Penny Arcade Adventures Demo

By John Walker on May 22nd, 2008 at 12:02 am.

Some Penny Arcade fans, outside my house.

EDIT: Now with added demo impressions!

My inane comments about the comic below the jump, let’s make this post more useful. You can get the demo of Penny Arcade Adventure: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One here.

It’s about half an hour’s tutorial, introducing the combination of point-n-click interaction and turn-based combat, as well as letting you play with the character creator. It’s fair to say the demo doesn’t give you the scope of the game – it teases you with that at the very end, in the way demos are supposed to – so the demo is mostly hitting dustbins, and robots that look like dustbins. But wow, the animation is gorgeous. They’ve done a really decent job of blurring 2D and 3D, and the art direction is pretty stunning. Plus, there’s a few nice gags in the pop-up descriptions.

Art direction = win.

The dialogue, however, didn’t do it for me. But I think that ties in with my not much getting on with the dialogue in the strip either. The banter between Tycho and Gabe seems in tune with the strip. Which leads me to last night’s comments…

I don’t much enjoy Penny Arcade. The guys behind it seem nice, and the essays on the site are worth reading. But the comic? It’s a sort of… I get nothing from it. (And I stopped thinking saying “fuck” replaced a punchline quite a while back). But I appear to be quite alone. (Edit: Okay, no I don’t, and people who hate it are idiots). Many of my colleagues in this dizzying and important world of writing about playing adore it. They forward the strips to one another with glee. Occasionally one reaches me and I think, “Well, they’re not all incredibly stupid, maybe this’ll be funny.” And then: meh. It’s not objectional. Just… it doesn’t appear to do it for me. So I guess I’m missing out. (xkcd ftw btw).

Demo’s here, and does a good job of making the full game seem intriguing.

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147 Comments »

  1. terry says:

    at least 14 years too late

  2. Alex says:

    Don’t worry, John, we’re not all rabid PA fanboys. I’m not a big fan myself – they sometimes make me laugh, they mostly don’t. In the end what really turns me off is there’s a kind of smugness over everything they do, but maybe that’s just me.

  3. Fumarole says:

    You can’t please all the people all the time.

  4. Bob Arctor says:

    Not funny.

  5. Andrew says:

    Oh John, you were doing so well until you held up xkcd as an example of a better comic. :(

  6. Down Rodeo says:

    Some of the Penny Arcade stuff is good (some not so much) but I really do like xkcd.

    Oh wait, the demo? I don’t know; Ubuntu laptops are not awesome gaming machines. Does anyone know how it plays?

  7. Nick says:

    I find most webcomics are fairly awful.

    Earlier Order of the Stick was good for the nerdy injokes.. thats about the only story based one I’ve read for more than 7 or so strips before stopping in disgust.

    Still, at least it’s not ctrl-alt-del.

  8. CLLMM says:

    I used to love PA, but yeah after awhile it gets old. And then they buy macs and complain that PC gaming is for rich idiots that cannot fathom the awesomeness of ICO, or Final Fantasy, or Wii gaming, etc. And then, there are Angry People On The Internet that disagree with them, thus proving how right their points are. I respect them for what they have built, but I just don’t see things from their POV anymore.

  9. Rook says:

    Is it cool to hate PA yet? It must be about time.

    Either way their podcasts are pretty good when they do get around to recording one.

  10. Myrn says:

    I read the essays, but the comics all seem like the middle child of a serial daily comic. As if every single one they release is saying “ok, we had to have this comic to progress the story, and we threw something kinda funny in because it is a comic after all.” But the problem is, they don’t have a story! I don’t know what they are humor for, but it certainly isn’t continuity.

  11. smorgasbord says:

    Penny Arcade is ok i guess. Funnier than Ctrl Alt Del anyway. My favourite webcomic though? Definitely this one

    Order Of The Stick

    For DnD fans it’s a must read.

    It even has an overarching storyline which is something most webcomics hopelessly lack

  12. James T says:

    I’m with you, John; PA’s been bollocks ever since I can remember, and not “the dog’s”, unfortunately. Only webcomics I bother with these days are ‘This Modern World’ and ‘Tom the Dancing Bug’ (MUST BE A COMMUNIST — CALL THE POLICE). Oh, and old Strafe Lefts, natch.

  13. Dan Bruno says:

    I find the comic moderately enjoyable, but I’ll cheerfully admit that I really stick around for the essays (and, when they get around to releasing them, the podcasts).

    I do think they’re funny guys, though, and I’m excited to try out the game.

  14. Masked Dave says:

    The comics have always been sidenotes to the articles really, I started to find them much funnier when I put them in the context of the accompanying post.

    Also this demo made me laugh out loud at least three times, and smile to myself throughout. And it’s about half an hour long at best!

    I can only hope Telltale play it. Lots.

  15. Ted says:

    You’re definitely not alone. In fact, pretty much everyone hates PA at this point.

  16. Scott says:

    I quite like most PA, I certainly agree that some are very meh-ish, but you get that with all webcomics. My favorites besides PA are XKCD, Dino Comics, and White Ninja.

  17. Kadayi says:

    I had the mixed pleasure of meeting them online to give them a guided tour of an MMO I was working on, and all I can remember is one of them (I can’t remember which) just dribbling on like a sugar addled 7 year old about how fan-fucking-tastic SWG was going to be all the way through (and that wasn’t even in beta at the time). Immensely annoying, and disrespectful at the same time.

    Comic is occasionally funny, but I’d say they have an exaggerated sense as to how funny they are, and often the jokes are unintelligible (though better than Ctrl-Alt-Twat by a long way).

    I’m quite surprised they’ve decided to give the finger to Steam (given their comics on it), and instead try and launch their own Digital distribution platform. Sure they don’t have to pay Valve a cent as a result (which seems to be the issue according to what I read on Neogaf), but they’d hit corners of the internet Steam reaches where penny arcade doesn’t even mean anything. Faintly bizarre really.

  18. Albides says:

    Always hated Penny Arcade. It’s like the only punchline is that there’s a comic… about gamer knowledge. This is somehow meant to be inherently hilarious.

  19. The Shed says:

    The latest shoot of webcomic sweetness is Castle Vidcons. Definately a classic.

    At times PA is genius that makes me laugh over and over, but it’s more often than not a bit dull. Ctrl Alt Del has become a complete one-joke show, although it was nice in the start. VGCats is still pretty awesome (God, how I love this strip). And xkcd is pretty awesome, along with Order Of The Stick. This is all imho, btw.

    Still, this demo is definately worth downloading. I grabbed it on XBL, and it was great fun. Much more original than I expected.

  20. Lars Balker Rasmussen says:

    Kadayi, I suppose one of the points of not using Steam is that they support Linux and Mac as well. Which is nice – my Windows box is way noisy, so if I can play the occasional title on my 24″ iMac, I’m happy.

    Not really sure if I want to buy the game though – the demo left me somewhat lukewarm.

    Edit: The pinnacle of gaming comics is http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=254

  21. Mike P says:

    It’s OK to hate the comic. I like the comic. But I’m not going to hate you for not liking it.

    What do you think of the game?

    Seems to be OK – I think I got my $20 worth – although they make a couple of newbie mistakes (slow combat, slow item collecting).

  22. Naurgul says:

    I love Order of the Stick. I love xkcd even more. Penny Arcade is a bit hit and miss with me. I stopped following Ctrl+Alt+Del a few weeks ago in disgust.

    The PA game? The download just finished. Perhaps I’ll post a comment again after I give it a go.

  23. Noc says:

    I used to hate PA, (mostly ’cause it seemed the cool, indie thing to do) . . . but then I started reading it again and realized that I kind of like it. I think Masked Dave has the right of it; the comics seem to go hand-in-hand with the articles, and they’re both better for it. Especially since as often as not they’re making jokes about something I haven’t heard of. I don’t hang on to their every word and use them as a source for all of my opinions . . . but then again, I don’t agree with everything YOU jerks say either.

    Consequentially: I can understand anyone reading it and feeling a bit, for lack of a better word, “meh.” Even not really liking it. But hate is a little silly. Especially since the prevailing argument seems to be “I HATE them because they’re, uh, mediocre.” Does that read as silly to any of you?

    But shame on all of you for bringing up OoTS but failing to mention Erfworld. Seriously.

  24. Morningoil says:

    Wow, a lot of PA hate on here :o
    I’d hardly hold it up as being the single funniest thing ever to tumble out of the spin cycle of human creation, but it often makes me chuckle, and sometimes chuckle quite a lot.

    The webcomic that I really loved (and discovered via the the tender ministrations of RPS) is A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible. (If anyone now wants to say, omg, ALIL sucks, there’s webcomic X which is similar but much better, I’m all ears).

  25. sana says:

    I’ve only read a few of the comics and didn’t find the art style and humour appealing at all.

    But The Perry Bible Fellowship.. that’s the creme de la creme of webcomics, imho!

  26. Ging says:

    I just finished off the first episode – there’s a good few hours of play in there, I’ll probably go back to finish up finding the findable stuff at some point too. Well worth the money really.

  27. popcorn says:

    You _like_ XKCD_? And I thought it was bad that you published Strafe Left, but at least most of that stuff’s old enough that a stale joke is okay. This don’t leave you much room to talk, Mr. Walker.

    Anyways, the demo’s fine, and I’ll probably buy it. And I’ll continue to, begrudgingly, respect your opinions, Mr. Walker.

    ;)

  28. gdr_karami says:

    (oh look someone wrote something about the demo how ’bout that)

  29. raigan says:

    Have you seen this one? http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/06/08/

    The satirical ones are always better..

  30. Kitt Basch says:

    I just find Penny Arcade’s three panel gaming commentary useful, it saves me having to trawl through several paragraphs of subjective opinion, like Penny Arcade’s blog.

    Bashing Penny Arcade isn’t new, I think someone summed it up in a three panel comic somewhere once.

  31. Naurgul says:

    I played it a bit. I doubt I’ll try it again. The combat system seems awful to me. :( There’s something about making a skill out of how fast you can click on the action icons in a semi-turn-based game that I really dislike.

    The narration and story are fine, It seems like they could be done better, or at least a bit more succinct and a little less random.

    Then again, please note: These are impressions coming from a half-hour session of the demo. So, I guess, I’m not even in the position to fully convince myself not to go back, let alone anyone else.

  32. Rewired says:

    @Noc
    Personally I hate PA because they harassed the writer of A Modest Destiny (a comic that was actually funny) until he got fed up and stopped making comics.

    also because they’re smug and unfunny, that too.

  33. Jim says:

    Penny Arcade has come full circle on the hipness meter: they’re long past the point where it’s cool to like them, but also also past the point where it’s cool to hate them. Now they’re just there, like it or not. Final Fantasy 7, for reference, has overflowed the hipness meter at least twice, and now who’s cool and who’s not is all up in the air.

    As for the game, well. The demo consists of you running down a street, paced out by inane JRPG combat. The gameplay is complex but meaningless; I never used an item except the orange as instructed by the tutorial, and I never dropped below 90% health. According to reviews, even the boss battles are trivial.

    And the street you’re running down, it’s, well, the most boring kind of content imaginable. Except that every few feet you run into another trash can or fire hydrant with a unique and often amusing description. The game is basically a delivery system for Tycho’s prose.

    I like Tycho’s prose a lot. I’d probably pay $10 for the game. Unfortunately, it’s $20.

  34. Pace says:

    Not a gaming comic, but I think sufficiently geeky to mention in this context; Monty is one of my favorites.

  35. whitebrice says:

    I’m glad someone mentioned Perry Bible Fellowship; it’s the only webcomic that consistently makes me laugh.

    I really have to agree with you about Penny Arcade, Walker. The essays are insightful, but the comic itself can barely make me grin.

  36. Dave says:

    The comic doesnt really make me laugh but the demo made me chuckle a lot…even laugh out loud a few times!
    I really enjoyed the look of the thing, as if you are playing a comic!
    Even if you dont like PA give the demo a spin! Its free and imho pretty damn good entertainment!

  37. Doug F says:

    Rewired:

    I had to google A Modest Destiny to make sure you were talking about who I was thinking of. By “harrased”, do you mean when Gabe replied to threats & accusations of copyright infringment regarding a sprite-based avatar of a forum user whose feet happened to resemble the sprite based feet of Squidi’s comic characters?

    Or do you mean later that day, when he tried to give the guy advice for dealing with something that is pretty much guaranteed to happen when you post art that people like online?

    Or maybe a year and a bit later, when he congratulated the guy on the birth of his child?

    I think there was something in between where he mentioned a panel that Squidi and some other artists were taking part in that he wished he could go to. But that doesn’t seem vary harrasment-y to me.

  38. SuperNashwan says:

    I can’t remember PA ever raising so much as a smirk from me, although it was quite fun when they butted heads with Jack Thompson. It’s certainly no Brian’s Guide.

  39. The_B says:

    I find PA a bit meh really. Can’t say I hate them, but I don’t like them enough for a game on them to register anything other than “oh, they’re releasing a game of it” on my radar.

    It’s quite a nice radar too, actually. Comes with it’s own power supply and everything…

  40. El Stevo says:

    Web comics are very divisive things. (The Perry Bible Fellowship not included, of course. It’s impossible not to like that.)

    I think Penny Arcade is OK sometimes.

  41. Xagarath says:

    The best webcomics often aren’t purely humourous, to my mind. Scary Go Round, Gunnerkrigg Court and Girl Genius are among the top strata.

  42. Ben Hazell says:

    Mm, I agree with Xagarath because I still love the teenage emo charms of A Softer World. They don’t have to always be funny.
    Unless they’re trying to be.

    PA does someting important for me – it makes me feel less geeky when I don’t get it half the time. And the posts don’t always do much to help.

    Can we vote? Do we do votes here? I’m all with xkcd.

    And thank you everyone for the comic tips. I’m going to go look all the new ones up now :)

  43. malkav11 says:

    I really like the newsposts. The comics are more hit or miss, but I never actively dislike them, and there’s enough that still give me the giggles (the 5/2/08 GTA IV one, for example) that I keep reading. And listening to the podcasts (which are great, and have a lot more laugh-factor than most of the resulting comics, for whatever reason.)

    And buying the books, which have more Tycho commentary. And now the game, which has old-school adventure game descriptions everywhere, something which I cannot be too happy about.

    And yeah, XKCD is awesome, but I don’t always get that, either. Like today’s.

  44. Mitch Small says:

    I honestly like PA, mostly because of Tycho’s writing, but I don’t think it’s top rung. Can’t say I ever did.

    Perry Bible, A Lesson Is Learned, Dinosaur Comics, XKCD, Rice Boy and Dr. McNinja are all excellent beyond compare, but gaming comics are doomed to be one-trick-ponies (CAD, VGCats)…

    That said, PA does keep itself relatively fresh. And I love the Deep Crow. Blah.

  45. Robin says:

    I don’t think many people outside of Penny Arcade’s target 13-year-old American demographic think much of it.

    The whole idea of a strip cartoon ‘about’ a hobby is doomed to lazy pandering from the outset. (Strafe Left excepted, of course.)

    It was quite amusing to read the editor of PC Gamer US trying to reconcile his obvious low opinion of the comic with the presumably lucrative decision to run an issue with ten(!) ‘collectible’ Penny Arcade covers.

    (I can see why they’ve not used Steam by the way, they have a prebuilt audience which many of the smaller games on the service conspicuously don’t.)

  46. Sucram says:

    Penny Arcade == The Simpsons
    xkcd == Futurama

  47. wcaypahwat says:

    I always enjoy it, bizzarely enough because my housemate and I often find ourselves in strangly similar situations as the characters, but that’s a personal quirk.

    Nothings quite grabbed me like Knights of the Dinner Table did, back in my D&D days.

  48. Zeno says:

    Webcomics are okay, and video games are great, but for god’s sake, never mix the two.

  49. Rewired says:

    @Doug F
    That doesn’t even scratch the surface of what was going on and only sees it from one viewpoint. Unfortunately Squidi (the writer) deleted all of the old blog posts on the subject in a failed attempt to put the whole fiasco behind him so I don’t have any references on this. What happened basically, was several people took his pixel art, recolored it and called it their own. He tried (not unreasonably) to enforce his copyright, the PA kids took offense and spammed his forums, inbox, etc; for over a year.

    Oh, and did I mention? Several people found his phone number and made death threats. Pleasant bunch aren’t they?

  50. Perry says:

    PA has always been bland to me. Good fodder for the sheep that like to be told what is cool.

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