Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4
June 23, 2013 4 Comments
I should probably preface this review by making three notes.
#1. I think Penny Arcade is alright.
#2. I really enjoy the work of Zeboyd Games.
#3. As of this writing, I consider the third entry in the series to be the fifteenth best XBLIG ever made.
Got that? Good.
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Click Precipice of Darkness 4 is a train-wreck of unfunny dialog that would feel more at home on a bad CBS sitcom. It’s also a very well designed RPG. Great game. Boring storyline with obnoxious characters that you would hate if they were your coworkers or neighbors. The weird thing is, I don’t remember loathing them this much during the first three games. I didn’t like them either, but I could at least tolerate them. I guess that’s because it wasn’t until late in the third game that the narcissism went completely unchecked and the story devolved into the biggest masturbatory ego-trip since Donald Trump teased his candidacy for the US Presidency. Instead of just fighting Gods, it turns out Tycho actually is a God, or something like that. The whole thing really comes across as the type of wish-fulfillment fantasies you would expect from a neglected middle-schooler. At least Kevin Smith had the decency to stop after having a light-saber fight with Mark Hamill.
Whatever happened to Penny Arcade as a source for gaming-related humor? I know they still do it, because I just checked their website and immediately got a mild chuckle out of their latest strip. Have a look.
Topical. Funny. That’s the kind of stuff I look for from Penny Arcade. I said it last year in my review of #3, but it bears repeating here: Penny Arcade is the perfect brand to do full-out absurd gaming parodies. Think Airplane!, Young Frankenstein, or Naked Gun in video game form. I’m not suggesting to be like Scary Movie or Retro City Rampage where all the humor comes in the form of references to other stuff (it’s funny because I’ve heard of Super Mario too!). I’m saying, take an established gaming formula and turn the absurdity up to ten, but play it totally straight. It would be brilliant. Unconventional. This Rain-Slick stuff is the type of crap anyone with RPG Maker and access to a How I Met Your Mother DVD could come up with. Tycho and Gabe really only exist to be joke-delivery devices. As characters, they’re kind of douchebags. That’s fine for thirty seconds at a time, three times a week. Spending ten hours straight listening to their non-stop sarcasm that contains none of the gaming-related humor or “isn’t this whole hobby of ours fucked up?” charm can be, well, exhausting.
I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people out there saying how hilarious they found the whole series. I’m genuinely happy for those that did. I just don’t get it. I think this series is one gigantic missed opportunity, with #4 being the worst offender. Whereas I felt Penny Arcade 3 had a fair share of hits to go along with the misses, Penny Arcade 4 feels like one misfire after another. Even the timing is bad. A main character gets killed by another, out of nowhere, in what I’m guessing was supposed to be one of those random “It’s funny because I didn’t expect that” type of deals. But it came at about the worst possible time in the narrative, where the camera was shaky and a boss had just been defeated. The dialog sure hinted that it was supposed to be funny, but it’s like trying to tell the joke while everyone is watching a squirrel that appears to be dancing dubstep. It’s best to save the joke until you have everyone’s undivided attention.
By the way, if I sound like I didn’t like Penny Arcade 4 at all, you’re wrong. As always, Zeboyd simply knows how to make a fun, engaging combat system. After four games, it’s fairly safe to say they’re good at this kind of stuff. But, even this feels like a bit of a letdown. Gone from Penny Arcade 3 is the awesome button-upgrade system that I was still tinkering with right up until the end of that game. In its place is a stripped down animal/trainer system where creatures fight in the place of the main characters. For the vast majority of Penny Arcade 4, you’re split into two “parties” made up only of two characters each. Each character has unique trainer abilities for the things you fight with. But again, there’s only two per party, which doesn’t give you a whole lot of flexibility. You know, there’s an ongoing plague in gaming where sequels offer significantly less advancement or gameplay than the games they’re based upon. That’s the type of shit that should be avoided by indies, not emulated.
Is it still fun? Sure. In fact, it’s really fun. At least for a little while. But unlike the third game in the series, there’s not a whole lot of mixing and matching to do. Thus, it does start to get old, a problem I never encountered in the previous title. Unfortunately, this situation also combines with a game that seems longer than the previous effort. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I didn’t time the game, and I don’t think the game did it for me either. Mind you, I would still call Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 one of the fifty best XBLIGs ever made as of this writing. But this is Zeboyd’s weakest entry yet. I can’t totally blame them. When you do a licensed game, you can’t exactly flex your creative muscles, and this was no different. They jumped into the series with a horrible ground foundation laid. I guess the worst thing you can say about them is they weren’t quite able to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. But now the series is over and they’re free to do their own thing, instead of having to placate the self-indulgent whims of a couple of egotists who slap their likeness on everything for no good reason.
Oh, speaking of which, the Indie Gamer Chick Collection is coming soon to Indie Royale.
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 was developed by Zeboyd Games
400 Microsoft Points honest to God did not laugh or even smirk once over the twelve hours of this game. And it’s not that I’m that hard to please. I laughed so hard at this video that I couldn’t breathe and my family nearly called 911. Not exactly highbrow humor at work here. Too much sarcasm. A little of it goes a long ways. Too much of it is just annoying.
Penny Arcade 4 is still Chick Approved in a big way and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.
Thanks to Todd at DMP Design for the Indie Gamer Chick Collection logo (not to mention my Seal of Quality). Expect an announcement soon on the lineup to be included.