Penny Arcade Episode 2 Review
There are not many games out there that are genuinely funny and entertaining. Psychonauts is one that comes to mind, but that was released for the original Xbox. There hasn’t been many games that are so tongue in cheek, the tongue has perforated the skin and is sticking out of the cheek. The previous instalment of the Penny Arcade Adventures series was a real stand-out title for me on Xbox Live Arcade. It was an expensive 1600 MS Points, but by gosh it was a brilliant game. The second instalment in the series with such a long title, that I can’t even be bothered to write it due to the mind blowing effects of it, hit Xbox Live Arcade at the reduced price of 1200 MS Points. Is this a more acceptable price point or does it fall flat of the original?
Well, first of all, I had no problems with the 1600 MS Points price. What you were getting for that price was a brilliant adventure title not seen since the days of Grim Fandango. It combined the Penny Arcade humour with some interesting combat and great characters. It truly was one of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade at the time. Episode 2 is not as good as Episode 1, but it is still a belter of a title.
The story picks up shortly after the team, containing Tycho, Gabe and yourself, destroyed the first God threatening New Arcadia. Tycho and Gabe then leave you to rebuild your life after your house was destroyed in the first game. Of course, New Arcadia doesn’t stay quiet for long. Tycho and Gabe discover a scientist who may have been involved in the creation of the evil robots (whose actual title I don’t think I’m allowed to put into print.) You then, of course, set about discovering the mysteries surrounding the robots and end up being distracted by a number of things such as robot monkey fighting and quests to fetch wedding rings.
As before, you create a character using a similar creation system. There still aren’t a lot of options, but you are able to make a plausible doppleganger of yourself. Your character is then thrown straight into the action appearing not only in the gameplay, but in the animated cut-scenes and dialogue sections. It still managed to make me smile at how great it is to see a cartoon character I had made rubbing shoulders with other characters even though I played through the first game for review not so long ago. Speaking of animated cut-scenes, there are a significant increase in the number of them throughout the game which really add to the humour, especially watching Gabe cry as his new found robot monkey friend sent to fight.
The combat this time around hasn’t altered much. Each character has a new weapon, except Gabe who still uses his trusty fists, which each have their own new special moves which can be upgraded when characters level up. You can also collect parts from the robots to upgrade the weapons themselves, so even the ordinary attacks can be devastating. Each enemy in the game, ranging from posh couples to mental institute patients, have their own weaknesses and resistances to the weaponry, so it takes a bit more strategy than just spamming enemies with the special attack. The enemies in this game feel a lot less interesting than in Episode 1. Episode 1 contained filthy hobos, psychotic clowns and murderous mimes, whereas in Episode 2 they just seem rather lackluster and just sort of…there. Some aspects of combat have been improved however. Whereas in Episode 1, blocking was pretty hard to do since, personally, I had no clue that the enemy’s life-bar’s quick flash meant that was the time to block. However, the quick flash has been replaced by the word Block! appearing in the life-bar, making it much easier to block and counter enemy attacks. Another update is that the special attack mini-games are greatly improved. They rely more on reactions than just pressing some buttons. For instance, Gabe’s mini-game involves you pressing the shoulder buttons as the hit the bar at the top increases its speed. The brilliant battle dialogue is still there, making battles add to the fun, rather than turn into a chore just to collect some much needed equipment.
The game contains a bunch of new areas and new characters, as well as a few older ones. The new characters aren’t as memorable as the characters from Episode 1, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t hilarious to talk to. Every person, every object and every action is usually accompanied with a brilliant piece of Penny Arcade humour. Even just examining a gold covered fire hydrant can bring some laughs. But, as with Episode 1, this isn’t really the game to play if you aren’t a fan of the Penny Arcade humour. Also, another note on the humour is that if you haven’t played Episode 1 there are probably many jokes you won’t understand in Episode 2 that reference back. There’s no need to play Episode 1 to understand the story really, but to get a number of the jokes you will have had to.
Stylistically, the game is exactly like the webcomic in its cut-scenes and dialogue parts. The characters seem to leap from the screen with personality and it’s like watching an animated version of a special webcomic series. The environments range from the spooky mental institute to the jewel paved streets of a rich estate with gold covered fire hydrants and a fountain that shoots out money. The environments themselves seem to be their own joke and each have their own additional personality, which really makes them fun to explore.
Episode 2 contains a lot of the hilarious tongue in cheek jokes featured in Episode 1, but it appears to be lacking the memorable characters and number of brilliant quests of it’s predecessor. Laughs-per-minute are probably higher, however, with Episode 2. There’s still a lot to love here though for any Penny Arcade fan and is well worth the 1200 MS price for some great laughs and great adventure gameplay.