Freelance review by Johnathan Sawyer from GameFAQS
It has been four years since the release of the first episode of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, and roughly three and a half years since episode two. Since then, the series has changed directions and almost started anew. This time around, Zeboyd Games took it upon themselves to continue the series, but rather than continuing on the same path that Hothead Games was taking, they decided to go with what they do best, as they've already proven with Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII: a classic-feeling, parodied RPG... console-style. It looks, feels, and even plays like the console RPG's we fell in love with on the SNES in the 90's, and it gives you a TON of bang for your buck. At $4.99, it's too good of a deal to pass up.
I find that the quality of a game's soundtrack usually shows the quality of the overall game. For most console-style RPG's, there are no voice overs and all you have is the music. If you can't stand the music, then it's not easy to not enjoy the game. Alternatively, if you enjoy every second of the entire soundtrack (in games like Chrono Cross and Ys: The Oath in Felghana, for example), you will never want to put the game down until it's over.
Right away the soundtrack shows a lot of promise. The Title theme isn't overly complicated but sounds fitting, and New Arcadia theme was very well done, having the definite old-school, "there's-something-ominous-happening-around-us" theme that fit perfectly. Once you make it to the boardwalk at Pelican Bay and start taking on evil mimes and crabs, the very well composed Battle theme kicks in and flows perfectly with the battle pace. Not once does it get old as you proceed through the game. I consider Battle, New Arcadia, Battle (Dr. Blood), and Battle (Final) to be the saving grace for the soundtrack; without them, it would be average at best.
From Pelican Bay itself and on through the story, the soundtrack becomes stale. The normal boss theme doesn't have a sense of urgency that you would normally expect (though the final battle theme definitely does). Every other dungeon theme is very forgettable and repetitive at some points, even though the tracks seem to fit events happening around you in some way. Luckily, most of your time is spent in battle where it's all good -- unless you hate it.
The story itself isn't going to be as big of a focus as the quirky writing that Penny Arcade is known for. Sure, there is a story there and it's fairly generic. But since the focus is mainly on keeping everything light-hearted and comical, actual story development takes a back seat. As a fan of the Penny Arcade comics, I knew going into this that the writing would be absolutely ridiculous, absurd, immature, and unbelievable. And that's exactly what it was; I loved every minute of it. It's not a blockbuster story that will swoon women and impress men everywhere, nor will it be raised to epic proportions and be remembered for eons to come. However, it does have the light-hearted, goofy, and sometimes tasteless comedy we've come to love and expect from Penny Arcade, and that's what makes it so good. Why live if you can't laugh? This is easily one of the funniest games I've ever played, and one that I had the most immature fun with from start to finish.
As for the story itself, it's not too deep. It follows the two protagonists from the comic and previous games, Gabe and Tycho, as they unravel another supernatural mystery. If they play their cards right, they'll possibly kill another god (since once one has killed a god, one does develop a taste for it). On their adventure, they're joined for a short while by Tycho's genius niece, Anne-Claire, their long-time, skin-free, skull-in-a-jar buddy Jim, and even an old flame from Tycho's past, Moira. They all bring their own unique (and in some cases, downright hilarious) charm to the story. Even if you've never read a single comic of theirs, Gabe and Tycho's characters are developed pretty well considering how "underdeveloped" Gabe and Tycho act. Well, Gabe more than Tycho, since Tycho is very Scholarly and all.
Even though it's stuffed to the brim with comedy galore, the gameplay is where Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 shines. For those that already like the classic RPG's in general, you should be happy just by taking a look at this game. But upon further inspection you will find that it has a very similar job system to that of Final Fantasy V, which (arguably) had the best job system of the entire Final Fantasy series (excluding Final Fantasy Tactics). There are so many to choose from, such as a Brute (Gabe) or Scholar (Tycho) to start with, but eventually evolving into many others, including a Hobo, Tube Samurai, Slacker, Doomsayer, Gardenar, and even a Dinomancer. Each job has its own unique set of skills, some of which are much more useful than others. For example, the Dinomancer's ability to become the CTHULHUSAURUS.
There's even more depth to the battle system. While the system is turn based, there's a time gauge much like the IP gauge seen in the Grandia series. There are WAIT, CMD, and ACT areas on the gauge. CMD is where you put in your command, and ACT is where your command carries out. Once you get your fourth party member, you'll be able to use skills that interrupt enemies' commands if they're between the CMD and ACT gauge, just like in Grandia, which puts in a whole other level of strategy at your disposal. At the start of the game, it won't seem to be as necessary, since you can pretty much mash buttons to get through the first couple of Chapters. But after that point, it becomes more and more necessary to time your skills just right to ensure successful battles.
There are dozens of enemies to fight in the journey, and I can't recall a single "normal" one. You start out fighting mimes and crabs, but as you go through the game, pretty much anything you can imagine will hop out to fight. Some other enemies that stuck in my mind for some reason are "Dude on a Walrus" and "Hat Spider." They each have their own descriptions too. Dude on a Walrus is listed as, "You gotta wonder what's going on with these two", and Hat Spider gets "Stylish arachnoid seeks tender biped for friendship, and maybe more." Each unique enemy has its own description, giving you quite a bit more time of enjoyment from just looking through the descriptions. And enemies aren't the only things with this treatment. By checking out the characters' equipment, you will find the same antics. For example, Gabe's second weapon, "Even Softer Gloves" have the description "Incredible comfort -- for you, and the foe", and one of Tycho's upgrades, the "Shotgorn," says "That's a typo, sorry." Every little instance like this just makes the game that much more enjoyable.
When it comes to difficulty, there's an option for pretty much everyone. If one would like to just zip through the game and simply enjoy the comical dialogue, they could play through on "Easy" without much of a problem and get what they'd like. There's also "Normal" and "Hard," but for those who like to be punished and struggle through the games they play to prove that they're better than the game, there's "Insane" mode. Trust me, it's not for the light-hearted; you will find yourself struggling right from the start. But hey, if that's your thing, then more power to you. Just remember that (much like Final Fantasy V) there's an optional super boss that will be ready to hand your backside to you several times over, which may be enough of a challenge for those even in "Very Easy." Outside of battles you have the normal RPG exploration: Navigating in four directions through towns and dungeons, opening treasure chests, and running into enemies -- wait, running into them? That's right. The painful atrocity of random battles is nonexistent in this RPG; all enemies are right there on the map, giving you the option to avoid them if you so choose. Sadly, that's bad news for those who like to grind.
There's even a world map of sorts, though it's not as you would normally expect. Think Super Mario World, not Final Fantasy VI. After completing areas, a path on the New Arcadia map will appear, taking you to the next "dot" (destination), just as seen in the classic Super Mario games. It's fairly simple, but also very pleasing; you'll have a hard time getting lost. However, because of this, the game becomes extremely linear. Because of the direct path to and from each area, and due to the fact that there are no random encounters, everyone will proceed through the game at roughly the exact same pace. This may be a relief to some, but will seem surprisingly narrow to others. Not that it helps much, but so there is at least one thing to do off of the beaten path, there is an arena where you can test your skills, if you choose to do so.
The graphics look like it came straight out of a late Super Nintendo game, very similar to the likes of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger in the mid 90s, not that it's necessarily a bad thing. The resolution itself can display up to 720p, so it's nice, crisp, high-definition -- 16-bit graphics. It's clearer than it would ever look on the SNES, and it fits perfectly for those old-school gamers who can't bring themselves to leave the era they're most comfortable with. Hey, that's me!
This is where the game suffers the most: Because of the linearity and lack of random battles, each playthrough is going to be just about identical. With the exception of playing on a different difficulty, there's almost literally nothing different that you can do in a subsequent playthrough, so the only real reason for playing it again is to enjoy story and writing once more.
I've looked forward to the release of Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 for months and purchased it on day one -- I haven't regretted it since. The game itself was only $4.99 from the start (and even came with Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII if you purchased the game in the first week) even though I would've easily paid much more. The game was very cleverly written, the battle system was a blast, and even though some of the music was a bit of a struggle to listen to, the battle theme and rest of the gameplay more than made up for it. I can safely say that Zeboyd Games and the guys over at Penny Arcade put out a quality game, and I'm already counting down the days until the release of Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4.
Four.Five out of Five Hadokens