After discovering Cthulhu Saves the World, a 16-bit style RPG where Cthulhu must save the world in order to regain his powers so he can destroy the world, I was hooked. Developer Zeboyd Games not only satisfied my craving for a SNES-era type role playing game, they did it while making me laugh. Truly funny video games seem rare, for whatever reason, so I knew I needed to keep an eye on these guys. Shortly after my initial play through of Cthulhu, Penny Arcade tapped Zeboyd to finish up their RPG series: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. Episode 4 of the series released recently, almost exactly a year after Episode 3.
Before I talk too much about the game, I should mention that Episode 4 picks up directly where the third episode left off, and while the game does provide you with a recap of Episode 3, I would definitely recommend grabbing the previous installment in addition to this one. (It’s only a few bucks extra for the bundle on Steam.) The first two episodes are completely different in style and enjoyable in their own right, but for the sake of these games you won’t miss much by skipping them.
In Rain-Slick Episode 4, our heroes find themselves in “Underhell” which is separated into two groups of two. Each group quickly discovers that the bad guys of Underhell vastly overpower them, so in order to survive they must send creatures out to battle for them. So, basically a goofy, demonic version of Pokemon. At first I was a little dismayed to discover that the battle system would work this way. I felt like the main characters might take a backseat to the creatures and that the story would suffer because of it. Luckily, my fears turned out to be unfounded, and the change to the battle system actually adds more strategy compared to the previous game. Creatures all possess different move sets and you can alter your party before each battle (and during, once you unlock a certain item), which you’ll want to do based on your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. In Episode 3 losing a battle only means that you must try again – the game bestows no lasting punishment for death. If you fail, you simply begin the battle again armed with the knowledge you gained from the previous attempt. This allows the player to experiment with different creatures and moves without worrying about making a wrong choice.
You control each estranged group separately, which allows the game to meander into completely different directions at the same time. While I quite like Episode 3, I do think it plays in somewhat of a straight line, and splitting up the main characters works perfectly as a solution to that problem. You get to explore more of a variety of environments because of the split, so you never get bored of your locale. You’ll get to check out a haunted train, a crazy zoo with weird animal hybrids, a jungle, and more. Having two stories run parallel to one another also makes the writing feel sharper and more interesting. While playing, you’ll find yourself wondering how what you do with one group will affect the other, and when and how your groups will manage to meet up. Splitting up the party makes the game feel much bigger than its predecessor.
Scope and writing aren’t the only improvements from Episode 3, though – the music deserves special mention. Like the gameplay itself, the music manages to feel classic and contemporary at the same time. It’s “chip” music sounding without feeling overly simple. The title screen song reminds me of something you might hear at the beginning of one of the SNES Final Fantasy games, which is obviously a high compliment. Sometimes with RPGs, I prefer to turn down the volume in game and listen to my own selection, but that thought never crossed my mind while I played Rain-Slick.
Every time I play a game by Zeboyd, I’m impressed with how much better it is than its predecessor. Rain-Slick Episode 3 was a wonderfully enjoyable old school style RPG with a sharp tongue and a great battle system. Episode 4 takes everything good about Episode 3 and improves it in just about every way. It’s much bigger in scope, the combat offers more opportunity for strategy, the environments are more varied and interesting, and there is more to do and see outside of the of the primary storyline. I would have been completely satisfied if the game was simply the last half of the story that started in Episode 3, but it ended up being much more than that. If you enjoy classic RPGs and you’ve got a sense of humor, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to pick this one up. And go ahead and grab Episode 3 while you’re at it.
Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 4 is currently available on Steam for $4.99, or bundled with Episode 3 for $7.99. It is also available on Xbox Live Arcade.
This review was conducted using a copy of the PC version provided by the developer for that purpose.
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