Tiny acts of … vulgarity

Just completed episode one of ‘On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness‘, the Penny Arcade foray into making games rather than satirising them. This in itself is notable, since I don’t finish many games1. Assuming you haven’t played the free demo, it’s a modernised adventure game in the finest LucasArts traditions, but with an extensive RPG-style combat engine added on. The LucasArts connection is pretty strong, since the producer is Ron Gilbert, who has made a few of these things before.

Overall, the game is pretty good – it feels like an adult Monkey Island, full of Penny Arcade jokes, decent writing and obscene humour. The rendering (courtesy, it turns out, of Torque, woo) is a nice cel-shaded look, and complements the ‘drawn’ sections (dialogue, cut-scene movies) very well. An added bonus is that the graphical style is simple enough to work on extremely moderate hardware – you know, the kind Apple put in their flagship workstations2. Originally I had the graphics on ‘high’ but had to switch that off early on when I realised the combat sequences were bogging down nastily.

The combat difficulty had me worried for a while; initially easy, then suddenly ramping up to impossible, but this turned out mostly to be because I’d never played a turn-based RPG before, and didn’t really understand how they work – once I’d got over that hump the combat was slightly challenging but nothing more, which given my vast ineptitude probably means it’s laughably easy for hardened gamers. It seems many lessons have been learned about adventure games since the days of Monkey Island – there was none of the ‘try everything with everything’ or pixel-hunting frustration that I recall from such games, and I never had the enjoyment-killing problem of having no idea what to do next. The characters feed you hints, inventory items are marked once they’re used, and the game records the current ‘cases’ (missions) you’re working on. All these things remove the pain I associate with the old LucasArts games (which is why I never got more than half-way into Indy).

All of the above, however, is more or less irrelevant, however. The important things you need to know are that this is a game where you get to kill mimes, and collect illicit meat, and use innocent organic produce to divert tiny mechanical foes during combat. And the animation for that (and the sounds effects, dear lord) are the best thing I’ve seen since Portal.

Sweet fancy Moses.

  1. I don’t start that many either, which may explain it []
  2. Bitter? Not at all, I assure you. I’ll buy the upgrade kit to the 8800 GTS at some point, it’s only one major limb and a first-born. []
Posted Thursday, May 29th, 2008 under 3d, gaming, geek.

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