Finally, after several months of waiting, Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode Two has arrived, much to our pleasure.
Episode One scored 8.5 in our previous review, and overall was a very good game with some minor concerns surrounding the game mechanics. The question now is, to what extent were they able to resolve some of the concerns and improve on an already solid title?
Episode Two follows on almost precisely where Episode One left off, making playing the first essentially a requirement for playing the second, as is the nature of episodic content. The core mechanics of the title have been left virtually untouched, and the RPG combat is back exactly as it was the first time around. The graphics also look identical, and both need to be seen as two parts of the same story for the same game. As we have covered combat and gameplay in our Episode One review we will refrain from repeating ourselves here.
The story follows your player-created character, which you can either import from Episode One or recreate from scratch through a bunch of comic book scenes stylised in the a way that is characteristic of Penny Arcade’s webcomic. Following on from Episode One, your character has rebuilt his house that was destroyed by a giant Fruit Fucker, only to have it immediately destroyed by Tycho and Gabe as they come hurtling down the street escaping from a herd of Fruit Fuckers. Tycho and Gabe have been on a mission to find out the source of these demonic machines - and who created them - and on running into you again they ask you to join them in their quest as a sort of associate in the Startling Developments Detective Agency where they work. From here, the game leads you on a madcap race around the world. From a run-down sanatorium to the 1920’s World Fair, you will not be short of amusing and exciting zones to explore, each riddled with the same humour we saw in the first title.
The story itself is well written and amusing, and many of the characters that appear are lifted from the web-comics. Making guest appearances are Twisp and Catsby, and Charles DuBois. All of the characters you meet are somewhat outrageous, and you will even run into a certain mime from the first title. Gabe and Tycho are still equipped with the same weapons (gun and fists) and you still have your trusty rake from Episode One, although the upgrades you can unlock are different, and the attacks have been changed to keep the combat from becoming too repetitive. Episode Two of Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is a delight and does an excellent job of furthering the story. It does feel shorter than the first however, and the story itself seems not as deep.
The enemies are almost as diverse this time around, and you will combat a number of various types. Gone are the hobos from Episode One, now we have the bourgeoisie who will use characteristic attacks including the old glove across the face trick. Then there are the sanatorium patients who will attack you whilst punching themselves in the heads. Gigantic spiders, and of course Fruit Fuckers are all there.
One of our favourite aspects of the Penny Arcade games are the diverse and amusing animations that bring the characters to life, particularly in combat. These do repeat themselves a lot, which helps to gauge when to use your block abilities in combat, but they never cease to amuse. The combat is the same, with attacks recharging and unlocking greater attacks the more you wait before unleashing one. The ability to block with the right bumper and even counter-attack if timed correctly, and the double and triple attacks you can do if you power up all your characters attacks at the same time are all still here.
One of our concerns from the first title was that the speed of the combat meant many of the items did not get much use, however we found that as we familiarised ourselves again with the controls and the layout of the item windows we were able to make much better use of this. The game mechanics themselves still suffer from feeling somewhat superficial, and it feels rather easy, although on completing you can unlock the Insane Mode for a real challenge. You'll get new items too, as there are a number of crates around that can only be opened in this mode.
A positive change now is your ability to use your bumpers to cycle between possible interactions on-screen, making it much easier to select a certain item or person, particularly when there are a large number of possibilities littered around.
Episode Two of On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is an exceptional continuation of an already fantastic story. It doesn’t feel quite as long or deep story-wise as the first, but it is very solid and a must-buy if you played and enjoyed the first in the series. If you didn’t enjoy it, there is no point in picking this up as it is merely more of the same. The humour, the same game-mechanics, and the same mad minds behind it. We are already hungry for Episode Three!