A few years back, Penny Arcade decided to venture into the gaming industry with a game series of their very own. They created an RPG, On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness, which quickly became a cult hit thanks to quirky writing and fun combat system. Soon after, the second episode was released to similar praise. Fast forward a couple of years and a new developer, Zeboyd Games, the creators of Cthulhu Saves the World, has released On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. This time around the game has, for better and for worse, (de)evolved into a 16 Bit SNES JRPG.
The game continues off where the second entry ended, with Gabe and Tycho in possession of the Necrowombicon. After receiving a mysterious static filled phone call, the dynamic duo set off to discover the source. While the story doesn’t break any new grounds, it’s sufficient enough to give us a reason to play.
One of the highlights of both Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII was the writing. Both games featured a great mix of parody and pop culture references. This is not lost in Penny Arcade 3 as I was laughing all the way through the game thanks to both the general script and the flavor text for enemies, which was co-written by Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins. The game pokes fun at all sorts of RPG tropes such as the Dire Rat who’s “only in the game due to principle” or the orc who’s in the game because “an RPG without orcs gets sued.” The game even cleverly parodies titles that feature multiple endings.
The gameplay is where the game starts to lose its charm. The “leveling” battle system from Zeboyd’s past titles is back which has enemies growing in strength as battles progress. This makes for combat that is constantly challenging you as battles can quickly become unforgiving if they go on for too long. The system adds a nice bit of strategy to the combat as you are forced to be quick and efficient with your skill selection.
Penny Arcade differentiates itself with an interesting combination of turn based and active combat. Taking a cue from Final Fantasy X, you are able to see every character’s position on bar that tells when each character will perform a given action. This further adds to the strategy as certain abilities can interrupt enemy actions and if you time the interrupt correctly, you can cause the enemy to lose an entire turn. In turn, this disrupts the leveling battle mechanic, for that enemy, mentioned above.
Enemies will appear on the world map allowing you to pick and choose who you fight. This time around the inspiration for the battle system, unlike Zeboyd’s past games which draw inspiration from Dragon Quest, comes from the classic Final Fantasy games. Unfortunately the negatives of this battle system are also present. While their past games allowed you to skip past the “action” phase, so to speak, you have to sit back and watch every attack animation in Penny Arcade 3 which became more of a burden than anything else. While I certainly enjoyed the game’s emphasis on strategy, I often found myself employing the same tactics every battle which quickly led to battles becoming incredibly repetitive.
Penny Arcade 3 also features a simple and unique class system. Each character starts out with a basic class and as the game progresses you’re able to add new classes to the mix. While it’s incredibly basic, I had a lot of fun mixing and matching different class types to come up with odd combinations. Instead of leveling up each character, every class gains experience after fights. As the classes grow in strength, they gain both passive abilities, such as stat boosts, and new and upgraded attacks.
Considering how much I loved the music in Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII, the music was one aspect I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately it’s incredibly disappointing, especially after Cthulhu’s great score. It’s certainly not terrible but it’s just average and forgettable and none of the songs were very memorable.
While Penny Arcade is definitely an enjoyable title, I feel like the combat could have used some more polishing to make it less repetitive and the music was incredibly bland. In the end, the game is saved by its fantastic script and, at $5, it’s still an easy recommendation but keep your hype at the appropriate level. While I wanted to love this game, I didn’t walk away with the same satisfaction as I did with Cthulhu and Breath of Death VII. With Episode 4 coming next year, I hope Zeboyd can deliver a better title as I hold a deep amount of respect for them and want them to succeed.
Penny Arcade: On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 3 was released on June 25th, 2012 for PC, and will be released later in the year for Xbox 360, PS3, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.