Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Penny Arcade's On The Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness

What a nice surprise.

I've played PAOTRSPOD (that's quite an acronym) for about four hours, and it's one of the very few games I've played in the last year that I've enjoyed enough to continue. It's clever, and well-designed, but neither of those words capture what I find to be its most endearing quality, which is innocence.

Innocence? Really?

Yes, that's exactly what I mean. There's just no anger here, or darkness. It's light-hearted and playful, in all the best ways. And that light-heartedness blends incredibly well with the pixel-style visuals that developers Zeboyd used in the game. The audio is retro, too, entirely evocative of the NES/SNES era.

The game continues the saga of the Startling Developments Detective Agency, along with it's principles: Tycho Ephemerous Brahe and Jonathan Gabriel, along with an entertaining cast of side-characters, including a head (Jim's head) in a jar.

The dialogue is (obviously) clever and funny, but that only matters because the game mechanics are rock-solid. The class system is both funny and wildly diverse, which makes combat (which is very frequent) almost infinitely variable. Here are just a few of the classes (and it's a multi-class system, so you'll have more than one active):
--Dinosorcerer (yes, you can turn into a Dinosaur)
--Diva (with abilities like prima donna and limelight)
--Tube Samurai
--Gentleman (now with 100% more caning)
--Cordwainer (shoe-based attacks and skills)
--Apocalypt (spells occur in the future)

It's a gigantic mash-up of abilities, it gives you a ton of options in combat, and it's very, very fun. And funny.

One other quality I particularly enjoy in this game is that's it's relaxing. Combat is turn-based, so there's time to think about what you want to do, and everything is pleasantly paced. That may sound boring, but it's not in the least--it's the kind of game where you feel better after playing than you did before you started.

The price? $4.99, which is less than lunch. Seriously, if you like games, particularly if you have even the slightest trace of old-school in your system, then this is an auto-buy.

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