The darkness is nothing to be afraid of. Unless you’re talking about the sounds of the hideous pop-rock band, in which case you should run to the hills screaming, tearing at your ears until their drums are clawed forth and you’re granted a merciful but bloody silence.
Darkness itself isn’t inherently evil: it’s merely the absence of light. So we reckon anyway, although in Penny Arcade’s latest episode you’re still fighting against falling off that slippery precipice into the black stuff.
We really enjoyed the first outing, and number two is very much more of the same. Which is definitely a good thing in many respects, particularly when it comes to the quality of the humour. Once again, it’s surreal and funny in equal measure, with a darkly comic plot and some amusingly spiky, sarcastic dialogue. Just as with the original adventure, it’s the kind of game where you actually go around clicking on miscellaneous objects just to read and chuckle at the descriptions.
As a quick example, when wandering around the library of a lunatic asylum, the first book we clicked on was “Crazy in Love” by Doctor B. Knowles. It then becomes compulsory to click on every single shelf to ingest these gobbets of humour, and the thoroughness of the developer is such that almost all of them will make you smile, if not titter to yourself (Frankie Howerd would be proud).
Naturally, there are in-jokes and familiar characters from the first episode returning, such as Anne the technological wizard of a niece. Although beating up the same juicing robots, collecting their parts and taking them back to Anne to get your weapon upgrades (again) generates more than a little sense of déja-vu.
As with the original game, the puzzles are pretty straightforward, although there’s generally some slight twist that gets you thinking a little. Rain-Slick Precipice is still mostly about the real-time combat sections, where you have to select your attacks, use power-ups and manually time blocking enemy weapons by tapping the spacebar.
There are some minor differences – the word “block” now flashes up over the enemy’s health bar to help you judge when they’ll attack – but mostly it’s all the same power-ups and such. One extra irritation has been introduced, sadly, namely that your party’s special attacks seem slightly buggy.
These moves involve pressing multiple keys with spot-on timing, but sometimes our key presses didn’t seem to register, which was quite infuriating. It’s possible that the developer has just made the timing very demanding and we were slightly out, but at times it appeared as if the system was a little glitchy to us.
About the only other variation is difficulty level settings you can adjust on the fly (and a new “insane” mode for a real challenge). In the end, Episode Two does enough to make it a worthy continuation of the series. There’s room for a touch more innovation, perhaps with the levelling and upgrade system, but the simple truth is it’s worth buying just for the script, the plot and the laughs.
Company: Penny Arcade Adventures