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The Penny Arcade games are what I call mini-RPGs, and episode two is obviously the sequel to episode one. In the game you take control of a character crafted by you, and then proceed to adventure with Gabe and Tycho of the famous Penny Arcade comic strip. If you haven’t heard of them, you should go check it out. The game is available on XBLA, PSN, Windows, MAC and Linux. For this review we will be focusing on the XBLA version, and I have not played the other version (although they are all the same game).

Before we continue with the review proper, I feel I need to make a clear disclaimer. Yes, I am a big fan of the comic strip and website. I read PA three times a week, every week, without fail. I also read every news post that accompanies the comic (or does the comic accompany the news post?) and enjoy them, thoroughly. Secondly, I did not like the first game, in fact I hated it. More on that later.

OK so with that out of the way we can move on.

I’ll start by saying I really enjoyed PA EP2, it has it’s flaws, but despite them the game is very fun and addictive. Some people may be concerned that they need to play the previous game to gain full enjoyment from this title, but rest assured it is not so. There are a few references to the first game, but they are small and of little consequence. Most of the games jokes can be understood with no knowledge of the first game. And there are jokes a-plenty, this is a humorous game. Still, it would have been nice to include a short summary of what happened in the first episode, but this little feature is sadly missing.

Let’s talk about some of the games flaws I mentioned. Firstly, the graphics are what I would call adequate. You won’t see anything special here…move along. The game’s areas are all very monotonous, they are all dark and share a similar colour palette. I know it’s called the On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, but still, does all the areas have to be so dark? While the 2D cut scenes look great and work very well, the game play takes place in a 3D world which I feel is lacking in art direction and is quite mundane. I wish the whole game was in hand drawn 2D…I love hand drawn 2D!

Moving on to the what is arguably the most important part of the game, the battle system. It is turn based which is a great thing, and is fun to play. The battles are fast paced and can also be challenging. The worst part of the battle system is the interface, which is what made me hate the first game. You see, I played the first game on PC, with a mouse. Do yourself a favour, and do not play this game with a mouse…you’ll be constantly clicking from one side of the screen to the other, and you won’t be able to do it fast enough. The battle interface is simply too clunky, even with a controller, something more like a traditional Final Fantasy interface would have worked much better. Because the battles are so fast paced, and because the enemies don’t wait for you before they attack, you have to quickly select actions. With a controller it is manageable, but with a mouse it is game-breaking. It could have been a lot better in either case. So, to sum up, the battle system is quite good, so long as you’re using a controller.

There are also lots of small, but very noticeable improvements over the last game. You get into the main story a lot faster, the start of the first game was rather boring, and thankfully this game doesn’t suffer from that. The disembodied narrator doesn’t talk so damn much, which is also another great improvement. The games story is enjoyable and very funny in place, and the characters and dialog are entertaining, to say the least.

Despite some of the complaints I have, PA EP2 is a great game. It is advertised as a RPG, but if you go in expecting a small slice of Final Fantasy or something like that, you might be disappointed. Instead it is more what I would call a mini-RPG, which is not at all a bad thing. Your characters are not as configurable as a fully fledged RPG, and the world is not as big or detailed. It may sound like a bad thing, but it works quite well; like being delivered a small, but concentrated dose of RPG. The story and dialog remind me more of Monkey Island than any J-RPG, it has the same kind of quirky humour. In fact, think of it as a cross between Monkey Island and a J-RPG.

Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode Two goes for 1200 Microsoft points on XBLA, which I believe equates to about $15 USD. For that price the game is great value, and I wholeheartedly recommend you go get it.

Rating Category
7.0 Presentation
Graphics are adequate, could be better. But cut scenes are great.
How does our scoring system work?
8.0 Gameplay
The battles fun and that is where the meat lies.
7.0 Sound
Music and sound effects are all there. Nothing really great or memorable.
6.5 Longevity
No real reason to come back, unless you want to play it again. Will last you 6-10 hours.
8.0 Overall
An enjoyable game, addictive and fun. Only some small flaws lower the score a little.

  1. avatar Amy

    Honestly, I don\’t think the value in XBLA is added to by distributing conles at all. If it\’s the next Halo, they\’ll publish it themselves through normal retail channels. XBLA has seen so far what I feel to be a mixed bag of titles, some are excellent, others simply ports of games I bought 10 years ago for a different system. I think the magic possibility in XBLA comes from the brand new concepts, the brand new ideas, the risky ones that no sane publisher would ever risk, being put up for the world to see. It\’s those really well done, innovative, independant titles that I\’d like to see thrown up on XBLA, and Microsoft does seem to be moving in that Direction with DreamBuildPlay, and XNA, and initiatives such as these (I\’ve got a write-up about it

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