Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4

Rainslick Ep4 long spoiler review: incomplete story locked behind a game we didn't want

Executive summary:

Whereas Rainslick episodes 1+2 are full-on Penny Arcade games with nice adventure game touches and basic yet servicable rpg combat mechanics, PAA 4 is 95% made up of a thick, impenetrable Zeboyd crust that gets in the way of the Penny Arcade elements, of which there is far too little.

I wish I could have just read the xml file containing the game script.


I played the 1st two games and loved them, because they delivered funny stories, had crisp jokes embedded in clickable objects, and had combat that was simple, mostly entertaining, and never cumbersome. I finished Ep1+2 with 100% completion effortlessly. Mike's art was appreciated as were Jerry's small jokes.

When Ep3 came out, I knew exactly what I was getting into - ie, excerpts of Jerry's text stories with combat segments inserted in between - and so I will skip most of my complaints. I had no problem with the graphics because either 2d or 3d could have communicated the story just as well. However I will point out the Zeboyd elements that stuck out like sore thumbs, a hint of things to come: references to their past games, the furry and gender-swapped stuff, and most of all the shoehorned in 'battle system' explanation.

Never in a billion years could I have imagined that Jerry or Mike would come up with 'class pins' as part of the Rainslick world. It's such a heavy handed way to justify the combat system in Rainslick, it really would have easier to just NOT MENTION IT. Not everything has to be justified in-universe. I cannot name one positive thing the seamstress added to this world, and this smacks too much of amateur game design thinking, inability to properly delineate gameplay and story.

And then there's Ep4.

The combat system

The very first thing that happens in the game is terrible. Just like the class pins above, did we need the Monstorb stuff? We couldn't have just said 'classes' instead of 'captured monsters'? Or just kept using the class pins? Now immediately off the bat there is ANOTHER new incongrous thing added to the Rainslick world. We're off to a great start. Cripes.

I do however appreciate the inclusion of comic strip characters. However, I appreciated them just as much in Ep1+2, as support characters. In short, there was no need for monsters that didn't appear in the strips. I don't care what kind of weird vision there was for a balanced game system or whatever, if they're going to add extraneous elements, no need to go further beyond and throw in like a dozen MORE extraneous things. No one cares about the monstorb! No OTHER one is going to care about the brodent!

I don't know how many times we are expected to play Ep4, but irreversible stat gains at level ups are not appreciated. Yes okay I get the reference to FF6. Can I please go back to undoing mistakes now.

Long story short after about 2 hours I realized I was wasting my life playing the combat, decided to minimize my error and turned it to easy for the rest of the game. If you are a bigger Penny Arcade fan than Zeboyd fan, you should do the same.

The world

Too many standard fantasy RPG towns. Why would those exist in underhell? Are these assets for future RPGs, that for saving time are used in this game as well?

It's weird that there is still a physical world existing after our world ends, in fact it's almost TOO physical with 3 pillars holding up an island.

But then I do love the part where our world is already hell. That's a good touch, massive kudos to whoever came up with that, Jerry or Zeboyd.

The characters + NPCs

Everyone tries too hard to be funny.

There are essentially two people in the entire game. Person #1 is male and talk too much about wanting to kill stuff. Person #2 is sarcastic strong willed female. Moira, Hestia, even the Seamstress might as well all be the same person, because they have the exact same personality.

All the NPCs break the 4th wall.


Tycho is the main character of the series. In Ep4 he shows up only in like 4 scenes. That is unforgiveable.

In the Ep3 stories, his emotions take center stage. His struggle to both end the world and to create a better one, his being torn about his father's early absence and later reconciliation, make up the core of the narrative.

That is to say, a good Ep4 game would help you feel what Tycho is feeling. NOT watch him swoop in, doing something cool, then swoop out. A good Ep4 game wouldn't kill off his dad in the first scene you meet him. at bare minimum he would interact with his son. Come on! seriously. How could anyone read the Ep3 stories, and decide that this was a good treatment for Tycho? Which brings us to

The story

About the only good thing Ep4 can said to have done, is to conclude the series. Not a good conclusion, but one all the same.

Many penny arcade fans have already speculated that the narrator is 1) a voice in Tycho's head and/or 2) the last god. It's kind of nifty that this proved the case, but we are never told just how this was done through the entirety of the Brahe bloodline.

That the last god was also a giant physical floating island is kind of silly.

Some transition between ideas would have been nice, especially at the end:

- How did we get to the periphery again?
- Why did Tycho replace bits of himself with other bits?
- How did the 4th god get inside him?
- What did the necrowombicon have to do with all this?
- What did the Rake Guy have to do with this again, why leave him alive if he's sent by the 4th god?

- you're seriously telling me Tycho and Gabe's interaction is summed up by 1 line in his dying breath?

I hope Jerry writes prose stories for Ep4, because the game is not enough. I feel that all Zeboyd got was an outline, because it shows.

Other unanswered questions include:

- so what actually happens to wives of Brahes?
- did they create the underhell or something? how was this deal worked out?
- Anne Claire's line is a cliche 'let there be light' and I groaned out loud. I hope Jerry didn't write that.



+ made me long for the ep4 story in prose form by Jerry Holkins

+ 3 good music pieces (title, boss fight, tycho fight)

+ is the 4th game in the Rainslick series

+ many interesting concepts that were under-explored


- made me long for the ep4 story in prose form by Jerry Holkins

- too many standard fantasy RPG elements

- aside from the 3 tracks above, completely forgettable music

- terrible humor

- gameplay stands between you and the story

- is really just a Zeboyd RPG with a few Penny Arcade bits thrown in. Did you LOVE Cthulhu saves the world and Breath of Death? I mean REALLY REALLY loved those games? You're in luck. Do you like Penny Arcade? I've got bad news.

In closing, don't buy this game, and don't buy Ep3. Just watch the let's plays, skip all the combat scenes, and just read the cutscenes. Do yourself a favor and tweet, email, ask Jerry to write prose versions of the Ep4 story. I will never know the true story behind why Ep3 and Ep4 were made, since the Ep3 stories were some of Jerry's best work, but I can tell you right now that his vision was not serviced by having the series dripped to us after passing through a giant unsightly layer of 2 ultra combat-heavy games.
Viimeisin muokkaaja on where_is_hmh2; 27.6.2013 kello 1.04
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Really sorry the combat system wasn't your thing, even if it was innovative and thought provoking than the clumsy ATB/Timed hits system the first two had. Not to say it is perfect: I'll agree the monstrob system wasn't quite as fun as the class pins because of how much was benched; but it did lend multiple humor opportunities in a setting that was grimmer than the past.

The "plot holes" in your review like why the underhell is still present after Ep 3 was clearly explained in dialogue.

Tycho's role in this game was the highlight how his actions and atitudes are perceived by the other characters in the world. He's unstable and immoral, and having him god-mode his way through the plot gave you the sense of dread he needed to demonstrate.

See you also posted this in PA forum- you are putting a lot of effort into pushing your thoughts on the game.

DCT 30.6.2013 kello 19.51 
Plot holes? really? Maybe in Episode 2(well maybe not so much plot holes just alot of unexplained/not fleshed out crap) but I didn't see any here, for example you brought up underhell right? if you payed attention you would of known underhell still existed because the last of the four gods still lived and the only reason why everything else went out of existance was because Dr. Blood slew the god of doors which was established that killing him would undue creation. Also you do reaslize that the plot and such was done by Penny arcade right? of course not because let's face it you wanted Hothead's games not Zeboyd's and are looking fore any excuse to hate the game because it was diffrent from 1 and 2 and to not only make your dislike of it sound more resonable(at least in your mind anyway) but to also get people on yourside you created a big giant wall of arguements that are made of strawmen..

Look point is after reading that giant wall of whatever it was clear your only reason for not liking it was it wasn't like 1 and 2 which is fine but don't try to make it out to be anything more then that...
You say the game has terrible humour yet it was written by Jerry Holkins. Maybe you didn't read the credits? I guess you are such a big fan of Penny Arcade that you'll ignore that though.
No way, man. I care about the Brodent. I totally care. Now I wish I'd screencapped the moment he popped up....

thanks for the reply, friend.

- I actually feel that the combat/leveling system is quite elaborate, and I wish it wasn't associated with Ep4, because it has so much potential.

Even though the ATB system from Ep1+2 is very basic, it served the story, that is, it didn't get in the way of the story pacing and feel, also it gave us a chance to see the humorous special move animations.

- there is a thread on the PA forums by someone else about other plot holes, it's not just me.

- haha, call me an evangelist if you like, I do have ulterior motives, you know. I eventually want Jerry to write Ep4 stories.


I played this game for well-presented story and I didn't get one, hence my review. even from your brief examples there are unexplained elements right there, like why is Tycho's bloodline cursed? and why is the underhell a literal place?


that makes zero sense. one can't be a fan of PA without being a fan of Mike and Jerry, which I am. you think a non PA fan will, what, stumble onto this game by accident?
where_is_hmh2 lähetti viestin:

that makes zero sense. one can't be a fan of PA without being a fan of Mike and Jerry, which I am. you think a non PA fan will, what, stumble onto this game by accident?

Err yes, someone CAN stumble on to the game by accident. Maybe that's beyond your ken but it is possible to play a game and not play the prior installments as well as not having seen any of the source material. I'm sure your mind is blown.

Viimeisin muokkaaja on Girlbeard; 5.7.2013 kello 2.07
Tycho's bloodline is cursed because they'd delved into forbidden magic to be able to kill gods and enter the periphary. "Cursed" may not even be literal in the context, it could be referencing how hated they are because they are trying to end the world. Underhell is just a place in the New Arcadia universe: because "Earth" to them is Hell to us, what they call Hell is "Underhell" to us. Having the afterlife being a place with physical form is common in fantasy settings.
@Kletian999, DCT

regarding depiction, I have a better example than what I gave. let's just look at the Periphery.

in the EP3 stories, this is shown as a place of nothingness, except the waterfall of light that is our reality.

now obviously in a JRPG style game, this is problematic. *maybe* an adventure game can pull it off, but definitely hard for a JRPG. and so, we now have to settle for how the Periphery is depicted in Ep3: series of islands floating in a sea of stars. and since this is a JRPG, it's now chokablok with random enemies that aren't thematically tied, when the enemies should be fellow occultists.

this doesn't make sense for a lot of reasons. first of all, stars are part of our reality. stars *shouldn't* be the backdrop for our reality, which *include* the stars.

but now you see how an abstract realm has now been made uncomfortably tangible because of the limitations of the JRPG format. it would have been just fine if it was a story- and dialogue- only segment, but someone (not going to speculate who) decided to have battle encounters as usual there.
Bewul 7.7.2013 kello 8.17 
I am curious, how would you have depicted the periphery inside the game?. As for the reason of why the enemies make no sense/disconnected, why do you think they HAD to be cultists? hell, in the stories oyu mention they say that the creatures there are all sorts of guys/things hiding in the periphery to wait for the end of the world. I think the stories mention a wizard as a particular example?. I can agree it would hav eworked just as well as just a moment to use talk.
Edit, I realize that the 'how would you have depicted' thing might have come out as rude, or like I was saying 'I dare you to do better' I didn't. I am actually curious about your idea of how it should have been shown in the game.
Viimeisin muokkaaja on Bewul; 7.7.2013 kello 8.18
Bewul lähetti viestin:
how would you have depicted the periphery inside the game?

some context: I am a huge fan of PA, and of course PAA when it was announced. When Ep3 (the game) was announced, I was doubly jazzed, I combed the net for every article and preview video.

the first that anyone saw of Ep3 is Tycho and Gabe poking around the detective agency, examining objects. the layout of the Ep1+2 detective agency was recreated tile by tile, even the harvest buddy and the film projector! holy smokes! at that time I thought Ep3 was going to be the awesomest thing ever - an adventure game, with the minimalist aesthetics of a tile based JRPG! hot damn!

unfortunately, in the end product, that single room is the ONLY place where this held true. the rest of the game is combat, if you don't count Jerry's fantastic prose stories which were...inserted in between floods of combat.

so that's how I would have depicted the Periphery. exactly as how it was described - you and your dad, floating around nothingness, with maybe crystal coffins or debris to provide location context, against a backdroup of reality's true form, the light waterfall in darkness. maybe you float place to place, examining parentheticals, have some dialogue between Tycho and his dad. fight ambitious wizards here and there, maybe the dad is a guest party member during combat. but mostly having interplay between Tycho + dad which was so important in the text stories.

PS, I still can't believe Tycho's dad was killed without showing any interaction with Tycho. that's more than half the emotional value of the Ep3 stories!
Viimeisin muokkaaja on where_is_hmh2; 9.7.2013 kello 1.50
SFF 9.7.2013 kello 14.17 
Well...I didn't actually READ the literature version of episode 3, so the Periphery looking like it did didn't bother me.

Also, its an RPG. Of course there's gonna be combat.
Viimeisin muokkaaja on SFF; 9.7.2013 kello 14.17
The scenes with Tycho's Dad in Episode 3s text version were flashbacks, in the game we needed to walk through it to enter a sealed space, and while we were there we cracked open the sealed things along our way. Going through it in the "present" instead of in flashback and having a blocked path allowed proper foreshadowing of the sector of the periphary Tycho was hiding.
This sums up my thought of the games as well, except I liked more of the music tracks. I started having more fun when I started pretending it was a very werid themed pokemon game.
Victar 12.7.2013 kello 18.45 
Well I strongly disagree with you about the battle systems. I found both incredibly fun to play (on Insane difficulty, no less). It sounds to me like you were obsessing too much over getting the "perfect" stat boosts, when that's really not required on any difficulty. And the whole purpose of Easy difficulty is to please people like you who just want to blow through the gameplay as quickly as possible.

I don't think the characters were as identical as you say. For example, Moira is sane, practical-minded, and has a conscience, while Hestia is a kill-crazy "cloud cuckoolander".

- How did we get to the periphery again?

In the ending? It's the video game equivalent of omniscient third-person perspective in a book.

- Why did Tycho replace bits of himself with other bits?

At the end? That would be the influence of Yog Modaigh, God of Doors (fought in PA3). Evil gods are into tentacles & stuff.

- How did the 4th god get inside him?

He's the God of Doors. He's good at stuff like that.

- What did the necrowombicon have to do with all this?

The Necrowombicon is the favored tool of the God of Doors, who used it to corrupt Dr. Blood in PA3, then turned it into a sword to help Tycho kill the 4th God in PA4. I surmise that the God of Doors wanted to be the last God standing.

- What did the Rake Guy have to do with this again, why leave him alive if he's sent by the 4th god?

Rake Guy didn't know he was being manipulated by an evil god ("do not ponder my mysterious identity... you're pondering it, arent' you?") and was a pretty decent guy. Sort of. Mostly. If you overlook the hobo cannibalism. Anyway, Tycho judged him as worthy to help Anne-Claire create the new Universe, and sealed him in the Periphery to that end.

- so what actually happens to wives of Brahes?

I wondered this myself. It seems to be deliberately left vague. Even more confusing given that Tycho has a brother and a sister-in-law, the parents of Anne-Claire.

My wild speculation is that the Brides have their memories erased and their gender switched; they're literally transformed into new Tychos, meaning that every Tycho was once a Bride. But maybe it's for the best that this is one question the player is left to answer for themselves.
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