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. gdr_karami says:

    Jim: Yep, you can’t actually die in the demo, I tried. If you get hurt it heals you. It is just the tutorial after all.

    I think the $20 would seem a lot more reasonable if the closest point of comparison to this game wasn’t free. Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden – review: http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=93941 download: http://www.gamingw.net/forums/index.php?topic=68488.0

  2. etho says:

    I like the comic, and the news posts and the podcast. I played the demo and liked it too. If I had money, I’d probably get the full version.

    The comic’s not perfect, though. Some of the strips are a miss. But most of them are at least decent, and the best of them are hilarious.

    XKCD, on the other hand, is nearly perfect. Every once in a while, there’s one that I am out-and-out too damn stupid for, but that’s rare.

    As for other comics… Wondermark is generally pretty good. PBF is sometimes great and sometimes terrible. CAD is terrible. VGCats is ok, but overrated Dinosaur comics is… funny, but does it really count as a comic? I mean, you see the strip once, then you could pretty much get the same effect with the dialogue in straight text form, right? I guess the recurring panels are part of the joke, but it’s not a joke I find especially funny. For story/character based strips, Achewood is one of the better ones, but it takes some work to get into it. Lore Sjoberg has an almost comic called Bad Gods, but I don’t know what the status is with that one. Lately the site has just been used to post Alt-Text videos.

    My favorite thing ever that can be described using the words “web” and “comic” is the Comics Curmudgeon.

    @Perry My god, you’re right! I am a sheep Penny Arcade isn’t cool or funny, and I only pretend to enjoy it so I can be a cool sheep! Quick kind sir! Tell me, what can I do to actually be cool?

  3. devlocke says:

    I like Penny Arcade alright, I think. I must, since it’s the only webcomic I remember exists often enough to actually check it on a regular basis. But my personal favorite (that I haven’t read in going on four or five years because I keep forgetting it exists) is Sluggy Freelance.

    Is that really bad? Every time I see a blog post or article that mentions webcomics I wonder if it will get mentioned and it never does. I read the first couple of years in a multi-week period while I was in college and after it took off, it seemed to have that perfect mix of instant joke and tiny stories with inside jokes and epic stories.

    I think I might make starting over from the beginning my next project. After I’m done rewatching all of my old MST3K episodes.

  4. Lucky Main Street says:

    Cat and Girl! Cat and Girl!

  5. wb says:

    It seems that the game — the ostensible reason for this thread in the first place — isn’t getting much discussion here.

    FWIW, I think the demo doesn’t do a very good job of showcasing the game’s strengths. The combat hits a sweet spot later in the game, but does tend to depend too much on random drops which are easy (albeit tedious) to replenish. The block mechanism is nonintuitive, and the interface has issues (such as when you’re forced to furiously scrub over tiny item icons in combat while the timer keeps running). But the bizarre setting and writing — kind of a pulp Norman Mailer doing a Lovecraft pastiche — keeps the game moving along, and if the quests are fairly repetitive, the game does a good job of keeping them short, intuitive, and well-mapped. There’s a pleasing variety of enemies, locations and items that keeps the grind from feeling, well, grindy.

    Personally, I found it an enjoyable diversion, better than (e.g.) the Sam and Max titles (although $20 is probably $5 too high). For a freshman effort, it’s remarkably polished, and for a game based (very loosely) on a gaming-centered webcomic, it’s both accessible and well-written.

    (Oh, and there’s already a game based on xkcd. It’s called “obtain a Master’s in discrete mathematics.”)

  6. wikiwikiwildwildwest says:

    http://www.hlcomic.com/index.php?date=2005-05-01 concerned, the half-life and death of gordon frohman

    i hate web comics, but this made me read every erm, issue? episode? page? in one go.

  7. spd from Russia says:

    ok so Iv played the demo – well made. I really like the original comics style of the game and the cutscenes, wich is a welcome change from the overdone cliche fantasy.

    But the game mechanics are pretty weak. Zero charachter development – as all the stats and extra abilities are auto-granted to you without any options or choice. And ridiculous combat that represent a bad mix of turn-based and button mashing?
    no, thank you

  8. Bas says:

    I recently discovered two comics that are actually pretty funny.

    http://www.eegra.com/show/sub/do/browse/cat/comics/id/4

    http://www.biggercheese.com/

  9. Zonderic says:

    Gaming webcomics’ humor rests on insider knowledge. Penny Arcade does use “fuck” too much. The world would be better if people read more books.

  10. Lukasz says:

    I don’t like PA either. from time to time I’ll check it out, maybe smile. but that’s it. I read quite few webcomics but I enjoy mostly Minus (great great stuff.) Post-Nuke, Breakfast of the Gods (It is a must read: http://www.webcomicsnation.com/poyorick/ so here is the link. Tony the Tiger Captain and few others try to fight off evil Count Chukula. Epic) and lolivsvenom. Rest I meh.

    anyhow
    on topic

    The game has no appeal to me. I’ll probably try demo but full version? nope

  11. sathanas says:

    I am always reminded of those huge VGCats hate threads at GAF for every single new comic. I keep thinking ‘if you guys hate the comic so much, why do you keep making threads about it?’ People just can’t leave things they dislike well enough alone. It’s what the literature refers to as a ‘stupid internet thing.’

  12. yutt says:

    I love how you had to go out of your way to insult the Penny Arcade fan base while at the same time repeating a self-fulfilling prophecy that you would be ridiculed by the rabid childish fans.

    Try reading the replies, you are far from alone in your ivory tower of elite humor. It is quite trendy to vocally announce how superior to Penny Arcade and its crass humor you are. Swear words!? Gracious!

    Yes, all Penny Arcade fans are puerile idiots who lack your sophisticated sense of humor and wit. If only we fools could all be a bit more pretentious we could enjoy life a little less, like you.

    I don’t hate you, you’re just sort of nothingness to me.

    Anyhow, I have enjoyed the comic for years, and enjoyed the game greatly. It is sort of a Final Fantasy/Adventure game in a Penny Arcade/Lovecraftian/Steampunk universe. I recommend trying out the demo.

  13. sathanas says:

    yutt

    ..I think I love you.

  14. Jason Russell says:

    yeah so penny arcade sucks they seem to have flown away up there own arses at some point and dont show any signs of coming down.

    I have tried the demo and it was a bit boring to be honest, i’m really losing my tollerance for JRPG’s and this a western RPG emulating a JRPG is just a dilution too far. considering all the pissing and moaning they do about other peoples games you think they’d make something fun.

    QC FTW

  15. yutt says:

    I’m just kind of appalled as I’ve never seen this sort of mean-spirited article on RPS before.

    The game is an excellent, polished, fun, work of honest love by Jerry and Mike and the talented folks at Hothead Studios. Every single person involved was in it to make the most entertaining and enjoyable experience they could for the players.

    This is an indie PC game, and life achievement from two of the most dedicated, well-known, and honest people in the PC critic industry; and they get this petty, insulting tirade as an introduction to their game.

    This article truly is an embarrassment to RPS, and its usual enthusiastic, optimistic, and higher quality standards. I hope it is redacted.

  16. sathanas says:

    I kind of feel the same way about a lot of the comments i read here that are usually bog-standard internet fanboy generalizations and irrational bias towards things that merit absolutely none. As one of the few PC-centric sites left (not focused solely on WoW), it is kind of disheartening to see the community behave this way.

  17. Albides says:

    Whoa there, Yutt, what’s mean-spirited about the article, and where did the writer bash an indie game? Yes, John rather nervously voiced his dislike for the webcomic, while repeatedly stating he was in the minority, but only used it to segue into a very neutral description of the game.

    Just because you don’t like the fact that most commenters don’t think the comic is terribly funny (it isn’t, this coming from someone who still chuckles at some of the older White Ninja strips), and maybe think the game shot by its own premise, doesn’t mean the entire article is “an embarrassment to RPS”. Geez.

  18. Turin Turambar says:

    I like PA. The strips are usually funny, amusing, insightful or smart (or all of them). Most of the time, at least. And both the prose and the art are top notch for a web comic.

    The game, well, i played the demo, and it wasn’t bad, but it was only the tutorial, which it is a very linear and easy experience. I doubt the full game is only like that.

    /Summmons cat. Dooming or grooming!

  19. Morph says:

    I would comment on the actual PA game, but some bug meant my cursor disappeared and I couldn’t carry on. Pity because it started out good. So I’ll have to talk about webcomics instead.

    PA – it can be pretty funny when they aren’t talking about WoW or the WoW card game. Yawn. Still there are much better reads out there.

    My recommendations are Scary go Round and Dinosaur Comics. Though xkcd, Sluggy Freelance, Perry Bible Fellowship and Questionable Content are all up there as well.

  20. Butler` says:

    “But I appear to be quite alone.”

    Seemingly not as alone as me, I don’t read web comics. :[

  21. James G says:

    Not a great PA fan, although don’t hate it either. Sometimes they are funny, other times they are just meh. Xkcd however is very much ftw. The Perry Bible Fellowship is also good, in a slightly disturbing kind of way.

  22. Kieron Gillen says:

    Jim: “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”

    Quoted as Jim’s stated my opinion on the matter. Doubly surprised that John thinks his peers all love Penny Arcade though – at least in RPS, I suspect we’re all in the “Occasionaly cute” category rather than actively following it. It’s just there, y’know.

    Admitedly, Jim R and I do use the “I’m like a shark – I can’t stop making metaphors” line when randomly walking around the house, but that’s because we can’t stop making metaphors.

    EDIT: Haven’t played the game yet though. Interested in everyone else’s take on the matter.

    KG

  23. Finncognito says:

    xkcd is pretty bad. It doesn’t really have jokes, most of the time it just references some obscure stuff only nerds like me would get. Or it does some really bad strip about love and deep thoughts (again, without jokes or any actual insight). Could be worse, at least it’s not CAD or Questionable Content.

  24. Alec Meer says:

    One day we’ll just be there, like it or not.

  25. Kieron Gillen says:

    To me, Alec, you’re already there, like it or not.

    KG

  26. roryok says:

    Yeah I agree with alex about the smugness, it shines through more in the written stuff than in the comic, and then much more from tycho than gabe. I listened to their podcast once and that sealed it for me. Gabe/Mike was laid back and didnt care too much Tycho/Jerry sounded like teenager with a bug up his ass, practically looking for stuff to knock in his very effluent way.

    And I also completely agree that xkcd is a lot better. And if any of you don’t like it, you’re not geek enough.

    No, don’t argue. just accept it. It could be taken as a compliment. so take it that way. take it and like it.

    As for other comics, I occasionally read other stuff. I read the always controversial and sometimes hilarious explosm.net / cyanide & happiness although I went off it for a bit when they had their butt sex week (don’t ask), also I read the odd Dino Comics, Perry Bible Fellowship, White Ninja etc.

    There used to be one comic out there (which I havent seen mentioned here) which was on a par with PA but not so smug. It was run by two Northern Irish guys I think – pressstarttoplay.net is the site. its still up but not updated anymore. It wasn’t consistently hilarious, but it did have its moments

    PS: Getting loads of names of comics I’d never have seen from this post!

  27. Okami says:

    I really loved XKCD, until he did that stupid strip about techno. Now I just merely like it, having noticed that even a witty and intelligent individual like Randall Munroe isn’t safe from beeing an ignorant twat on some subjects.

    As for Penny Arcade: I still kinda like it, but after 6 years of reading every strip, it does get old a bit. I also don’t enjoy reading their blog as much as I did once. It’s ok as long as they write about games (though I don’t allways agree with them, but that’s ok too. Also Tycho’s writing does get old as well. It’s become very predictable and is very often style over substance.), but whenever they leave that territory I can’t help feeling that they guys are rather conservative and reactionary.

    I rather prefer Machall and it’s successor http://threepanelsoul.com/ . I’ve really enjoyed following Ian’s carreer from student and web-comic artist to game artist and part time indie game developer (Penny Arcade have their own game? Well, Ian has been releasing Mods for Morrowind and doing little flash games for years. And he’s been doing it all himself, all while really developing his own unique art style, allways experimenting along the way) and I can fully relate to Matt’s bleeding heart liberalism and obsession with justice.

    Having said all that, I’ve been wating for the PA game for quite some time now and I desperately want it to be good. Because for all my criticism of PA, I still rather like them.

    EDIT: Threepanelsoul did strips about Dwarf Fortress. Now that’s what I call indie gaming comic street cred: http://threepanelsoul.com/view.php?date=2008-04-21

  28. John Walker says:

    Hi yutt!

    I didn’t do any of those things. I said that it doesn’t work for me, and that I’m missing out because of that.

  29. Xander77 says:

    I used to rant in a positive or negative manner about various comics, but now I just link to this:
    http://xander77.livejournal.com/10164.html#cutid1
    You can safely assume that if a comic is reviewed there, it sucks. :)

  30. James Lyon says:

    Put me in the ‘it doesn’t really do it for me’ camp as well.

    Incidentally, I see they’re still putting out MegaTokyo.

  31. Crispy says:

    xkcd is the Frasier of webcomics. You really need to be in the loop to get it half the time, but if you are, it’s very funny.

    I don’t know what Penny Arcade is (the Family Guy?), but to follow my analogy through VGCats is probably the Friends of webcomics.

  32. toxygene says:

    PA == meh
    CTRL+ALT+DEL == cool
    http://www.megatokyo.com/ == best

  33. Gulag says:

    Hmm, seems to me that one of the big cons against this game (I had a go of the demo, will probably splash the cash, why isn’t it on Steam?!) is that it’s a Penny Arcade game. I don’t think it would have mattered what kind of game they made, (RPG, FPS, whatever), it was always going to be saturated in the things that make PA what it is, and thus be a complete turn-on or turn-off depending on pre-existing tastes. In other words, if Penny Arcade is your cup of tea, you will find plenty here to enjoy. If not, then it’s Mehsville.

    As for the game (demo) itself, I thought it was a very polished affair, with some unusual design choices that walked a fine line between innovation and familiar ground. The battle system, the core game as it were, (Everything else being a point & click delivery path for the frequently hilarious prose.) took a little getting used to, but manages to turn the quite static, menu-centric JRPG model into something more akin to Whack-A-Mole, with various timers and meters refilling and quick-time events powering the special attacks.

    This won’t be every bodies plate of chips, but it definitely shows that the devs, and I suspect the PA lads themselves, have given some thought to how this traditional model works and doesn’t work, and have taken steps to make it familiar to those who have played dozens of games like it, while making it appealing to people who wouldn’t sit through 5 minutes of Final Fantasy 8 if you stapled them to the chair.

    (Well, this has run on a bit.)

    The writing is pure PA. More impressively the visuals are pure PA, and the game shines because of it, and the demo has little flourishes that show a high level of attention to detail. In the avatar creation screen, the model starts to grab at it’s head as you flip through the various shapes on offer, a bewildered look on it’s face as you reshape it’s noggin with the casual fickleness of a god. That got a laugh from the house, even before I started playing.

    Not much else to say about this until I’ve tried the whole thing, except to say that the demo does it’s job; Now I want to try it.

  34. Rook says:

    You know somethings gone wrong when someone tries to use the term “whack-a-mole” to suggest an improvement.

  35. Vincent Leeuw says:

    .::: As I mentioned elsewhere: the demo reminded me of Shadow Madness for the original PlayStation.

  36. kavika says:

    So, I read PA pretty religiously, cause I’m a purile 27 year old male sheep and all. *mleh mleh* (the sound of a sheep giving you the typical anime rude gesture). Yes, I think the word “fuck” isn’t used enough, and can be funny. PA are also very smug, but I like smug. I’m smug, and seeing other smug people makes me feel better about my smugness.

    Can’t say much about the game, yet, other than the fact that it looked pretty sweet at PAX, I’m super-excited about them supporting Linux/Mac, and I bought it 30 mins after it was released. Yes, rabid fanboy.

    I keep seeing XKCD linked off Bluesnews, and most of the ones he picks are pretty “meh,” or a little chuckle. That, coupled with the non-existent art style, makes me not want to read the comic. However, going through just the last 10-15 comics in the archives made me laugh out loud about 4 times. I think you may have convinced me to give it a chance.

  37. Gulag says:

    @Rook: Forgive me for enjoying fairground distractions over Excel sheet simulators. Each to their own.

  38. Rook says:

    Yeah, because obviously the only choice to be had when making an RPG is excel or whack-a-mole.

  39. Gap Gen says:

    Of course, Scarygoround is the best internet cartoon ever, and Riceboy is also very good.

    I’m not sure I enjoy the whole JRPG thing of standing around and taking turns to bash each other, but Anacrhonox did it and was excellent despite it, so I might give this one a go.

  40. Doug F says:

    Rewired – are you seriously holding the creators of the comic responsible for the actions of their fans? Perhaps if you could point to any example of them asking fans to raid Squidi, but otherwise it sounds like you’re blaming them for there being assholes on the internet.

  41. AbyssUK says:

    Sorry I like it, makes be chuckle every so often. Am no die hard fan, but the CTS is the aces and the guy can draw.

    Everybody knows the best comic on the internet is DrMcNinja anyway.. come on a doctor who is a ninja! brilliant

  42. Simonio says:

    Have none of you the wit to fathom Virus Comix? http://www.viruscomix.com/

    Not specifically gaming related, but about the sort of . . oh fuc

  43. Albides says:

    Meh. The best webcomic is actually Warren Ellis’s Freakangels.

    What? Oh, okay. If we’re talking amateur stuff, I don’t think Dresden Codak, Minus, Pictures for Sad Children or Overcompensating have been mentioned.

    The best, A Lesson is Learned sadly is on hiatus. And the Perry Bible Fellowship hasn’t updated in a while.

    But someone should totally do a game of 8 bit theatre because…oh, oh, wait…

  44. Shanucore says:

    I’ve been reading PA for years. It doesn’t always hit, and a lot of the strips raise little more than a grin, but I think it makes me laugh out loud more consistently than any other webcomic I read – save, possibly, Starslip Crisis, and /definitely/ PBF (which updates so rarely anyway).

    I’m loving the PA game thus far – very good fun, even the seen-it-all-before core combat gameplay – and the art, animation and dialogue are all great. (I’m a big fan of Tycho’s writing, myself. And I think it’s unfair to claim that PA punchlines are primarily the word “fuck”. Why, sometimes they say “balls” as well! No, really, I think the use of profanity is usually very well-judged, and fits the interplay between the strip’s main characters perfectly.)

  45. grumpy says:

    What? PA is funny sometimes. Which is better than certain other webcomics. And even when they’re not funny, they’ve got a decent art style, and usually make interesting points about the industry.

    And anyone criticizing XKCD just need to die horribly :p

  46. Sideath says:

    Sometimes webcomics don’t have to be funny.

    Christ.

  47. BigBadB says:

    I like PA, mainly because Tycho and I seem to have very similar tastes in games, and I find his opinions to be a better guide to whether it’s worth checking something out than most reviews these days. =(

    As a few people have mentioned, the strip itself is nearly always related to a post, or vice versa – only reading one or the other doesn’t tend to work very well.

  48. heartless_ says:

    I don’t laugh at all their stuff, but I never have stopped laughing about the present they sent John Smedley at SOE :)

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