Episode II continues the adventures of the Penny Arcade Adventures crew. The crew being one Tycho Erasmus Brahe, Johnathan Gabriel and you (who you are). Part II of this episodic series was released on October 29, 2008 on multiple systems for a $20 price tag. Part II brings some changes to the series that are mostly superficial, as I was hoping for pretty much the same type of game, just with funny new characters and hilarious new situations.
The story begins in the middle of a field in which a truck full of oranges is advertised "Free Fruit!" Over the horizon we see the beacons of dozens of Fruit Fuckers. The truck turns out to be a trap set by Tycho and Gabe to get a lead on the giant robot from the first episode. Next thing you know, the truck is on the move and it promptly crashes into and destroys your (the main character) slightly rebuilt home. Naturally, Gabe and Tycho have no culpability whatsoever, and simply view the accident as an opportunity to get you back on the hunt for the giant robot that destroyed your home in Episode I. Looks like good times are a-coming! Of course, it is up to you if you want to rejoin them. You'll answer yes... that is, if you want to play the game!
The graphics in Episode II are rather similar to the first game, right down to character portraits and the many weird and expressive enemies you'll fight. The newest visual treat occurs with the new overkill animations, my favorite of which is when Tycho throws his book at a defeated enemy. The locations are diverse, with areas such as a lunatic asylum to a street in a rich neighborhood, complete with a cash-spewing fountain, to a visit to a World's Fair (that is FUTURISTIC!) I enjoyed the surreal look of the first entry, and this game continued that tradition in a rather dandy way.
The music is functionally similar, but I did notice a rise in the dramatic nature of the battle themes and stage pieces. This goes hand in hand with the more dramatic story. Not the more serious plot, because it is almost impossible to take seriously...
None of the score sounds like filler. Maybe this is because the game is a refinement of the original or maybe it is simply because it doesn't have a lot of themes throughout the game. Take your pick, either way I liked the music.
There isn't much to say about the gameplay in Episode II that I didn't cover in my review of Part I. It is the SAME, and that's a good thing. The only real additions are the overkills, which are supposed to up your attack damage, but I didn't notice Gabe doing much more damage than the other two. He really should have been more powerful though, as his overkills were really easy for me to pile up, quickly maxing out the overkill bar. Perhaps this is a glitch? The mechanics of the special attacks have changed a bit as well, but the changes will not take long for those familiar with the series to adjust to and master.
The challenge in Episode II is once again contingent on your skill at blocking. There is also the ability to abuse the stat raising items, thus making your defense, attack, and speed far too much for the average enemy to be able to compete with you at all. This strategy is discouraged though, as replenishing the items can take a while, what with having to enter and exit an area from the map every time to get the treasure boxes to refill.
The latter bosses of the game are actually a bit easier, as their attacks are easier to predict when to block. There is also a difficulty setting ranging from easy to hard. I played the first time on hard and I would say it is a bit easier than the first game. The easy difficulty certainly is, as the enemies do MUCH less damage.
The replay value is higher in Episode II due to multiple difficulties and unlockable outfits that affect your character's stats. Not earth shattering, but the different appearances are amusing. Aside from that, my thoughts on the first game's replay are my thoughts for this one.
In summation, Penny Arcade Episode II is a fine continuation of everything that was done right in the last game. I enjoyed the humor, the slightly better storyline, the characters, and the familiar gameplay. RPG fans that enjoy Penny Arcade are sure to be this game's biggest fans. Like me.
- Ugly Bob