This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Zeboyd Games' RPG throwback On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode 3, which reviews describe as "an easy choice for anyone with an appreciation for turn-based combat and a good Cthulhu reference." Rain-Slick 3 currently earns a score of 78 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
IGN's Mitch Dyer scores the game at 8 out of 10. "Don't let Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness -- Episode Three fool you," he explains. "This is a far more complex, challenging, and fulfilling role-paying game than the 16-bit retro style and $5 price would have you believe."
Dyer continues: "This throwback sequel distills the humorous melodrama and razor-sharp wit from Rain-Slick's 3D entries, and then fuses it with stellar Super NES-era pixel art, all without losing an atom of the sharp wit, detailed Lovecraft-ian lore, and goofy melodrama that make the series special."
Dyer cites the battle system as a particular highlight. "An hour or so in, Penny Arcade starts making you consider the order of your turn-based actions," he recalls. "The command bar in each battle becomes as important as the skills and spells in your arsenal. Interrupting an enemy with a specific move may not hurt them like a flaming apocalypse or a skeleton summon, but it will knock their position back on the bar, delaying when they're allowed to take their turn."
"The third episode of Penny Arcade Adventures looks and plays different than its predecessors, and the new direction is one worth rallying behind," Dyer praises. "The first hour or so is a slow burn, but the smarter combat and more elaborate encounters keep battles entertaining while the witty, long-form comedy keeps the overly dramatic story light and fun. Unless you're allergic to nostalgia, there's no reason not to play Rain-Slick."
Alex Roth at Games Radar gives Rain-Slick 34 out of 5 stars. "For the agency's third outing," he begins. "Penny Arcade creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik have teamed up with 16-bit enthusiasts Zeboyd Games to create a tactically minded, lovingly rendered tribute to SNES-era RPGs, built around PA's particular brand of hyper verbal, off-kilter comedy."
"If you've never played a Zeboyd title, they do for top-down RPGs what Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz did for zombie and buddy cop movies," Roth explains. "Rain-Slick 3 both lampoons old-school Final Fantasy-type RPGs and offers an admirable re-creation of the turn-based, four-character style. With its blocky aesthetic and excitable [chiptune] soundtrack, it could be mistaken for an early-90s release -- upon first glance, at least."
The class system provides added depth. "The game's class pin system allows each character to use three sets of abilities," Roth notes. "Each has a base class and two additional combat roles that can be assigned. Giving the fisticuff-favoring Gabriel (the Brute class) the Tube Samurai class pin allows him to build extra strength and speed using battle stances.
"We found a favorite tactic in using our mage-like character Moira to unleash Rat Swarm, which inflicts Hoboism, bringing with it social disenfranchisement and upward of a hundred damage per round. Following it up with Bumfight made short work of most foes."
"Do you like old-school RPGs? Do you like Penny-Arcade? If you answered yes to both, this game was made for you," Roth asserts. "The game is also a mere $5, so if you're craving some gaming nostalgia circa 1995, but don't feel like yet another trek through Earthbound or Phantasy Star IV, Rain-Slick 3 is an easy choice for anyone with an appreciation for turn-based combat and a good Cthulhu reference."
RPGFan's Derek Heemsbergen rates Rain-Slick 3 at 65 out of 100. "On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness has been a vehicle for some genuinely superb writing, and Episode 3 continues to deliver the laughs in spades," he admits. "What it also delivers, however, is a disappointingly uneven game experience that reeks of squandered potential."
"I've heard many times that Final Fantasy XIII is considered the epitome of linear game design," Heemsbergen continues. "Penny Arcade Episode 3 effortlessly snatches that title away, and not to its benefit. Ninety-nine percent of battles take place at scripted locations and enemies never re-spawn, making it impossible to develop characters without progressing the story."
In addition: "The small world of New Arcadia has very little to explore. New areas open up one-by-one, and there are no alternate routes aside from the occasional treasure chest just off the beaten path. One area, a haunted house, is an egregious offender: the party is split into two, and the player has to traverse the entire thing twice, scripted battles aplenty."
The game's writing shines, however. "The script is the one element of the game I cannot praise enough," Heemsbergen praises. "Jerry Holkins' writing is nothing short of excellent, rife with wordplay and salacious wit. The trademark Penny Arcade sense of humor is wholly intact. [...] The few instances of dramatic dialogue are impressive and carry a poetic sensibility that tickled my inner linguaphile."
"At a final length of about six to eight hours, Penny Arcade Episode 3 is a decent value for the money, as long as you keep your expectations in check," Heemsbergen concludes. "Before long, an initially promising concept gives way to a fairly shallow gameplay experience. I have a lot of respect for Zeboyd, and I hope that the next episode of On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness will succeed where this one failed. Come for the game, but stay for the writing."