When we mentioned the name 'Penny Arcade' in the same sentence as 'web-comic', we received a blank stare from our colleagues at PSW Magazine. So we assume that some of you out there won't know the origins of this XBLA game.
So for those of you in the dark, here's the simple explanation: Two self-confessed game geeks create website, producing a weekly three-panel comic strip commenting on and/or lampooning a current news topic/issue relating to videogames.
The potential was there to offer a title that lovingly scathed the stereotypes of the industry, much like the recent Simpsons The Movie videogame tie-in. Instead developer Hothead Games has taken Krahulik's art style and applied it to a 1920s fictional city entitled New Arcadia in which the familiar characters inhabit. Throw in some liberal nods to point-and-click adventures with branching dialogue sections, simplistic exploration and a turn-based battle system and you're good to go.
If the developer and PA creators were leaning towards the Sam & Max territory, they fall far short. There's a lack of inventiveness to the gameplay, feeling every inch the rough-shod of different genres it is. There are fetch-and-retrieve quests in the exploration sections, while the turn-based battle system is a nod to any number of pre-existing RPGs. Customisation options are also exactly what you'd expect.
While PA writer Holkins wisely tries to down-tune the humour over the course of the game, it still loses the punch of the strip, stretched out across several hours of gameplay. Strip away that, and you're left with an RPG adventure that is neither surprising or revolutionary.
So it comes down to a question of fan service, which oddly puts PA Adventures in the same field as the movie tie-in. Those gamers who check out Penny Arcade daily will be playing to see the reappearance of iconic characters and to laugh at the in-jokes dotted throughout the game. But even they would have a hard time swallowing the 1,600 MP price tag (around £15) for five hours of gameplay - gameplay that isn't heavy on replayability.
If you're looking for a potent mix of RPG and adventure, then Castlevania: Symphony of the Night still rules the roost. Well over ten hours of gameplay, at half the price. You won't feel like you've been short-changed a single penny.
Not worth 1600 Microsoft pennies.
- PA art style faithfully re-created
- TickBattle System easy to pick up
- By-the-numbers take on gameplay
- Shallow use of multiple genres
- Doesn't merit the heavy price tag