More gameplay than you can stick a syringe full of urine at.
Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode Two [PAA: ORSPD - ET? ~Ed. Nick] doesn't stray too far from the mold established by Episode One. However, that is not saying anything negative as long as the original was fun. At the beginning of 2008, Hothead Games took the popular online comic strip, Penny Arcade, and made it into a game. Four months later, Episode Two continues the concise episodic schedule *nudge nudge Valve*. Gabe and Tycho return, of course, alongside your custom created character, straight after the events presented in the first episode. If you happen to have a clear save game from Episode One, a few bonuses are unlocked; if not, you can easily create a new character that will miraculously understand everything that happened until then.
[image1]1920's New Arcadia is still the setting of all the madness, with some new environments to boot, ranging from a psychiatric hospital to a pseudo-high class neighborhood. The main goal in this episode is finding more out about the giant robot that destroyed your character's house in Episode One. Funnily enough, your efforts to rebuild are quickly and humorously foiled right out of the gate. The story is just as nutty as the comic strips from the Penny Arcade site - a fact that works against the game at times. Penny Arcade's humor is sometimes extremely niche and includes a lot of cursing, which might turn off some of the more sensitive players. However, if this sort of humor is up your alley, there is a lot to laugh at in Episode Two.
Penny Arcade Episode Two oozes with the comic strip's style - both visually and comically, with crazy and kooky characters that takes the insanity line and jump-ropes with it. Who else would think of making a syringe full of urine a power-up?
The gameplay of On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness follows the classic Japanese RPG style, simplifying it to a point that it becomes easily understandable and quick to master. Mapped to three face buttons, the actions that can be taken in battle don't go beyond the basic attack, item use, and special move. As actions from both sides take place, these moves charge up for use. Enemy attacks can be defended against by means of precise trigger presses, reminiscent of Super Mario RPG, solely based on timing. Depending on your skill, the move can be even canceled and countered completely. The mastery of this mechanic is crucial in the game's later difficulty settings, like insane mode, which is unlocked after clearing the game's story for the first time. Weapons can be upgraded after certain prerequisites are met, making things a little easier in fights.
[imaeg2]The transition from 2D comic panels to 3D will still seem jarring to a lot of players who are experiencing Penny Arcade for the first time. Simple character models still seem weird to look at, but tend to get the job done with little to no slowdown during fights. 2D is not completely taken out of the equation, however, making its presence known in the awesome cutscenes that take place during the game's story. Gabe and Tycho's style of drawing carries over to your character's custom visuals, who unlike a lot of characters made in other games with a character-building feature, sits alongside the main characters in all the custcenes and dialog panels.
Most RPGs in this J-RPG syle tend to stick to a straight scripted line, and Penny Arcade Episode Two doesn't fall too far from the tree. There are a few side quests here and there for full completion, but they are hardly necessary for the story to continue. They are, however, embedded in the game's achievements list, so if exploring and doing everything is your thing, you might be able to squeeze a couple of extra hours of gaming in this five-hour adventure.
[image3]There are, unfortunately, a few cons that need mentioning. Load times are incredibly frequent between areas and even in menus. Even as you begin, as soon as the start button is pressed, a loading screen is brought up, and it takes about three of these before you actually get to playing the game. This starts to get grating fairly quickly, and it detracts a bit from the overall package. Considering the similarities to the first title, one could guess that problems like these won't go away in future episodes, but one can hope.
Coming in at 1200 Microsoft Points ($15), Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode Two is a safe buy for fans of the crazy comic strip and the past game. For strangers, though, it might be worth a trial download before taking the plunge due to its niche humor style and crass language.