PAA: Episode 2

This article originally appeared in Dev.Mag Issue 28, released in January 2009

When one talks about the development of episodic games, there are normally two distinct advantages that get touted. The first is a steady cash flow. The other is the ability to iteratively improve on the game as each episode comes out and players are able to dictate what they liked and didn’t like. Episode 2 of On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness (henceforth referred to as “Episode 2” to save my fingers from an early death) follows this philosophy to the letter. In fact, this review could be boiled down to four words: “Episode 1, but betrar”. [Does a number count as a word when it’s written out as a number? – Ed]

Given that we published a review of Episode 1 not so long ago, I won’t go into too much depth regarding the mechanics. Suffice to say that at its core Episode 2 is Episode 1. Same characters, same basic plot premise, same interface, same exploration/puzzle-solving/combat dynamic. Naturally, they’ve substituted certain elements with newer ones – the characters have new weapons and attacks that you need to improve, the Special Attack minigames are different, and the enemies are tougher. Powerups and status items have undergone minor changes to slightly alter your battle strategy. Otherwise, the gameplay remains the same, but given how much fun Episode 1 was this isn’t much of a drawback.

What the developers have done is taken all the player feedback about Episode 1, and expanded and refined on those elements to make Episode 2 better. For one, the game feels much longer, with more characters, and locations to visit than in the original. Along with this comes more enemies and more, tougher (but far from impossible), puzzles. The game is crammed full of the hilarious animated cutscenes that made the original so entertaining. The combat mechanics may be the same, but the developers have attempted to make fighting more dynamic. Enemies will switch positions on the fly, enter combat at different times and from different directions, and flee from battle to lure you to larger,stronger groups of adversaries. Blocking has been made easier as well, by increasing the visibility of the “block” cue.

Technically, Episode 2 can be played without having played Episode 1, but this would be a mistake. The presence of certain characters, inventory items and plot points make very little sense unless you’ve been introduced to them in the first game. Additionally, by importing your Episode 1 character, you gain access to special items that were won or purchased in that game, but didn’t have much use. These can be combined with others in Episode 2 to obtain additional benefits.

So yes, Episode 2 is more of the same, but with extra polish and more content. It’s still as fun to play and brilliantly written as one would expect, and the changes and additions keep it from feeling too much like more of the same. If you enjoyed Episode 1, you’ll enjoy this continuation of the series.