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. Smartass McGee says:

    XKCD: the webcomic for people who think they’re too smart to read webcomics.

  2. David McBride says:

    John: Any chance of Brian’s Guide making a comeback?

    (Eeep – its only returning a lonely 500 error now..)

  3. Paul says:

    No Saturday Morning Breakfast Club or Diesel Sweeties? For shame.
    I just got through checking a few comics each of all recommendations I didn’t know and really liked Tom the Dancing Bug, Wondermark and ALiL. Thanks.

    Ps: About the techno xkcd comment, read the alt-text. The alt-text really adds to them all, but, granted, it was a fairly lame strip.

  4. Radiant says:

    So… Piracy, Zombies and now Penny Arcade; just who is the other RPS horsemen?
    Japanese Porn…sorry Dating games?

    Panty Snatcher Zero Alpha was a disastrous entry in the series. The last few clothes pegs where impossible to grab off the washing line so there was no way to attach them to the nipple bot warrior princess… total game breaker.

  5. Adam Bloom says:

    I love Penny Arcade. PA, Yahtzee, and a few good blogs constitute “gaming journalism” for me far more than any of the big gaming websites or magazines.

    As someone who manages to get some surface information on almost everything PA makes a joke about, the comics almost always strike the funny. The blog posts are great fun and I love Tycho’s writing style.

    I guess I don’t understand people who find “smugness” offensive. Are we so trained to suppress our egos that the slightest hint of one showing through should elicit cries of arrogance? If you disagree with someone or they insult you then by all means dislike them, but disliking someone because of how they write or talk? I don’t get it.

    I also loved the game, of course. It has Tycho writing and Tycho dialog. The combat has just the right amount of action and challenge for a light RPG, and the art and style of the world are just great.

    Er. I guess I can also mention that I read almost every webcomic that’s been mentioned in the few billion comics that precede me. Does that make me smug? I just don’t know…

  6. Gap Gen says:

    Albides: Overcompensating and Dresden Codak are, if I remember correctly, both professional, in that their authors use the comic as their main income.

    I think PBF has semi-retired.

  7. Yhancik says:

    I guess that in order to make everyone happy, what we need is a kind of crossover multi-character platform beat’em-up series called Webcomics Ultimate All-Stars Melee.

  8. Ian Dorsch says:

    I like PA just fine. It’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread or anything, but I usually find it amusing and I think Mike and Jerry are genuinely good guys. I’ll check out their game, why the heck not.

  9. Dinger says:

    Walker’s now proven he can troll with the masters of the art.

    Criticizing PA for rarely being funny is like criticizing RPS for rarely having any interesting demos. Yes, in theory that’s why folks read it; in practice the gag part of the comic is only part of PA. There’s also the graphic art. Then there’s the “article”, the massive expo, the charity drive, in short: the empire. Chief in that is the community that uses PA as their focal point for a fan-centered community of videogame enthusiasts. You know, people who like to play games? Sure, developers, publishers and journalists all seek participation in this world, but blogger or not, they’re a couple of gamers who sell a fiction of themselves living the videogame lifestyle. The comic provides access to their populist narrative.

    So, no, I don’t follow them regularly, but really, if you’re not getting it, maybe there’s nothing to get?

    okay, since the post was modified to talk about the demo, I’ll do the same: Unlike Sam-n-Max, the pacing on this seemed right. The cutscene work was very well done, and the parody aspects were done right: very present, but you don’t feel stupid if you don’t get it. The art is just good. As far as the “fuck” punchline goes: when people are running around, shouting one of a generic 6 lines when you click on it, having one be “HOLY FUCKING SHIT” tends to wear me out. I like swearing, but the art of the writing is in finding le gros mot juste.

  10. KingMob says:

    I like PA, but that’s neither here nor there.

    I’ve got the game and it’s kind of fun, haven’t finished it yet. Some of the game mechanics are fiddly and lacking in usability.
    Maybe one of the kind gentlemen of RPS will actually buy the game and post a review, and we can talk about the game in that comment thread, rather than this pointless “talking about comics” thread.

  11. Gap Gen says:

    I don’t think expressing an opinion in such a reserved way with so many qualifiers really counts as trolling.

  12. Michael says:

    Most PA comics don’t do much for me. Some are funny though.

    Personally, I like Ctrl Alt Del much more as far as gaming comics go. Order of the Stick is also often hilarious.

  13. Michael says:

    For me it’s PA and Sinfest, Order of the stick is pretty cool as well.

  14. yutt says:

    @Sideath

    Yes, thank you. Some people have set in their minds that every comic is supposed to cause them have a painful belly laugh as tears of pure bliss stream down their face. A good portion of the Penny Arcade comics aren’t even trying to be humorous.

  15. Tim Maly says:

    About the game.

    I downloaded it last night and played through the tutorial and some of the early game. The whole thing is a strange beast. It’s an Adventure-RPG hybrid using Penny Arcade humour set in a kind of 1930s-steampunk-lovecraft universe. So there’s a lot of parts of the Venn diagram that need to intersect for you to love the game.

    Is it any good? I’m enjoying it so far. The dialogue is amusing though I haven’t had any laugh out loud moments. The art is beautiful and the setting is cool enough that I want to explore it more.

    So, a qualified Buy?

  16. Michael says:

    every comic is supposed to cause them have a painful belly laugh as tears of pure bliss stream down their face

    Wait… is this what comics are supposed to do? Funny, I’ve been getting than when I beat hookers to death in GTA. Something must be wrong with those comics.

  17. Alex says:

    Just read that this game has BioShock-like DRM! Online activation (not that weird, seeing as it’s a downloadable game) + limited to 3 installs!

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1676

    Especially silly, since as far as I can ascertain, the game has already been cracked.

  18. scopie says:

    I agree with Adam Bloom. I think it’s fine to be a little arrogant and smug if you are excellent at what you do. And, regardless of whether or not you think the content of comic is funny, it would be hard to argue that Gabe is a not a fine artist and Tycho not a good writer.

    I especially enjoy reading entries from different eras of the comic and seeing how the art has changed over the years. XKCD is and always will be stick figures, and that’s OK because it’s not the point, but PA has an extra dimension I appreciate there. In the same vein, Perry Bible Fellowship is the freaking Don Giovanni of webcomics.

    It’s also worth noting that people who do great work (and know it) usually tend to be a little more self-important than the rest of us. I think they’ve earned it.

  19. ron says:

    penny arcade fucking sucks and so does xkcd.

  20. randomnine says:

    yutt: every videogame out there is someone’s Greatest Thing I’ve Ever Done. There’s new people on every team who are immensely proud to land their first shipped title and hold the box. It’s the job of critics to tell us what’s good and what’s new, not dance around people’s feelings. Even if they are internet celebrities!

    PA regularly slate other people’s games on their front page. They know how this all works.

  21. GothikX says:

    Dudes… I thought this was a gaming blog? Huh… anyway, even if I’m completely neutral on PA, hearing about the game did pique my interest. And when the demo ended, I bought the full game and can’t say I’m sorry about it.

    As far as the graphics and art direction goes, well it’s good. I’ve always had a weakness for hand-drawn elements in games, cel shading isn’t bad when it works, comic-style panels in cutscenes were a touch of genius; dialogs were… well, PA style, but that didn’t bother me that much. It’s rated mature, so there’s quite a bit of gratuitous four-letter words or even gestures, but hey, I’m sick of bland games so that wasn’t bad either. I’d say fuck too if a possessed cardboard fair attraction said somethin’ about my mother.

    Combat? Yeeaaah. Well, it’s not perfect, but I waded through the entire Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 8, and there can’t possibly be anything worse. The apparent style of combat might be the same, but it’s a lot more strategic actually – even a little beyond ‘pay attention to each enemy’s resistances and weaknesses’. There are also some QTEs in there, but imho they add diversity and a sense of purpose without really distracting from the action. Combat isn’t great all in all, but it does have the potential to become quite good; remember this is just episode 1, and there’s room for a lot of tweaking.

  22. hidden_7 says:

    I like Penny-Arcade, it’s funnier more often than not, though it’s not the greatest webcomic out there (that would be Achewood), but I played the demo and immediately bought the game, which I don’t really regret. $20 may be a little steep, since I beat it in an evening, but it was fun, I liked the combat, had some nice time management elements going on, and it caused me to laugh out loud more than a couple times, which is rare in a game. If you like the comic I’d consider giving it a buy. If you don’t, then, well, don’t. It really is a game for their fans. This isn’t really that stupid or insular considering how many fans they have.

    Sidenotes about webcomics: I really don’t understand people that like CAD more than PA. I can understand people that like niether, or PA and not CAD, but like… CAD is just a poorly done derivitive of PA’s humour, and as much as Gabe and Tycho can kinda be assholes at times (though generally I’d think they are good guys), Buckley is like… a certified card carrying jerk. Look into some of the drama sorrounding his WoW-guild, or just the general way he responds to criticism.

    Also, on XKCD, which I do like and read, but MAN is that hit and miss. It’s probably the most hit and miss comic out there. About a third are really genuinely funny, a third are awful musings on like, love and meanings of life and stuff, and a third are probably funny if you have a math degree or something. I don’t have a math degree, nor do I know anyone that does. It seems insane to criticise PA for pandering to a specific audience (gamers) and then praise XKCD, considering how to be in PA’s audience you have to be somewhat in gamer culture (RPS’s audience, for example, would fit into PA’s audience) and to be in XKCD’s audience you need to learn you up some pretty obscure and complicated stuff. Like, honestly, today’s is just a bunch of numbers! That turns into other numbers?! Still, that third that I do get and is funny is great.

  23. Cargo Cult says:

    hidden_7: Are you trying to say that you don’t find jokes like this utterly hilarious?

    (And it’s a computer science gag rather than a pure mathematics one, and I still get it despite having studied physics… :-P )

  24. brog says:

    hidden_7: maths, obscure? no way. agree that the current one is noob though. but it can’t be criticised for being unfunny – it’s not attempting to be, it’s just “here’s a way to produce a random location near where you are”.

  25. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Wait, wait… what is people’s problem with xkcd, anyway? It’s at least got a better chuckles-to-strips ratio than PA, which is more interesting for its essay posts.

  26. malkav11 says:

    I’m pretty sure that, barring one or two more experimental side-projects like the Cardboard Tube Samurai, Penny Arcade really is meant to be funny every time. Listen to their podcasts – it’s them sitting down and bullshitting while trying to zero in on something that makes them laugh in a way they feel they can translate into comic form. More often than not I don’t think it’s as hilarious as they do, but that’s fine by me. I’ve always felt that creators should primarily create for themselves and they would then naturally acquire an audience that has similar tastes.

  27. Justin says:

    I played the whole game; I liked it. It took me a bit to figure out the combat; I expected a sedate system where you take turns clicking things; the system as it works grew on me over the course of the game. What I found significant was that the whole game is a reflection of two people’s art style; I really like that coherency, and it’s hard to come by in most larger games just because of the way they are made.

    That’s why I like adventure games; not because I’m enamored of clicking about the screen or inventory management; it’s because they are an excellent platform on which to draw/write a world based on someone’s vision rather than just providing as real a simulation as possible. Psychonauts comes to mind here as a good example.

    Also! While we are talking about comics, I must mention Hark! A Vagrant and Nobody Scores!.

    There’s lots more comics (many not completely on the web) that are good for someone who like the PA game pseudo-horror stylings – Girl Genius (already mentioned), Hellboy, Rick Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder series, Nocturnals, the Graphic Classics series, Boneyard, From Hell, The Coffin, The Nevermen, The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings/Monsters/etc series, and so on. It’s all worth looking for.

    Why oh why doesn’t someone make a game out of Gary Gianni’s Corpus Monstrum? (good luck finding that one; it’s perfection in a book, but very rare.)

  28. Crispy says:

    Cargo, I think it’s fair to say you probably need to have either studied maths as some element of a university/college level course or at least taken a full maths A-level equivalent in the last 4 years to get that comic. Suffice to say it is incredibly esoteric.

    I haven’t touched maths since (UK) A level Maths / AS level Physics and I’m completely lost on that punchline.

  29. Zed says:

    Am I the only one who instantly hated the control scheme?

  30. Cargo Cult says:

    Crispy: at risk of killing the joke utterly stone-dead…

    It’s about computational complexity. The travelling salesman problem, namely finding the shortest route between a number of destinations and back again, is a seemingly straightforward problem which becomes horribly difficult the more destinations there are to visit.

    ‘Big O notation’ is a shorthand used to describe how the size of input data affects an algorithm’s running time or memory requirements. Something really easy like, say, finding the furthest destination from your starting point would be O(n) – in other words, doubling the number of destinations would mean it would take twice as long to find the result. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…

    A naïve approach to the travelling salesman problem? O(n!) – or put more simply, dear holy mother of arse things get complicated so very quickly. 1, 2, 6, 24, 120, 720…

    The sensible approach? Advertising your wares on Ebay so that you don’t have to go anywhere!

    Also, velociraptors.

  31. Morph says:

    Have played the game for about 3 hours and am enjoying it.

    It looks lovely, a great mix of 2-D and 3-D and the locations and characters are well done. The written descriptions of things are good, though clicking on everything just to read about it (and unlock bonus artwork) breaks the flow somewhat.

    The game play is odd (having played only FF7 as comparable), but suits the game well – it gives time between combats to appreciate the visuals and excellent writing. The combat isn’t bad, the little QTEs add a bit of skill.

    The game feels a bit linear, it’s basically a case of deciding what order to undertake the fights in. Plus, being used to western RPGs, I was disappointed not to have a say in how a character’s experience is spent.

    Overall a fairly cheap purchase that I’ve enjoyed for a few hours so far. Not bad at all.

  32. Meat Circus says:

    Played the demo last night.

    Looks absolutely stunning. The demo is easy, but has a great deal of charm. Combat reminiscent of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and that’s NO BAD THING AT ALL.

    Sense of humour perhaps slightly puerile, but you know what, I found it to be actually funny, laughing aloud on several occasions. (Telltale take note).

    The game has good pedigree, so based on this evidence, I’ll definitely be splashing out for the full game.

  33. kadayi says:

    Demo. interesting, love the 2D 3D thing, but have yet to be able to make a female character that doesn’t look like she got hit by the ugly stick repeatedly (maybe I’m missing something here…). Pondering purchase, but will give demo a further run before deciding.

    On a side note, 1920s Steampunk/Gothic and copious swearing seem at odds tbh. I was expecting more wit.

  34. Okami says:

    Played the demo, bought the game, enjoyed it so far. I like the setting, I like the writing and the art style. The combat is ok, better than most JRPGs and the running around bits in between.. well… I’ve played through Final Fantasy X, which was basically “walk five metres, render cutscene, ingame cutscene, talk to five guys, walk five metres, render cutscene, etc..” so I’m kinda used to this. Doesn’t mean I like it, but I can look over it.

    You can’t skip cutscenes, which is a crime punishable by death in some parts of the world.

  35. GothikX says:

    @Okami: Actually, you can skip cutscenes the second time around, I think. Which is fine.

  36. Okami says:

    @GothikX: I guess that would be ok then. Problem is, I played the demo on my office pc and then downloaded the game at home, so I had to sit through all the cutscenes for a second time.

    I guess they’ll get away with a five years prison sentence in that case..

  37. Birdoman says:

    http://badwebcomics.blogspot.com/ – All the webcomic criticism you’ll ever need.

    The problem with XKCD is that it’s so damn smug with its “oh I do maths, I’m so above you” attitude. Just look at http://xkcd.com/164/ – for a guy who likes to write about philosophy at some level, that’s a strange abdication of morality: the history of science makes it obvious that winning the argument is half the battle, and to think otherwise is mindless positivism. I do read it, I (mostly) understand it, and it is sometime amusing, but damn if it’s not incredibly annoying. Lucid-tv and Nobodyscores! are much more rewarding.

    For the game itself, didn’t mind the wandering around, and the rewards for inquisitiveness were enjoyable, but the combat was a bit flat. Great dialogue and art tho’.

  38. brog says:

    Birdoman: huh? because everything a character says in a comic is what the author believes?

  39. Jaxtrasi says:

    Birdoman:

    While I’m not much of a fan of xkcd (we have a long-running tradition of pointing out that a given conversation we just had, with stick figures added, would have been considered a fine xkcd by the writer) but that specific comic isn’t so much intellectual elitism as a nervous admission of “bad thoughts”. He’s saying that on a perverse level, knowing you’re right in the long term could feel better than proving yourself right in the short term, even if it’s awful for everyone. I don’t believe this to be his actual philosophical position. If it was, he wouldn’t write the comic that he does.

    As long as you don’t expect it to be clever, funny or particularly observant, it’s one of the better ones, specifically for its humility.

  40. dhex says:

    the concept of a penny arcade game is still deeply confusing to me. it’s a sort of ha ha ur ur type funny so, which seems like an odd property to build a game around.

  41. tWB says:

    Birdoman — For my part, I took the title of that xkcd literally: I think he’s actually making an argument based on “mindless positivism” (perhaps “remorseless positivism” might be a better term) as a rhetorical strategy. “Oh, so you’re sure there’s no such thing as runaway anthropogenic warming? Well, let’s just sit here quietly and see if Bangladesh floods out in another decade after the polar ice sheets melt. I’m quite curious to see the results of possible catastrophic oceanic flooding and massive saline intrusion into Gulf Coast farmlands. After all, it’s not every day you get to see billions of persons forcibly relocated by system global catastrophes. But, maybe you’re right and nothing will go wrong. We’ll see.

    “Oh, so now you want to talk about carbon offsets? But you were so sure a minute ago….”

    Whether such an argument would work is another question, but I don’t think the author actually believes the “devil’s advocate” position he’s taking.

  42. Winterborn says:

    I like some webcomics, mainly Questionable Content, but yeah never got PA. Good articles though.

  43. Ozzie says:

    I never hated them, but often the comics lacked a punchline, or it was all too similar.
    Surprisingly though, I like them more now than some years ago.
    Haven’t read them for some time in between, though.

  44. MrMelons says:

    I don’t know who Ted talks to but last time i checked in the states PAX was one of the biggest gaming expo’s on, at least the West Coast. So as far as everyone hating them at this point i would step out of the closet Ted because you seem to be in the dark on that matter.
    That said i would say they are probably one of the best gaming sites i have ever visited. Through their site alone ive been introduced to a lot of games i would have never even heard of because they were underdog titles. Which brings me to the point that the reason they don’t want to do steam is because they want complete control over their products much like parents want full custody of their children. Also they are planning on using GreenHouse as a gateway for Indie game creators to have their own Steam like system in which to get their names out there. This point should come as pretty cool for at least some of the writers on this site considering i see many posts related to indie games on here all the time.

  45. Joonas says:

    I knew it wasn’t cool to like Penny Arcade, which I do, but I’m surprised at the amount of hate around here, haven’t seen such behavior before. I don’t know about you guys, but I just don’t read comics I don’t like. No point spoiling your days thinking about how much you’re not into them.

  46. Ben Abraham says:

    I’m surprised at the amount of hate around here

    It’s RPS. Apparently, it’s cool to hate!

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