Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Monday, February 02, 2009

Game Play: Penny Arcade Adventures, Episode 1

I feel like a dissenter in a sea of fans, but I'm not coming down on a terribly positive side for this game. I'll probably poke at it some more this week, but it is in danger of being shelved after just a few hours of play.

The humor is of course, present - these are funny guys after all. Hothead has done a good job of translating the 2D style of their comic into a 3D world as well. This isn't some cheap rollout to cash in on Penny Arcade's considerable fame.

That said, there are several nuisances which add up quickly. There's little stuff, like "New Game" consistently being the default even after you've played a few times. More annoying is the sketchy method of running into objects to interact with them, which comprises a decent amount of the gameplay and yet you'll find yourself dancing around objects routinely. It's not super annoying, not a crime against nature or anything - but when it happens over and over again, and your reward is just some pithy description of a tack ... it wears a little thin.

Combat is what's really killing me. True confession, I've never been a big Final Fantasy fan, but I don't think that's the fault here. There's something about the interface which is just more work than play. You're watching the status of your action buttons to see when you can attack, but you're also supposed to be watching your opponents to see if you're supposed to be blocking since the game falls prey to the "turn based isn't good enough" philosophy of role-playing and everything occurs in quasi-real time. So while I'm squinting at Tycho's inventory to see if I have any bandages left, I'm trying to block with another and ... damn, I think I might have just healed an enemy. It's like a combat system for people with ADD. The best part of the combat, using minigames for powered up attacks, is reserved for those patient enough to wait to be beat on for it to be available, generally only to fail and get partial damage on it anyway. Not really a reward worth the effort.

And speaking of enemies, I might not have anything against mimes and robots in general - but I don't exactly get why I walked right over a pair of robots when I was by myself with a rake, but three of them wiped out my entire party in a heartbeat last night. The production values are fine - but, seriously ... enough with the damn robots. If you're going to throw two enemies at me of clearly differing difficulty - throw two enemies of me that look like they're clearly different. After the like tenth robot battle, it's one thing to be a little dull - but why be confusing too?

Part of me wants to like this game for its humor and charm. For a moment there, I was reminded of Anachronox , but no longer. And I can get the humor and charm for free from the web comic without having to bump around a suitcase so that I can open it and get killed by a lousy interface and a couple of robots.


Greg Tannahill said...

These were largely my complaints about the game; I was less than impressed. However, if (like me) you're still able to extract enough fun to play it through to the end, you'll probably be pleased to know that the second game is considerably tighter and more fun. There's a definite upward trend at work.

Josh said...

I actually deleted it a couple of nights ago. Somehow the game didn't save my last game, either because I forgot when I signed off, or something - I don't know. I could have *sworn* I saved first, though. And replaying that same stuff? Ugh, I couldn't bear it.

The dialogue is considerably less entertaining the second time around.

Considering the absence of RPG's on the PS3, it might get a revival at a later date.