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On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One, is needlessly to say a strange title. Really though, how could a Penny Arcade game not be strange? How does one make a game out of two buddies’ brash/witty repartee on game culture, the industry and all the people even mildly connected to it? Well the answer is surprisingly simple, put them in a fictitious 1920s city, and give them the keys to their very own paranormal detective agency. Yes it’s absurd, but this is Penny Arcade we’re talking about.

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Rain-Slick at its core mixes basic JRPG guts with even lighter point and click adventure mechanics. The combination is straight forward and works well. Your party will consist of the character you create, and of course, Gabe and Tycho. The character builder isn’t huge but it gives you a good assortment of options, including gender, face size, facial hair, clothes and so on. What really makes your character stand out, is that they will appear as created in the Flash animated story sequences throughout the game. It’s this attention to detail that gives Rain-Slick its charm.

Once you’ve got your party assembled it’s time to start killing almost anything and anyone in your path. Enemies in Rain-Slick are appropriately weird with everyone’s favorite robotic juicer, to hobos and evil barbershop quartets. Even better than the bizarre assortment of baddies, is their ridiculous attacks and animations.

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Combat in Rain-Slick uses a variation on the tried and tested active time battle system popularized by the Final Fantasy games. Each party member has 3 separate actions that can be taken; Item, Attack and Special Attack. They charge one at a time starting with Item, and so on. To spice combat up, the player is given the ability to manually block enemy attacks with timed space bar inputs. In addition Special Attacks are executed with increasingly difficult mini games, where a perfect game will net maximum damage.

In addition to your various attacks, you have a large inventory that will always be full. Item boxes and garbage cans, the treasure chests of Rain-Slick, will reappear upon returning to a previously explored area. Although, they won’t always have something, this often left me feeling hollow inside. There’s no need to fret because there is a different type of reward for your exploration, and that’s the messages you’ll get for clicking on objects in the world. In the normal point and click fashion many non usable items and set pieces can be examined. Stumbling across a wagon in Rain-Slick’s Hobo Alley, the character thinks, “Wagons are useful as f***.” With dialogue like that, it’s hard to refute.

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Like any adventure game, you’ll spend a good deal of it conversing with NPCs. The game gives the player a basic dialogue tree, allowing the player the option to say the logical thing and the off the wall answer. NPCs will react in various ways to your responses, but you’ll always end up going through the same dialogue tree. The conversations are depicted in a 2D comic style representation of your party and the NPC. There’s a little bit of animation and varied expressions for the characters, but this feels like a place the game could have exploited even more. As it stands now, conversations are restricted to the bottom third of the screen, with the top two thirds showing a grayed out game world screen with your party standing around the NPC. The conversations are fun and should be given more room to breathe, plus some subtle animation to highlight jokes or plot points. There is beautiful Flash animation in this game, and it’s a total missed opportunity that a little bit isn’t added into normal conversations.

Beyond the great 2D work found in Rain-Slick, the world of New Arcadia is built in a simple cell shaded style 3D, which fits the characters inhabiting it. Character models are serviceable but really only place holders for the 2D portraits, which really bring the characters and world to life. Although only a few locations exist in Rain Slick, they are varied and littered with lots of strange but fitting pieces.

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Rain-Slick succeeds in leaving you wanting more, and anxious to drag your party and stats on into Episode 2″By the time you’ve reached the end of Rain-Slick you’ll have most likely seen almost all there is. The game is rather short clocking in anywhere from 6-8 hours, but as the first episode of a series that’s to be expected. There’s some collectibles to be found to keep you scouring the streets of New Arcadia, but like most adventure games once you’re finished the story there isn’t much reason to return.

As a first episode, Rain-Slick succeeds in leaving you wanting more, and anxious to drag your party and stats on into Episode Two. Sure at its core, it’s an extremely light weight JRPG, but if you’re playing this game for ingenious game design then you’re missing the point. The great dialogue, unique characters and building story more than outweigh the mediocre graphics, and somewhat unoriginal game mechanics. Rain-Slick takes these tried and tested game systems and makes them its own, not by ingenuity but by not taking itself seriously. With items like ‘Extremely Mild Weak Sauce,’ how could any game go wrong?

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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