Unfortunately, this particular editorial can’t pass without some background information being passed around first. The story is a sad one at times, but I think you’ll find the resolution as satisfying as I have! Do let me know!
Some of you may have heard of the popular webcomic Penny Arcade. A much smaller chunk of you are probably familiar with the two games that Penny Arcade released in the year 2008, parts one and two of On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness… a story which blended Penny Arcade’s unique style of humour and its unique visual style with a modern RPG engine to create a new gaming experience. Most of you who bought the first two games are further familiar with the catastrophic announcement in 2010 that Hothead Games was going to proceed with the Deathspank franchise over producing the third title in the Penny Arcade series… and that… the Penny Arcade series was cancelled.
Double ouch to people who really enjoyed the first two titles, and were looking forward to the conclusion of the story of Tycho Brahe and Jonathan Gabriel.
But then in 2011, a ray of hope emerged. Zeboyd Games, producers of such titles as Breath of Death VII: The Beginning and Cthulu Saves the World, had signed on to the project. In development? Rain-Slick 3. Only now, instead of using Penny Arcade’s comic book visual style and a more modern RPG engine, we were going to experience a fully pixelated 16-bit treatment of the story and the world, and it was to be released in a more Indie fashion.
Fine by me!
Now, in mid-2012… the new game is here. I have played it. And I would like to tell you all about it.
Rain-Slick 3 continues the story immediately after it left off at the end of Rain-Slick 2. Our heroes Tycho Brahe and Jonathan Gabriel, of the Startling Developments Detective Agency, have slain two Gods, and by a prophecy spoken by Tycho’s own father, this has brought the world to the brink of oblivion. Unfortunately, it seems, we must balance that against the fact that the ongoing presence of these ancient Gods has infused a great amount of evil into the world, from wicked hobos and rampaging mimes to the occurrence of ghosts, ghouls, and other supernatural critters. Railing against this destiny, Tycho and Gabe enlist the help of a head in a jar and a mysterious woman detective who shares a past connection with Tycho, in an effort to halt the ongoing conflict before it spirals out of control.
The gameplay is pure 16-bit RPG. Characters use a job system which is not unlike a pared-down version of that used in any Final Fantasy game, with jobs having certain special abilities gained as they level up. However, Rain-Slick wants to be fun for the player, and actually doesn’t allow you to grind (enemy groups disappear when defeated, and do not return!), so un-used jobs level up concurrently with those currently equipped, albeit at a slower rate, and your characters can equip multiple jobs with no penalty. Combining a useful suite of skills can create truly devastating fighters, so there is definitely a strategic aspect to how you equip your jobs, and how you choose equipment which can either cover weaknesses or heavily accent strengths. It gives a decent feel of customisation to the player, which is otherwise somewhat lacking as the player’s own avatar is absent from the game’s cast of characters (although referenced several times as having participated in previous events) and the game plays like a traditional RPG – there are no Mass Effect style conversation wheels to be found here.
The game’s charm is in its simplicity, and its storytelling. Although the story is predictably broken up by long chunks of combat-heavy dungeon, it remains infused with the humour and ability of the guys from Penny Arcade – not insubstantial! – and hints of that artwork style, used for character portraits and enemy models. Of particular amusement value are the names of enemies, always accompanied by a short description, which really rekindle the feel of the first two games. Zeboyd has done a marvelous job in continuing the saga, even though the game plays absolutely differently from the original two titles.
If you still have any interest in this series, I highly encourage a purchase! Rain-Slick 3 is available on Xbox Live Marketplace or Steam, or through the Penny Arcade store. The official site also notes that it should become available for iOS and Android in the future, and Penny Arcade notes the possibility of free updates to expand upon the core game. For a pittance of $5, this game is likely to do nothing but impress you from start to finish.