I was excited for “Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4”. You may have already known that, as I put the third game in the series on my top 5 list of surprises last year. I was even more excited when I got a review code from Zeboyd Games.

Despite my expectations that it would basically mirror the third installment, I was pretty pumped to play the game. I knew I was going to get a great battle system with no random encounters, amusing writing, and a brisk but well-paced RPG experience. I didn’t expect it to really surpass the third game… but it did, and the result is something rather special.

Rain Slick 4 logo

Just be thankful they’re using numbers and not subtitles.

For those unfamiliar with the series, “Rain-Slick 4” is the second Penny Arcade game created by Zeboyd Games. The first two, which were decent but forgettable, were made by Hothead Games. They were an interesting blend of timing-based RPG battles, ala “Super Mario RPG” and point n’ click adventure titles. The two made by Zeboyd are completely different beasts, meant to evoke all of the great RPGs from the SNES era, and Zeboyd have pulled it off brilliantly.

The game starts immediately after the events of “Rain-Slick 3”. If you haven’t played it, go ahead and do that now. It’s worth your time… I’ll wait.

We good? You finish that up? You sure? You’re not lying to me, are you? I mean, seriously, the game is only a few bucks, a couple of clams, a smattering of schillings. A homeless man would charge more for a handy than it would cost to buy the game and you’ll certainly get more pleasure from the game, as well. So, you done?

Good.

Alright, picking up after “Rain-Slick 3”, we find Gabriel and Dr. Blood have fallen into the Underhell, forced to team up like they’re in a buddy-cop movie, Tycho is inexplicably missing, and Moira and Jim (now with 100% more body) are elsewhere in the Underhell. Things aren’t looking so good for this ragtag bunch of detectives. Even worse, it seems like Gabriel can no longer punch things. Well, he CAN punch things, it just doesn’t hurt them.

Ah, but this is how you explain why your über-characters from “Rain Slick 3” suddenly suck. See, it’s like Alucard losing his equipment in “Symphony of the Night”. We are given “reasons” that we have to start from scratch.

Turns out, in this world, our heroes have to employ the use of monsters to fight battles for them. Humans are just too weak and brittle. So, your new feral pals are kept in something called a Monster Orb and you summon them to fight for you. Mystical orb in hand, you are now ready to start slaughtering the denizens of Underhell.

The monster aspect of “Rain-Slick 4” is the biggest change from “Rain-Slick 3”. In the previous game, each character was allowed to equip two classes in addition to their base class. This mechanic was the main source of customization and battle strategy. Experimenting with various combinations and trying to find the best synergy was incredibly rewarding and extremely entertaining. It was a fresh take on the class system used in so many RPGs.

“Rain-Slick 4” keeps this… sort of. Each monster does have their own base class but their customization options are slimmer. Instead of manually assigning classes to them, you equip “Trainers” on them, which take the form of our heroes. This is essentially their sub-class and it gives them abilities to use, passive abilities, and different stat boosts upon level up. However, there aren’t as many options this time around, since everyone only has two instead of three classes, but this doesn’t end up being a very big deal.

See, unlike in “Rain-Slick 3” where unused classes gained less experience, unused monsters gain experience at the exact same rate as monsters in battle. This makes it so each and every single one of the buggers is always battle ready. This is important, because changing up your party is a crucial aspect of the game.