Reviews: Beat that hobo's meat!
Penny Arcade has been the Internet's most popular webcomic about video games for years now. And every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the last ten years, Jerry "Tycho" Holkins and Mike "Gabe" Krahulik have supplied their own unique commentary on the video game industry and the games they play. Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 1 is the first video game to be developed with the comic creators' input and it transports the look and feel of the comics onto an Xbox Live Arcade title perfectly. So if you're a fan of PA (and a quick look at the archives will let you know if you "get" the Penny Arcade style of humor or not), this game is most definitely for you.
Penny Arcade Adventures takes the form of a turn-based Role Playing Game with a unique battle system. Players will create a character and dive right in to a story inspired by H.P. Lovecraft involving evil gods, killer robots and murderous mimes.
Cribbing a bit from Tycho's beloved Dungeons & Dragons, every battle is based around "initiative." Each character is given a number to start and higher numbers determine the battle order. After that, a small meter slowly refills based on how high a character's Speed rating is denoting when a character can attack again. Watching all of the meters while also watching the enemies (blocks are performed by tapping the Right Trigger at a pre-determined moment) can make even the earliest battles feel pretty frantic. And the small on-screen text makes keeping up with the action a bit more difficult than it has to be.
But even with these slight flaws, the game has one big plus going for it: it's ****ing hilarious. Yes, the language used in the speech bubbles (which are designed to look like a comic strip) is a little salty, but good comedy sometimes doesn't want to be clean. On top of that, the 2D and 3D cutscenes (with your created character inserted into the action) are a riot. The humor even extends to the enemy selection as fighting deranged mimes and hobos never gets old.
It's great to see a real old school-style turn based-RPG on the Xbox 360. But even still, Penny Arcade Adventures will not be for everyone. It's close relationship with the webcomic that spawned it will almost prevent non-fans from enjoying it completely. And if the humor isn't funny, it's hard to justify some aspects of the battle system and the teeny tiny text. The steep $20 pricetag ($5 more than the next most expensive XBLA game) doesn't help matters either. And when you consider that this is only Episode One of a planned four part series, the full experience of PAA would be a hefty investment for someone who's not completely invested.