use a bandage to heal Gabe. At the same time, the enemy is also making attacks and performing actions. It’s a bit complex, but it makes for a very challenging and surprisingly deep system.

Admire the comic book-style paneling of the game.

Pervading the game is its sense of humor, which is highlighted in the many conversations that Gabe and Tycho will have with your character, enemies, and with each other. To say it’s a bit colorful would be something of an understatement, as swear words are thrown about constantly. At the same time, there’s intelligence in the dialogue, a pop culture hipness almost. The dialogue and text for the game was written by Jerry “Tycho” Holkins, but it seems like it could have also been penned by famous writer/director Kevin Smith.

The entire game will take anywhere between six to eight hours, though more deliberate players who want to take their time and explore everything can take up to 10, we’re told. Keep in mind that this is but the first episode of the series, as well. Joel DeYoung of developer Hothead Games says that episode two is deep in production, and work is even underway on episode three already. The plan is to release episodes on a quarterly basis. The game will be distributed digitally for PC, Mac, and Linux platforms, and there will also be an Xbox Live Arcade game. It’s possible that once a certain amount of episodes have been released a retail compilation could also be put together. Episode One looks like an intriguing and downright funny game, and we’re looking forward to its release.

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Discussion

46 comments
AnarchPatriarch
AnarchPatriarch

SplitMe2: As you can tell by my avatar, I'm a huge Chrono Trigger fan, but what in any part of the review did you see a part of the battle system that reminded you of Chrono Trigger. Far as I can tell, everything's looking fresh (That's what the +18 year old said?).

Scarab83
Scarab83

Shadow_Fire41, You don't know what you're missing. Penny Arcade is so much better than VG Cats, and it's updated MUCH more frequently.

JoeyLarocca
JoeyLarocca

this game looks sweet!!!!! penny arcade rules!! I'm probably gonna buy the game without playin the demo =P

Syliss
Syliss

love penny arcade

SkeletalKnight
SkeletalKnight

I'm definetely interested in this game, 1200 MS points isn't something I can easily afford right now though, between bills and GTA4. So here's hoping they bring up a free demo alongside it so we can try it out first. Might make buying more MS points rest easier if I know the game will be fun!

LisVender
LisVender

"Pop culture hipness" in the1920s? I'm going to have to do some research to get these jokes. And uh, this amazing new battle system sounds suspiciously like Square's classic Active Time Battle system. Is the hype machine already working overtime here?

graavigala
graavigala

random battles dont suck, they are the best way of gettig level in these kind of games ;)

yentar480
yentar480

I love PA, i'll definitely check this out when it's released

play_old_games
play_old_games

Looking forward to this one - should be a giggle :)

Splitme2
Splitme2

Is it me or does the battle system sound like that of Chrono Trigger? Almost exactly IMO.....

Vudu_Line
Vudu_Line

Looks to be good. Count me in.

_iMMuNiTy_
_iMMuNiTy_

TallicaFan2005 A CAD game? You could always wait for a game based on a soap opera, it would be more or less the same.

The_Symphony
The_Symphony

I'm curious how the combat system is going to work out and personally I wanted them to use the Insult Fighting! .....or is that just showing my age? Monkey Island? Anyone?

iamjct212
iamjct212

this game sounds really interesting. A step up in writing is welcomed. Hopefully this will bring something new to the industry. I will be watching this one.

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

never heard of penny arcade, might get this anyway since this kinda reminds me of vgcats. i hope they make a vgcats one next.

cardshark86
cardshark86

I'll shell out the $20 just for an 8 hour playable story, as long as the gameplay is competent. PA is hilarious!

shiben
shiben

haha this game is going 2 get ripped apart on gamespot!!! ha ha ha!!! it will b fun 2 watch!

AncientDozer
AncientDozer

Don't trust the reviews once they are out, though. Every game site is looking for revenge for all the rippin' them PennY Arcade Boys did. XD

djord02
djord02

Never would have seen this one coming

ahmedbilal1993
ahmedbilal1993

This game makes it look as if downfall of 360 is near

spec440
spec440

hope it's as good as the comic...

raze-boi
raze-boi

"Mind *beep*ker!": Your brain and skull won't stay the same after playing this game(Similar to the FF2K@CES2008 Episode)!!! PENNY ARCADE ROCKS!

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

Nice, no matter what your opinions are on PA, you have to admit, they are definitely the top dogs in the world of webcomics. Now not only are they both worth millions, but they even have their own game coming out. So while the gameplay so far looks like it could go either way, I have no doubt that the story writing will be excellent.

Mercanis
Mercanis

"Fruit Fornicator"... lolz

zherqua7r
zherqua7r

I have high hopes for this game. Gabe and Tycho are to of the funniest gents around, and if all else fails, at least the story will be golden. Also, did Gamestop shoot their editors? This story is a grammatical farce.

tikiz
tikiz

I can't believe this is getting a game.... It will probably suck, but you never know...

MAJORLAGGY
MAJORLAGGY

if its $20 or less this will be a good buy i guess.

MattieIce
MattieIce

Dear God, why would they make a video game about this? I don't think I've laughed at that strip once.

VGLeo34
VGLeo34

Penny Arcade is not the first web comic game, VGCats, a much better and funnier comic(i do like PA though) had a rhythm game for some odd reasom

DeusExMathias
DeusExMathias

:) Yay! I love the strip & it's good news that the game is coming to the Xbox Arcade. I'm definitely getting this when it's released. Gabe & Tycho are awesome and I hope this game sells well for them. Go PA! :)

rockstar_88
rockstar_88

Penny Arcade is the best webcomic ever! I mean, besides VG Cats and Bigger Than Cheeses. Those two are borderline better than PA, but all three all better than anything I can get out of a Sunday issue of any newspaper.

fatbaldguy0
fatbaldguy0

A HILARIOUS point & click adventure coupled with RPG elements! *swoons* Also, I really hope that last comparison to Kevin Smith was a compliment because this game shouldn't be put on the same level as "Jersey Girl"...

ZhugeMarc
ZhugeMarc

Looks fun; I'll definitely be picking this up.

gord_mose
gord_mose

I pretty much hate the Penny Arcade guys (they can be hilariously funny or amazingly stupid, and I've given up on them) but this does appear to be a must buy simply because it is one of the few XBLA games with psuedo turned based combat. It could be fun.

puablo
puablo

Wow this actually sounds pretty cool. Hopefully they will price it appropriately like the Sam & Max games - but I suspect no less from the PA boys.

londonrider
londonrider

I hope it will not be released at the same time as GTA IV...