Alright, as my first semi-timely game review since… Virtue’s Last Reward in November? Well, I reviewed, or actually re-reviewed, seeing as how I barely recalled the storyline, Rain Slick 3 a few months ago, so I’m pretty much obliged to talk about the sequel now, after having a plethora of good things to say, but I can’t say my thoughts are as positive as they were last time.
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 4 Review
Release Date: 07/6/2013
Platforms: PC, XBLIG(Reviewed)
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Publisher: Zeboyd Games
I’ve tried fairly hard to understand the storyline of Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness after having skipped the first two. However, aside from the main objective of the game, which has been pretty clearly told as, “Destroy the universe and make a better one!” I couldn’t help but feel as if I was missing a lot of detail when exploring a world with living ice cream, monster trains, leaves that pick fights, and repurposed fruit molesters.
Yes, the game very clearly has a vibrant sense of humor, considering that you are going through the Underhell. A not especially well explained chunk of land I believe is suppose to be a worse hell, yet that doesn’t stop most NPCs, characters, and even enemy descriptions to get a bit snarky with their dialog. Cracking smirk worthy comments and creating a fairly light tone to not make the game feel as woeful as one about eliminating all life would seem to me, even if it is to repurpose the remains as new and better life.
In fact, the game very much tries to contrast itself from the ultimate goal. Throwing in bits where the game is supposedly translated into Japanese and back again for a scene, a Mimic chest sends a character running away after talking about how he should become a Vegan, and how one of the final encounters wears a monocle, top hat, and mustache. It is a very weird feeling that makes it more than a bit difficult to get buddy-bud with Rain Slick 4’s plot, which is a hint odd, because I can easily see how the two folks at Zeboyd feel as if his is the best made game they’ve made yet.
The core of the gameplay in this SNES-esc RPG adventure is largely the same from its predecessor. A variant of the ATB system in the SNES Final Fantasy games it visually represents and the bar based action system in Grandia with the ability to stop foes right before they strike. Along with a system that curse your party of four after every battle, restoring their HP, items that are unlocked as you go on, and MP. The later of which is not a set amount, beginning most battles at zero, and gaining one point every turn to use in a character’s mostly very well reasoned moveset.
It is a remarkably fun system that encourages you to play with your gradually increasing skill set while fighting baddies who get a bit stronger every turn. Making the encounters, who are not random in any locale, a lot of fun. However, the newest feature to the battle system, which still looks like the one found in part three down to the menu design, is the multiple party members. Within the first five minutes of the game, you learn that the cast from the previous title are unable to fight the monsters in Underhell, and need to summon monsters from their “Monstorbs” to fight for them.
One might be tempted to make a Pokemon joke, however, it is more along the lines of walking along the only occasionally diverging paths set out for you, and coming across a Deep Crow, living glob of goo, or some living Groucho Marx glasses. All of whom are only really present for battles, and hold next to no meaning in terms of the actual plot. Meanwhile, the main characters you have access to and prance about the overworld are able to lend their own set of active and passive abilities to the monsters, with an added stat bonus when leveling up.
They are used in a manner similar to the class pins from the prior game, except without needing to make sure their EXP levels are all acceptable, because everyone gets the same EXP after every battle. Well, assuming the are with the same group, seeing as how the first nine chapters of the game have the protagonists separated. Leveling up different sets of monsters before the characters come together, and the world of Underhell opens up a little bit, the series finale a click away, and a fair amount of side quests to partake in.
This is in many ways the best combat system Zeboyd has yet to devise, or gameplay in general because it is that or walking around. With a wide array of enemies, a cast of twenty playable characters, though some of them very clearly outclass others, and an expanded set of equipment compared to other Zeboyd titles. Although, the weapons were a bit of a hassle in my experience, with the very clearly limited set of funds preventing me from ever spending much on goods from the recurring, but still not very prevalent shopkeepers. Who in part three offered you the best weapons right out of the gate, but here throw in loads of worse weapons that I couldn’t help but not register until I was given the best stuff near the end.
Even then, the menus once again seem to require more clicking than necessary, with three equipment slots per character that must be manually clicked through if you want to give some shoes to a living dustbunny who is number ten in your party. Although, with the at times unaligned menus and empty sixth item slot, I can’t help but think that most of the menu system was just carried over from part three. Right down to some returning accessories, with many of the newer ones often possessing descriptions that are difficult to decipher descriptions.
Beyond that, it is quite the ride, or I’d presume it to be, because I played the Xbox Live Indie Games version of the title, which is in dire need of some form of patch. To give some examples, several times the attack sound effects just flat out didn’t play or were delayed, certain moves either did jack and once crashed the game. An attack is not given a revamped description when upgraded despite a clear change in strength, and the game chugs like a cow whenever a battle starts. Yet seeing as how sales were apparently 20% of Rain Slick 3’s, most people probably figured some of this out from the demo.
Thankfully, the game fares much better on the visual side. With a beautifully done spirited world that, while clearly repeating art assets in certain places, is a varied and lovely world, only lacking in how it hardly fits what most would think of Underhell. With a surprising amount of greenery and a very autumn look to the world, which I don’t quite get in terms of the setting being Underhell, but such a place would likely be a dreary alternative. And would likely give less caves to illuminate with a lighting engine that is very gleefully shoves about whenever you venture into an optional cave. Which very often contain a set of monsters who may be exclusive to that area, as the rest never appear more than ten times, if that. With oddball and chuckle worthy descriptors alongside the always unique designs, I can only lament about how there is no bestiary function included once again.
Meanwhile, the musical front was something I was told to pay attention to when observing this game’s development, and it is quite a treat . Eye widening mellow themes for the scattered towns, a kick butt theme for the bosses and normal battles, the eerily chilling, and rightfully so, overworld theme. With my personal favorite being the bizarrely catchy Fish Force theme. The only downside is how the score is perplexingly more than the actual game at a $6 download to the game’s five. A price tag that makes me wonder why it hasn’t sold like hotcakes. Hell, it launched at four on Steam.
And despite some minor inconveniences with more of the technical stuff that could always be fixed later on, I don’t have much negative towards the game itself. Yes, the story did not necessarily gel with me, but it is a fun title worth more than the base asking price. And while I did have more fun with their prior two titles, I’d blame the XBLIG port more than anything. So just pick up the Steam version like a real human.
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.