Aside from winning the all-time award for longest title ever, Penny Arcade Adventures Episode One: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness represents the first in what promises to be a series of RPG/Adventure games from the dynamic duo responsible for publishing the Penny Arcade web comic three times a week. The stars of said comic, Tycho and Gabe, are the heroes of the game, transported through time and space to a Lovecraftian 1920’s setting where they solve paranormal mysteries and fight evil as the Startling Developments Detective Agency. If it sounds a little odd, it is, but then that’s Penny Arcade for you.
Functionally PAA plays like a fast paced RPG, with a kind of active time variant of the standard turn-based battle system of yore. The plot is styled after an old school mystery novel, but the details of the narrative are pure Penny Arcade. There are monsters to battle and items to collect for solving adventure game style inventory puzzles. For an XBLA title it’s reasonably robust, but for anyone with RPG experience it’s pretty tame. The game plays well enough though, but it’s mostly just a vehicle for that distinctive Penny Arcade flavor. As far as that goes, the Penny Arcade brand of humor is pretty polarizing. Chances are you either think a game featuring combat against fruit-violating robots and supporting characters like a “scientist” whose field of study is peeing on things is funny, or you don’t. There’s not a lot of room for half way.
Weighing in at $15 worth of Microsoft points, Penny Arcade Adventures is definitely not for everyone. While it’s likely to thrill anyone already smitten with the namesake comic, it’s hard to recommend to those who aren’t already sure they’re into it. The nuts and bolts are okay, but it’s a reasonably short game that’s pretty much just an excuse for extremely quirky nerd-chic banter that either you’re on the level with and think is hilarious or you’re not and find it way off the mark. Fun for what it is, but definitely a niche game if ever there was one.