website tracking
Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Two on Game and Player

Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Two

Michael Ubaldi  //  November 13, 2008

Save the world, skylark, whatever.


abe and Tycho are back saving the world, or relocating their comrade, or skylarking, or whatever. On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Two, second in the adventure series of web-comic Penny Arcade, is out for PC and Xbox Live Arcade — a pleasing demonstration of notes taken and lessons applied.

I played Episode One, so didn't feel nearly the disorientation that a novitiate might. After an introductory sequence that might be a recap in the loosest figurative sense, Episode Two lurches into a simplified reprise of the first game's exposition. The player character's house has been destroyed and, with Gabe and Tycho, must save the — well, you know, with the plot as discursive as the comic.

battles are generous fun.
The return to a finely stylized comic in ersatz Victorian-Edwardian is a delightful one. Here a phonograph, there a robot, and there a cybernetic monkey commissioned for bloodsport. Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins are masters of pastiche. A panel-based, RPG-adventure environment — reminiscent of Sierra On-Line adventures — rewards investigation with descriptions in playful belletrism. Episode Two is more faithful to the spirit of Penny Arcade; gameplay is less linear than previously, allowing players to alternate between quests while picking and choosing their battles.

Combat has undergone cosmetic changes only, still turn-based-on-a-stopwatch — the challenge of timing blocks, using special abilities and executing tag-team maneuvers is generous fun. The appearance and presentation of weapon upgrades are limited to the skill of Holkins' and Krahulik's respective pencils, which is to say, not in the least.

Impressed themselves with the circumferential selector in Mass Effect, these two are in the running for Most Original Menu System. Play some music? Admire some artwork? Roll a D20? Nor is it all play, no work — the Dossier and Casebook keep tabs on NPCs and quests, inviting a simultaneous run for Best Organized.

There is some trouble in Krahulik and Holkins having made dialog and prose littered with expletives their creative trademark. Penny Arcade is no longer a comfortably popular web-comic but rather a prolific brand whose extensions (an annual exposition, a charity, multi-category merchandising) are adapted, even bowdlerized, depending on the market. The portal websites for Child's Play, PAX, and Rain-Slick are mostly free of the four-letter words the comic is flush with, yet each property draws equity from the original. So something that can be shared in mixed company isn't off-brand.

For me, I suppose, having spent the last eight years in the workaday world, and communities whose median age is more than twenty-three, the game's foul language seems almost coprolalic. It mars Holkins' prose. Would that the duo forgo a curse and spend that extra fifteen minutes earnestly trying to come up with something really funny instead. The potential of their franchise, in part, depends on it. To that extent, maybe, grow up?

In every other capacity, Krahulik and Holkins must remain young at heart.

Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Two



Hothead Games


Microsoft Game Studios

NA Release

October 29, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Lighthearted, fun adventure
  • Krahulik's art
  • Holkins' writing


  • Potty-mouthed schtick

G&P Rating

Articles by Michael Ubaldi

July 1, 2011

February 12, 2011

G&P Latest

July 1, 2011

June 28, 2011

About  //  Editors  //  Contributors  //  Terms of Use