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Friday, June 22, 2012

Video game review: Penny Arcade

8.0 out of 10

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In anticipation of the release of Penny Arcade's third game coming out next week, I made a point of downloading the first two “episodes” to give them a whirl. I had relatively few expectations:

1. They had to be funny, like the comic.

2. The gameplay had to be enjoyable.

3. They had to be priced reasonably.

Here's what I found:

1. They were totally funny, with the humor of the comic fitting nicely into both games.

2. The gameplay was enjoyable.

3. They were pretty reasonably priced. For the most part.

For those of you who have never read the Penny Arcade comic, you're missing out. It's humorous, and it regularly pokes fun at the video game industry in general. You don't need to be a follower of the comic to understand the storylines of either “episodes” (which are available on Xbox Live, PC and PS3) … all you need to know is that you'll be playing an entirely unique character who is regularly helped by Gabe and Tycho, two hilarious do-gooders who are generally capable hunters of the paranormal and weird.

The game has a cartoonish feel, and the storylines are mostly simple. For instance, in the first “Episode,” a giant robot crushes your house. You need to figure out why. What sets Penny Arcade's game apart are the hilarious storytelling and the down-to-earth gameplay that feels like a throwback to the good old-fashioned RPG's of yesteryear. With fighting.

What's the fighting like? Well, it's kind of like the battles in Final Fantasy VII. You'll run into monsters (or mimes … or bums …) and fight them using a turn-based system that lets you attack and use special moves. In the second “episode,” you'll find that the turn-based system has been adjust a little bit to make blocking an enemy's attack a little more difficult.

Yup … you can block your enemy's attacks if you time it right. You'll also be expected to collect a souvenir so a “scientist” can urinate on it. And since both episodes were written by the guys who do Penny Arcade, you can also expect TONS of in-jokes for those who regularly play video games.

My one minor quibble: the price is high. Not unreasonably high, but it'll make you second-guess yourself a bit, especially if you haven't read the comic. So go read the comic, then make a decision. If you like the humor, you won't be disappointed.