Stepping over the Precipice: A Review of the Penny Arcade Video Game

Item 0: The Trailer

Item 1: The Audience

This game is for fans of the comic. I think I’m safe in saying that if you’re not a fan of the comic, then you would do well to spend your $20 on something else. Fortunately for the PA creators, they’ve got a pretty large audience-base to which to distribute this game and from which to collect funds.

Item 2: The Visuals

200805251929.jpgThe visual design of the game stays very true to the comic. It draws entirely from the art of Mike Krahulik. So if you like his drawing style, you’ll not be disappointed. Especially the 2D cutscenes. But this is largely a 3D game, and the graphics are slightly jarring at first, but you quickly become accustomed to it. However, in this age of incredibly rich graphics in the current generation of XBox 360s and PS3s, it’s tough to cite them as being anything more than okay. I like the 2D stuff better.

It’s odd. I can’t say that the art was great, but it wouldn’t have been a Penny Arcade game if it wasn’t for the art. And since I am saying that the graphics were an accurate representation of the comic, then I have to say that the graphics are successful.

Item 3: The Writing

Crass, vulgar, potty humor. But it’s crass, vulgar potty humor written by a very talented individual. Jerry Holkins has mastered an effective combination of Lovecraftian turns of phrase, a gamer’s lexicon, and lowbrow comedy stylings. And he wields this power effectively in this game.

Lots of attention was paid to the details in the game that Holkins finds important. The dialogue is very entertaining, and much work went into providing unique and humorous descriptions of the many clickable things in the 4 environments.

Unfortunately, one casualty of the shift from comic to game is the loss of timing that Holkins is used to having when working with comic panels. Instead of the comic timing being controlled by panels and the art, the dialogue in the game is largely devoid of graphic support, and the timing is completely under the control of the player’s mouse click. So what may have been funny in a strip loses some punch in the game.

Item 4: Is it worth the $20?

Precipice is more a vehicle used to tell a story than it is a video game. The gameplay was a little on the simple side. There are a few things to fiddle with. Lots of clickable items. A few minigames (which weren’t very well implemented or fun) There are weapons to upgrade. The combat system is varied enough to not get boring but not so tedious that it interrupts the flow of the game. But the game is relatively simple.

Also, the game is pretty short. I finished it in just a few hours. The lack of side quests is largely responsible for the brevity of gameplay, but it’s never been billed as a wide-open experience.

One other point to consider is that Precipice is being released episodically. There are 4 chapters in the story. That means your final price tag will be $80 in order to see the project through to its conclusion.

So, is it worth the $20 (and eventually $80)? If you want a meaty game in which to sink your teeth: No. If you like the comic, you like the work that Holkins and Krahulik put out 3 times a week, and you’re fine with shelling out for a linear story with some clickity interactive doodads: Indeed, it is.


On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness