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Written by  :  Guy Chapman (2001)
Written on  :  Jun 03, 2008
Platform  :  Xbox 360
Rating  :  4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars

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Summary

Long Title. Short Game. Great Ride.

The Good

Penny Arcade and the Exceedingly Long Title is a great RPG romp using the characters from the above-mentioned webcomic.

What stands out about this title first and foremost is the game's story writing. The Penny Arcade creators have a dark and twisted sense of humor that is cushioned nicely between some intelligent dialogue and some genuine enthusiasm for colorful characters, providing for some nice interaction between the heroes and the characters that they meet. The story itself is also dark, hinting at some genuinely terrible evil, but it never takes itself too seriously. And no, the enjoyment of the humor is not exclusive to fans of the comic.

The graphics are also wonderful. Whether it's the slick comic strip style cutscenes and dialogue boxes, or the seamless transition from the map screen into the game world, it works well and is highly stylish. There are little nuances that you will find in the animation that just add to the atmosphere.

The RPG combat is handled well, taking a cue from traditional RPGs for its play, but keeping the action moving with real-time decisions and support character assistance. There's also some counterattack/blocking techniques which are similar to Super Mario RPG. Combat isn't a boring experience.

The music is also great, although it's short-lived in many places. The ending credits music is hilarious as it pokes fun at the typical movie credits scene that features highly out of place, and the game acknowledges this.

Creating a character for the main character is a nice touch. While not a new idea, they fit your character of choice very well into the cut scenes and action like they were meant to be there all along.

Finally, it just FEELS like a classic adventure/RPG game, with all the humor, adventuring and tiny moments like you might find in a classic Lucasarts or Sierra title, with a small hint of Final Fantasy.

The Bad

The game is short. Just as you get into it... POOF! "Wait until Chapter 2!"

There's a few issues with the gameplay, however. Difficulty seems unbalanced at first. Enemies will easily kill your characters at the start, which isn't fatal, but frustrating for those achievement hoarders. Towards the end of the game, the characters are ridiculously powered up. So it becomes a matter of too weak, and then too strong. The point where it reaches a good balance doesn't last as long as it should.

NPCs don't do much to help your characters. Sure, there's the requisite characters who need a task done, or offer to help you, but there are also some who offer a specific and set funny line of dialogue or two... and so does the person right next to them. More variety in dialogue between NPCs would be nice.

There are special attacks, but hardly a chance to use them. Perhaps if the game were longer, they would have been realized, but for characters like Gabe and Tycho, I completed the game without using their special abilities once, much less using multiple character's combo attacks.

With only four sections, you'll see the game's world pretty fast. And "boo" to getting rid of the narrator so early in the game. The voice acting for him was enjoyable to listen to, and when he departs, the game feels more silent than it should. There's very little spoken dialogue in this game, and not a lot of music during exploring the world.

$20 also makes for the most expensive XBLA game, especially for one as short as this. Still, there are $60 games that offer the same length of gameplay, that don't offer the amount of enjoyment found here.

The Bottom Line

It's refreshing to play a game that is made by people who genuinely "get" what is great about gaming. Give a fan a chance to make a video game, and this is what you get. The humor is genuinely funny, the gameplay is respectable, and there's some neat little things to find around the game.

People may balk at the price, but it's a solid title with a rich story and quirky, bizarre characters.

Here's hoping the next installment will automatically keep the character's look from this episode, as well as all the stats. I want to feel like I am continuing forward in a much larger story, not starting over with every new chapter.

With all the rehashed corporate titles we're told that are "fun", it's nice to have a title that actually IS fun from real gamers, and not a marketing committee.

Highly recommended, and one of the better titles from XBLA. I can't wait to see what comes next.