Thursday, June 19, 2008

VG Review: 'Penny Arcade Adventures'

Hothead Games, for the PC, Mac and Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live), rated M for Mature, $19.95.

Jerry Hoskins and Mike Krahulik, better known as “Tycho” and “Gabe,” have long needled the video game industry in their comic strip, “Penny Arcade” — a sort of urbane editorial cartoon for hard-core gamers.

Now the cartoonists have made their own video game, “Penny Arcade Adventures Episode One: On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness.”

No doubt many who’ve been stung by the duo’s razor-sharp wit were looking forward to seeing them fall flat on their faces in this endeavor. Despite the lengthy title, however, the game proves to be a fun, if somewhat short, experience.

Developed by Hothead Games, “Rainslick” is a blend of the point-and-click adventure games of yesteryear (“Myst”) and the “Final Fantasy”-styled role-playing games of today.

Set in a lovingly detailed “steampunk” world, the game puts Victorian versions of Gabe, Tycho and a third character you create on a quest to stop a Lovecraftian-type menace from destroying the world.

Along the way you’ll do battle with deadly mimes, clowns, barbershop quartets, hobos and little robots that do unmentionable things to oranges.

You also encounter some really funny dialogue. Probably the best news for fans of the comic strip is that most of the strip’s ribald humor makes its way to the game intact. As hilarious as the game frequently is though, it’s also quite R-rated, with swear words flying about at dizzying speeds, so keep the kids away.

The nice surprise is that the game’s actual combat isn’t so shabby either. Using a turn-based system similar to the “Shadow Hearts” series, players use a series of well-timed button presses to block or release devastating attacks. Each character has its own unique attack, and there’s enough tension and variety to keep you on your toes.

“Rainslick” can be slight and even shallow at times. I wish the actual environments offered more exploration, that the fetch quests didn’t seem quite so rote, and that I was given more variety in creating my character. It’s also over rather quickly, not surprising I suppose, considering that it is “Episode One.”

That being said, there’s plenty here for devout “Penny Arcade” fans or those just looking for an enjoyable rpg to chew on. Just watch out for those little robots.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008

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