Five years, four episodes, and two developers later, the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness saga has finally come to an end. Zeboyd Games picked up where Hothead Games left off after Episode Two, creating Episode Three in a very different, retro-y style. Zeboyd has since completed development of Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 earlier this Summer. Though similar to the retro stylings of Episode Three, Episode Four throws a few new tricks at us, including monster training and a massively overhauled game world. Are these changes the end of the world as we know it? Or do Tycho and Gabe and Moira and the gelatinous goo that is Jim feel fine about the Underhell?
Platforms: PC (Version Played), Xbox 360
Publisher: Penny Arcade
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Genre: RPG From the Age of Steam
Release Date: June 7, 2013
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
If you liked Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 (and I did), you’ll be equally as enthralled with the final game in the series. It’s one of the stock phrases in the reviewer’s toolbox, but it applies very well here. That said, even though Episode Four is a much, much bigger game, for the most part, it feels like the second half of Episode Three instead of something that stands on its own. I understand this is how episodic games are supposed to work, but with the developer/stylistic shift between Episode Two and Episode Three and the extended length of time between each episode’s release, it’s tough to think of all four titles as a single story, even with the steady supply of references and callbacks included in Episode Four.
At the close of Episode Three, we saw Tycho, Gabe, Moira, and Jim plummet into the Underhell after the destruction of the Earth. Before vanishing into the ether, Tycho revealed that the world’s end was all part of the Brahe clan’s “Long Plan.” With the Earth destroyed, he could use the goodness found within his niece, Anne-Claire, to remake the world. But four demonic guardians still stand in his way…
All caught up? Good. While the story shifts to a fantastical new location, the game’s mechanics mostly went untouched. I say mostly, as you’ll no longer be controlling the four main characters anymore. Instead, they’ll act as trainers to a host of monsters that you’ll keep in “Mostorbs.” By the end of the game, you’ll be carrying around Monstorbs for more than 20 monsters. The Pokemon parallels are impossible to miss, and Zeboyd was sure to send up their (somewhat) new battle system with the inclusion of Fish Force, characters clearly modeled after that franchise’s Team Rocket.
Once in battle, the monsters belly up to the Order Bar just as Tycho, Gabe, Moira, and Jim did in Episode Three. Attacks, spells, and summoned helpers are placed on the bar when each monster reaches the Command line. After each attack or spell executes, you’ll need to think like a chessmaster to plan the remainder of your battle strategy (again, just like it was in Episode Three). With over 20 monsters to choose from, the number of variables has gone up considerably, but I have to admit, I wish the trainers did the fighting. Their new role as monster mentors has pushed them to the background of the story. The humorous verbal sparring between the three main characters was a highlight of Episode Three, and it’s sadly missing here. Jim’s newfound ability to speak (at length, and on academic subjects that would make the real Tycho’s head spin) was a hoot, but it wasn’t enough.
So that loops us back around to the old standby… if you enjoyed Episode Three, you’ll like Episode Four. The game world is massive and Underhell is a very interesting and beautiful place. The 16-bit-styled graphics have been upgraded from Episode Three and they’ll make any gamer who cut their teeth on the Super NES nostalgic for the early 90s. And without a need to ground the game in a somewhat “real” world, Zeboyd and Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins were able to go crazy with new enemies (A demonic train! Techno-librarians! Mythic-er beasts! Sentient bodily fluids!), new locations, and even more jokes (read every sign you come across, that is an order). Sadly, the jokey nature of the spell and item descriptions sometimes makes it hard to figure out exactly what it is they do.
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4’s $4.99 pricetag makes these minor complaints rather moot. It is the finale of a long-gestating series and anyone that has made it this far will want to see it through to the end.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 was provided by Penny Arcade for the purposes of this review.