On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Media Q&A

26 08 2007

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So last night, using my Gateway credibility, I went to the press-only Q&A with Hothead Games, the guys behind Penny Arcade’s game, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. They started it off by showing the new trailer—which has already hit the show floor and quite possibly the tubes of net—that is seemingly built upon the previous one. The game looks a lot prettier than previous showings. The game takes place in a 1920’s setting, very film-noir, and while it looks the part, it’s quite obviously styled in Penny Arcade fashion. The trailer itself was short, and a little underwhelming, but the gameplay demo that followed was quite informative.

They started the demo with character creation. The basic customization choices are here: hair, facial features, different parts of your clothing. While this is not all that new, the interesting part is that the character you make will be presented in all of the games cutscenes, which are in 2D. Your character will also be saved from one episode to another, so you can keep him or her throughout the entire series.

After creating a character, they got into the opening cutscene for the game, which shows your character raking the leaves on his lawn when, suddenly, your house is trampled by a giant robot monster—that fruit fucker! As your character watches in shock and awe as the monster keeps walking, the infamous Gabe and Tycho run after it, and you join their team for revenge, apparently. They then loaded a portion of the game a little further along in the story. Your character has joined up with Gabe and Tycho at this point, and as you follow the trail of the monster, you stumble upon a shady-looking man with beautiful golden hair, carrying a sack. Seeing your trio, he runs away. Suddenly, the sack begins to tear, and from it plop a slew of, you guessed it, hobos. This is where they remind us that Jerry (Tycho) wrote all of the dialogue for the game. Gabe and Tycho decide to follow the trail of hobos.

This is where the demo really begins. Rainslick is point-and-click adventure game with various RPG elements mixed in. All movement and interaction is decided by the click of a mouse. They showed off various uses of this—opening apartment rooms in a slum, picking up items, etc—but the combat and characters are where the RPG elements come in. All combat is initiated by proximity to enemies. The developers decided to go against random encounters because, and I quote, “they suck.” Initiating combat takes you into a combat screen, showing you, your allies—Gabe and Tycho—and your enemies. The combat is turn-based, and each of your characters has an “initiative” bar, which determines when he can do specific actions. Some bars replenish slower than others, depending on the ability it represents. Your opponents also have enemy-specific attacks. In the demo, the hobos you faced have a move called “Fallen on Hard Times”, where they hold up a sign reading “will do damage for food”, and deal damage to your entire team. Again, they remind is, Jerry wrote the game.

Each of your characters has his own specific weapon—Gabe uses his fists, Tycho uses a Tommy Gun, and your custom character uses a rake. While these weapons cannot be changed, they can be upgraded with money and experience you gain at the end of every battle. Along with weapon upgrades, your team will gain new abilities, such as character-specific powers, and Team Up Attacks. When a character-specific attack is chosen, it initiates a quick mini-game which determines how much damage the attack does. For Gabe’s attack, for example, you are required to press the spacebar as fast as possible. If you get a perfect score on these mini-games, you will do maximum damage, which will reward you with a gruesome attack animation.

The environment looked very stylized, with a dark ominous mood, and retained a very Penny Arcade feel. Everything has the feel of a comic—from the slight touch of cell-shading the 3D environments to having the 2D cutscenes play out as moving panels in a comic strip. Hothead decided against giving the characters voices because they believed that, since every Penny Arcade fan has a different idea of what their voices should be, it would more take away from the experience than add to it.

The game will be distributed digitally on the PC, Mac, and Linux, through a website that Hothead will be releasing. It was announced today that it will also debut on the Xbox Live Arcade in 2008. While the combat doesn’t look all that deep or complicated, the game looks like it will be a lot of fun, if only for the hilarious dialogue and situational humor.

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