PLATFORM: Xbox Live Arcade, PC, Mac, Linux
PRICE:20 friggin’ dollars.
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: Hothead Games
PUBLISHER: Hothead Games
 

You all know Penny Arcade. Their comic has been around forever, and Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik are probably the closest thing to homegrown video game geek celebs that we have. The guys have done a ton of things with Penny Arcade (thanks to their smart manager) with books, auctions, and even one of the biggest game conventions around all in their name. But when it was announced that they were going to be working on an episodic game series, people were skeptical. Could the comic transfer over to a video game? Could the duo (who are some of the most outspoken critics around) deal with their own work being picked apart?

Adding some legitimacy to their game was the inclusion of Ron Gilbert (Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Total Annihilation) as a consultant. But could Hothead Games pull it off?



THE PITCH
 

Well, there’s not much of a compelling story. You play as yourself, or any ridiculous looking character you’d like to make in the game’s character creation system. Your choices are pretty diverse, and you’ve got a nice chance of making a fun character like my red-headed, top hat-wearing fatty.  You’re living a nice happy life in the city of Arcadia when one day a giant robot stomps by and completely demolishes your house. You see Tycho and Gabe running after the metallic beast and decide to pursue them. You’re pissed and ready to get revenge on whoever sent that robot their way, as well as figure out who those two fellers are, and where you’re going to live now that your home’s been destroyed.


(PROTIP! If you want the backstory on Gabe and Tycho’s characters in the game you’ll have to go here, where there’s a prequel comic. There’s no explanation of any of the character’s pasts here.)


The story leads all sorts of silly places, and ultimately ends with gigantic Lovecraftian horrors (of a sort). The enemies here are not exactly typical RPG fare- you’ve got killer Mimes that attack with imaginary objects, Barbershop Quartets that sing at you,  and Fruit Fuckers who… well, you get it. The quests aren’t exactly typical fare as well… at one point you have to kill multiple Hobos to collect their meat to sell. Gotta love the irreverent humor, and it has a very similar feel to the humor from the comic. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you. But it’s similar enough to the comic to be able to able to determine right off the bat if you’d enjoy the game. Hate the comic? Stay away. Love it? You’ll love this too. 
 
So the humor is intact, but of course the real make-or-break part of any game is be the gameplay.



THE PLAY


Well it’s an RPG, although thankfully one where you see your enemies before you engage them. You walk around and examine every object looking for items or enemies, and engage them in somewhat turn-based combat. You’re still waiting for meters to fill up before you can attack (with the special attacks taking more time than the normal ones and the items) while your enemies can attack you whenever they’re ready. The fact that you can (and really, have to) block and perform counterattacks by hitting the Right Trigger in time with the enemy’s attack makes for a very different feel. It gets pretty hectic at parts, at least until you figure out each enemies’ moves, at which point the battles become much more easy and boring, at the same time. It works very well but I have the feeling that if this was a full length game you’d get tired of the battle system pretty quickly…. there’s just not much in the way of options or attacks, even with the team-up special attacks. 


Mmm, Bum Meat.

 
Everything controls well enough, though, and it seems like this one would play better on the consoles. On the Xbox the attacks are right there in your hand, while on PC or Mac you have to point and click everything.
 

THE PRESENTATION
 

Beautiful job, here. The cell-shaded graphics do a good job of capturing the feel of the comic, and everything animates nicely. The movies in between the action are great, and add a lot of personality to the characters. Also cool is that your created character shows up in all of the animated scenes alongside the Penny Arcade boys, really throwing you in the comic with them.

The music also deserves some props, as it’s catchy and completely in theme with the old feel of the game… except for the final track which features some nerdcore, unfortunately.
 

THE REPLAY


Not much…. it is an RPG, after all. First off, the game took me only around 5 hours to complete. There are some achievements that I didn’t pick up in my playthrough, but there’s no way I’m going back to it anytime soon. Being that most of the quests in the game are of a “Find and kill these Enemies!” type that force you to wander around the same areas multiple times, it doesn’t exactly encourage repetition.


Yes, that’s a 20-sided die, you dork.



THE VERDICT


But besides that it sounds great, right? But it comes with a price… literally. The game costs 20 bucks, more than double most any Xbox Live Arcade title. The guys at Penny Arcade believe that their product is fairly priced, but it’s not. It’s really not. Using Portal as an example of a short game that was worth the price of a full one doesn’t work here, as Precipice has nowhere near the quality or replayability of that title. 10 bucks would have been much easier to swallow, especially for a series that will have three additional installments.

Still, for fans of the webcomic who have rich elderly relatives who have died recently, or perhaps for gamers who have re-enacted their Three Leaf Clover fantasies in real life, you can’t go wrong. It is a little disheartening that they haven’t announced a release date for following episodes, though, besides a tentative schedule of “every four months”.


8.0 out of 10