Friday, May 23, 2008

From the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness...

Spent WAY too much time yesterday playing the new Penny Arcade game. It was a hell of a lot of fun, and probably the best quasi-RPG that I've played in a long-ass while. I can definitely see how it might be more directed at the so-called "casual" gamer: it saves constantly and is broken down into pretty digestible chunks of missions. You bounce around from one area to another pretty regularly as you try to complete the 10 cases that comprise Episode 1. AND Fruit Fuckers are plentiful.

Also, you get to beat the shit out of magic-wielding dark mimes. DARK MIMES, I say!

I had a slight problem with installing the game on my Mac, but after I got that taken care of, it all ran smoothly. I have a couple of smallish gripes about game play, though. First, the go-and-fetch-it style of game play is a little boring to me. I know this is a classic part of RPG games, but I found it slightly tedious at times. I guess it gave me a good reason to kill hobos and collect their "meat," or to get a mini-ferris wheel for some guy to piss on (yes, seriously), but the rewards don't make as much sense to the story-line as I think they should have at that moment in the game. It pays off down the road, of course, but I was all like: Why do I now have a jar of Ultimate Piss?

The other problem I had was object collection. Treasure chests abound, overflowing with goodness (though they are often empty). And every time you reenter an area, they re
-spawn. So if you're ever low on items, you can run around smashing shit and quickly build up your reserves until you hit your max carry limit. But this becomes pretty tedious. I would have preferred some kind of store, or barter system, or something to supplement my smashing things like a rabid lemur.

The battle system is pretty intuitive, and it seems to me the crux of being really 
good at battle is mastering the fucking block. I say the "fucking" block, because it is a demonic bitch to get right. When an enemy attacks, their health bar will flash when it is the optimal time to block. Too early or late, and you likely get your ass drilled because even partial blocks mean you get bitch slapped (see right, from PA). 

But if you time it just right, you can nullify their attacks, or even counter and get in a free attack. It's a neat twist on the turn-based gameplay, and makes you watch your enemies as much as your own battle display. I call it a demonic bitch, but you have to understand...I love me some demonic bitch. I think it hits right in the sweet spot of challenge-reward.

The story is interesting and the characterization is  pretty much what you'd expect from PA. If it's your type of humor, you'll be giggling in your seat like I was. The creative direction also meets expectation for the PA brand (and let's be honest, this isn't some kind of Mom & Pop indie game, I reckon this is brand expansion at its best), and the 3D models look and move great. I read that they did not add voice over beside the narrator because every PA reader has their own voices for Tycho and Gabe...too true. A very prudent move on their part.

I'm almost done here, only a couple of more things to say. First, I hope the story continues as strongly in future episodes, and though I wish the game play will get tweaked in the future (Wouldn't it be awesome to have characters use differnt kinds of weapons? Certain enemies have weaknesses to only one time of weapon making your other two characters pretty much useless), I don't really expect it to. That's fine, I can live with it. I wonder how much future episodes will cost to download...I haven't seen that figure out there anywhere.

I'll be waiting for them though. Nice job Tycho and Gabe! and Hothead!

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