On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One

After getting the game running on 64-bit Linux, I plowed through the first episode of On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness in about 6-8 hours of play. One could probably beat the game much faster than that, but obviously you are supposed to stop and smell the roses. The game is full of Penny Arcade humor and I found myself clicking everywhere I could to absorb all the tasty content.

If I had to describe the game, I would say that it’s like a Penny Arcade-themed episode of Curse of Monkey Island with a somewhat real-time RPG combat system. The constant jokes, the satirical drama, the quality voice acting, the rich cartoon backdrops, and the atmospheric music – all reminded me deeply of the Curse of Monkey Island series. This is fine of course, and it would be hard to think of a better format for a PA game.

I described the combat system as having a “somewhat real-time RPG” style. You could think of it as a compromise between FFX and FFXII. The combatants are lined up like a classic RPG, but the clock is ticking and you have to make decisions in real-time. Additionally, there is a Paper Mario aspect where you can time a spacebar press to block/counterattack your enemies, as well as do extra damage on the special attacks. This made for some hectic battles as you hastily try to give orders to your party while keeping an eye out for enemy onslaughts.

In some ways I wish they had gone with traditional RPG combat, but I don’t think their system was deep enough to make such a thing engaging. As it was, the combat was fun and contained numerous satirical aspects that I found amusing (when I actually had time to read them). Some of the battles were actually challenging, though the game is quite forgiving of mistakes. Death of the party didn’t seem to incur any penalty, you are automatically healed after each battle, and enemies do not respawn.

On the subject of forgiving nature, Precipice of Darkness is nice to you in other ways. Traveling through the different areas is very quick and there are easy shortcuts so that you almost never have to hoof it very far to your destination. Items are found in various containers that do respawn and it’s easy to fill out your inventory. Though I must say that mindlessly smashing stuff to get items did get repetitive after awhile.

Continuing along the complaint vein, the game’s path-finding logic seemed a little bit off. The character would tend to get stuck behind things and you’d have to sort of guide them around sometimes. The minigames in the Pelican Bay area were… well, a real piece of crap, actually. The names of the games were hilarious, but the implementation of them was pretty shoddy – especially the ski ball game. Another issue in Pelican Bay was that all of sudden you were facing pretty strong opponents. I had a stretch when I was leveling up after almost every battle – seemed like there should have been one more stage in between.

In the end, the game is well worth the $20 for a Penny Arcade fan. References to comic strips abound, the off-color, irreverent humor is there in abundance, and Tycho’s rich writing and imagination leave a very distinctive mark. The game had me laughing out loud numerous times and I’ll definitely be purchasing the next episode.

Oh, and the final boss has an attack called “Music of the Spheres”. A deep bow to the architect of this Johannes Kepler (or Hyperion Cantos) reference.

This entry was posted in Video Games. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *