The exploration, battle setup, and nested menus are straight out of traditional RPGs, but the cutscenes (if they can be called such) consist of a partly animated Penny Arcade comic. Albeit a Penny Arcade comic set in (*checks press release*) the deranged 1920's universe of New Arcadia. While the RPG elements have been updated for the times and are designed not be be slow, there isn't much here to hold you if you don't enjoy the Penny Arcade style of writing and humor. If you like the writing and are looking for something a little deeper and more involved, but just as funny and wrapped in a good RPG, give this a shot.
More details and impressions after the break.
Like we said, we were wary when we sat down to see PAA. We didn't really know what to expect and feared the worst. Strange as it may sound, the more we saw of the game, the more we realized just how little there was of the game, and the more we liked it. The RPG gameplay is rather traditional and consists mainly of navigating menus (which are thankfully simple and easily navigable) but uses a semi-real-time setup and multiple party members to keep things fast.
Your player character is highly customizable and will appear in both 3D and Penny Arcade styled 2D. In a bit of a similar fashion to Zombie Wranglers, PAA has your avatar exploring a cel shaded world that is populated with scared people and strange things. Those who know Penny Arcade know of a certain infamous juice creation device famous in the strip. Those things are the low level common enemies, and in a moment that proves why this game is rated M, the player can distract them with juicy citrus fruit, which the robotic device then proceeds to violate for several turns while you wale on them.
You will have the same three main party members the entire game, your player created character, Gabe, and Tycho, and each party member has three separate actions that are each tied to a timer. As attacks are performed and items are used, a timer will count down and that action cannot be performed again until the indicator bar fills back up again. So what this means in practice is that the player spends their time shifting between characters, using various actions as they become available.
The system ends up being entirely real-time in that there is no way to pause the battle to choose an attack at your leisure. But it is turn based in that there are no simultaneous actions, and actions are performed in the order selected (except enemy attacks, you don't select those.) The rest of the gameplay is made up of the world exploration which is traditional JRPG in almost every way, and the cut scenes, which recall the adventure games of yore.
The overworld sections mainly consist of exploring the environment, finding items in chests, talking to random citizens, and hitting things with your rake. So yeah, JRPG all the way. The dialog trees however aren't JPRG at all, and the writing gives a wide berth of strange choices for players to choose from. There isn't any sort of alignment, and the choices are simply there for the fun of themselves, so if you don't care for this sort humor, just give the demo a try.
Penny Arcade Adventures is ultimately the kind of game that can be played through once or twice in about 7-10 hours per play through. For an episodic game that's not too bad, and it's absolutely worth it if you enjoy this sort of thing. Oh, and the team is looking at releasing the next episode in about 4-5 months.