Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 Hands-On Preview: Resurrecting a Zombie in More Ways Than One

When the third episode of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness was canceled in 2010, I have to admit, I was a bit shocked. The first two games in the series provided plenty of RPG thrills and all the Penny Arcade-style humor I could ever ask for.

I was equally shocked when the RPG series was reborn under the slightly less laborious title, Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. Now in the hands of Zeboyd Games, an indie development house known for their love of 16-bit RPGs, the game was playable for the first time at last month’s PAX East expo. And play it I did.

Platforms: Android, iOS, PC, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Zeboyd Games
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Genre: RPG From the Age of Steam
Release Date: Summer 2012
ESRB Rating: Rating Pending

Instead of trying their hand at the “comic strip come alive” style of the previous episodes, Zeboyd Games has transformed Penny Arcade 3 into a 16-bit RPG that wouldn’t feel out of place on the Super NES. Although, when a character from Penny Arcade 3 is in need of a cutting retort, they’re less likely to call someone a “spoony bard” and more likely to accuse their opponent of enjoying the act of copulation with a maternal figure.

While a change in art style was inevitable, everything else feels much the same. Gabe and Tycho continue to bicker like an old married couple, complete with Victorian verbiage. Anne-Claire has given up her position as the Startling Developments Detective Agency’s resident “Q” for a spot on the team. Her inclusion in the party means that the “Rake Guy” of the previous two episodes is no more. Sad, he kind of grew on me.

This feeling of familiarity is brought home even more by the demo’s return visit to the mime-infested pier of the first episode. Except this time, some form of elder god dark magic has fused the mimes with animals near the pier, so you’ll end up fighting an octopus mime, a gorilla mime, and many others. But with the new art style, Pelican Bay has been restyled with a 16-bit-like overworld map and pixelated monsters blocking your path.

The new battle system in Penny Arcade 3 works well. You’ll see the typical options like “Attack” and “Item,” but you’ll also earn one MP before each turn. Once enough of these points have been collected, they can be spent on class-based attacks, which are chosen from a list. MP doesn’t carry over from battle to battle, so deciding whether to use them right away on weak attacks or save them for big attacks adds some interesting strategy to a battle. With a list of special attacks to choose from, it seems unlikely that the QTE-based special attacks from the first two episodes will be making a return.

The demo revealed three classes, Brute, Genius, and Scholar, and more will be available in the final game. Robert Boyd, one of the developers at Zeboyd, told us that the “Rake Guy” will get his due with the inclusion of a gardener class. In addition to the mimes, deranged hobos and suggestively thrusting FF robots return for another round of battles. Yes, the off-kilter sense of humor that the first two episodes cultivated so well is definitely back in Penny Arcade 3.

Zeboyd has said they plan to have Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 completed by this Summer. Much like the first two episodes, the game will take 5-10 hours to finish, but the developer wants to launch it for a supercheap price. So anyone who felt burned by Episode One’s $20 pricetag won’t want to miss Episode Three.

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John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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