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System: PCReleased: 05/21/2008
Developer: Hothead Games / Penny ArcadePublisher: Hothead Games
Genre: Adventure / Light RPGPlayers: 1
ESRB Rating: M for MatureAlso for: Xbox 360
Required Processor: PentiumŪ III or betterReviewer: Archangel (Staff)
NVIDIA GeForceTM FX 5200 or better/equivalentwith 64 MB of video memory (shared or dedicated)
HD space needed: 512 MBRAM: 512 MB of available system memoryRuns on: Win 2K, XP, and Vista

I'm a pretty big fan of the famed webcomic Penny Arcade, so when I heard that they were making their own game, I was really excited to see what a couple of game critics thought was a good game. As it transpires, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness (RSPOD for short) is a return to the nearly-comatose genre of adventure games. Penny Arcade and Hothead have done their best to borrow all the good bits from the golden age of adventure gaming and combine it with light RPG elements and some cool stuff of their own. It's not a traditional adventure game mechanically speaking, but the spirit is very much the same.

When I first downloaded the shareware of RSPOD, I really didn't know what to expect. (You download the game and it lets you play the first bit as a demo for free.) All I knew was that it featured Tycho and Gabe (the main characters from the comic) and that it was a steampunk setting. I'm greeted with a pretty cool little poem narrated by a guy with an awesomely funny accent and a scene of Tycho and Gabe relaxing in their... office? Alright. Then the main menu. So, new game. A rather interesting opening cutscene that sets a good scene and convinces me that PA's distinctive art style is here in its full glory. Then I'm asked to create a character. Cool! I thought it was just Tycho and Gabe. So I create a guy named (naturally) Archangel who looks disturbingly like me (see screenshot), and I'm sent out to rake my lawn. Yup. My actions are guided by the same guy with the awesome accent.

Then the first cutscene begins and my character turns around just in time to see a giant "Fruit Fucker" robot stomp his house flat on its way past. Two strange men run past in pursuit of the robot. Shock turns to anger, and my hero valiantly shoulders his rake and set off to chase down the contraption that just destroyed his life. Fair enough. So now the game opens up, and I'm standing in front of the burning ruins of my house with naught but the clothes on my back and the rake in my hand. And if you're wondering, yes, the rake is your weapon throughout the game. You kill stuff with a freakin' garden rake. It's actually really sweet.

So my first thought was that perhaps I should douse the burning flames in the remains of my house so the fire doesn't spread. So I click on the fire hydrant at the curb, only to discover that it has been rigged to pump teriyaki sauce instead of water. Then I fall out of my chair laughing. Then I get back in my chair and proceed to click on everything in sight. Now, not every description is as funny as that one I mentioned, but the majority of them come close, and there's probably a couple thousand things to click on in the game. I also found a few unlockables while I was clicking around. I also quickly learned that not only can you use your rake to beat the crap out of the crates and garbage cans that are all over the place, but that doing so yields a wide variety of useful combat items.

After chasing down the street and several tutorial battles with much smaller Fruit Fucker robots, I catch up to Gabe and Tycho. It turns out that Tycho (a university graduate with a degree in apocalyptics) has founded the Startling Developments Detective Agency (specializing in the supernatural) and Gabe (a former prizefighter) is his sole employee. They are tracking the giant robot out of "professional interest" (translation: they were bored). My valiant hero joins up with them to find the jerk who made the giant robot and kick his ass. Tycho and Gabe join my party, and off I go to adventure! At this point, the demo was over and the game asked for an unlock code if I wanted to play any more. I was hooked. I coughed up $20 for an unlock code.

Without going into exhaustive detail, the three intrepid gentlemen of my party met a variety of colorful characters over the next six hours and fought an array of enemies, including hobos, mimes, barbershop quartets, and eventually good-old-fashioned ancient evil. Gabe fights with his fists, Tycho with a Thompson SMG (excuse me, "Tommy Gun"), and you with your rake. Each of you can upgrade his weapon twice over the course of the game, then once again just before the final boss. At the end of the game you are wielding a Giant Flaming Rake of Death. (Can you spell "awesomesauce," boys and girls?) You also gain experience for combat, progressing up to a maximum level of 15. If you kill everything you can find, you will just barely be Lv15 for the final boss. Overall, the combat isn't horribly difficult, except for the period between the end of the demo and about Lv4 or so. After that, it's smooth but always challenging sailing. Even the boss fights never feel impossible.

The combat system itself is similar to Square's classic ATB system, and also draws upon the Mario RPG series. It's simple to master, with point-and-click commands. Each character also has access to special attacks that you must perform properly with your keyboard in the traditional "combo" style found in many arcade and console games. These take some getting used to if you're not a console gamer, but they're certainly not impossible and I enjoyed the way they were implemented. For both these special attacks and for blocking (an important skill to master) you have to be good at timed button-presses. Frankly, I suck at them, but I was still able to beat the game without any real problem. Long story short, the combat will keep you interested but isn't there to punish you. After all, the game mainly wants to tell a funny story.

The real strength of RSPOD is in its story and its humor, both of which are very, very Penny Arcade. PA's humor style is sarcastic, irreverant, profane, and more than a little twisted. (I love it.) After all of that babbling here's my review summed up in a single sentence: If you like Penny Arcade you should play this game, and vice versa.

Score: 4/5


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Images taken by Archangel(Staff)
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