Telltale Games is among a select few developers and publishers to fully embrace the bite-sized model of digitally distributed gaming vignettes, but episodic gaming is catching on, as the quality of the titles being released continues to improve. With the launch of yet another humor-packed episodic series, they’re poised to build on the forward momentum gained in recent years by quirky adventure game adaptations of Bone and Sam & Max. The premiere episode of their latest endeavor, Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, suggests this could be Telltale’s most addictive series to date.
As a spinoff of the hilarious Homestar Runner flash web cartoon, SBCG4AP crams an impressive level of wackiness and fun into a relatively short timeframe. The first episode, Homestar Ruiner, clocks-in at only a few meager hours, yet every second immersed in Strong Bad’s bizarre realm is time well spent. Nintendo’s WiiWare service provides the perfect venue for this new series, though PC owners who’ve enjoyed Telltale’s other episodic titles don’t have to miss out on the fun.
Strong Bad has to be one of the most entertaining villains imaginable. As the shirtless, lucha libre, mask-toting, prankster nemesis of Homestar – the cartoon series’ super athletic yet mentally dim star – he’s a walking bag of gags and frequent source of comic relief. Armed with a mischievous irreverence for most other living creatures residing in Free Country USA, and a love of video games, talking about making out with girls, and generally being cool, Strong Bad is the perfect candidate to score his own ego-centric gaming. Of course, the rest of the gang is all here (including Homestar, Marzipan, The Cheat, The King of Town, The Poopsmith, Bubs, Pom Pom, and other popular main characters), but they primarily serve as cannon fodder for Strong Bad’s warped comedy machine. Long-time Homestar fans may get all the subtle winks and nods littering this adventure right away, but it won’t take long for newcomers to develop a taste for the series’ humor.
The game opens with Strong Bad answering e-mails in his typically over-the-top fashion when he’s reminded Homestar Runner is long past due for a good pummeling. He sets out to cause mayhem for his sporty pal at the Free Country USA Race to the End of the Race, but his prank has unintended effects. Strong Bad’s efforts to resolve the situation sets off a chain reaction of side-splitting chaos throughout the remainder of the episode. It’s easily worth taking the extra time to click on everything possible just to hear Strong Bad’s unruly comments. The open-ended, explorative nature of the episode lets you venture around at your own pace, but there are also plenty of other diversions along the way. Trimming hedges into the shape of rock guitars and Trogdor (a serpent monster with a muscled human arm), playing Snake Boxer 5 (it’s 83 percent snake handler approved!) on the FunMachine, taking pictures of Strong Bad in silly outfits, and making your own Teen Girl Squad comics are among other entertaining endeavors to occupy your time with.
Falling on the easier end of the spectrum, Episode 1 is a pretty basic point-and-click adventure. It’s light on gameplay and heavy on the laughs yet manages to provide enough entertainment value to keep players clicking along. The open, sand-box style environment lets you plop new locations on Strong Bad’s hand-drawn map when they’re available, and the entire game has a laid back feel to it that encourages playing at a casual pace.
Aside from wandering around to check out all the funny tidbits gained from interacting with other characters and enjoying the game’s other amusements, the gameplay itself primarily ends up being a combination of item hunts and chatting folks up. While the few puzzles thrown at players are quite clever, they don’t require a lot of mental capacity to complete. Most of the puzzles are typically solved by using item A on hotspot or character B. The episode’s comedic value more than makes up for its light difficulty, and the many little extras sprinkled into the game are worth checking out.
The colorful, lo-fi flash animations from the cartoon have been replicated in 3D seamlessly. The artistic style is simple, but that’s how it’s meant to be. For all of the jokes spread around, there are nearly an equal number of visual gags to uncover as well. A voluminous amount of comical voice work, wonky sound effects, and purposely cheesy music also brings the characters and environments to life. The citizens of Free Country USA certainly aren’t lacking in the personality and eccentricities departments – this is evident every step of the way.
The differences between both the PC and WiiWare versions of the game are fairly negligible, and either will provide a substantial amount of entertainment. Using the mouse controls on the PC and pointing with the Wii Remote offer similar experiences, though you can turn the latter sideways in classic controller style when playing Snake Boxer 5. Also, you can snap pictures in both versions, but the WiiWare edition lets you send e-mails and pictures taken in the game via Strong Bad’s Lappy.
Unless you happen to be an enemy of all things cool and funny, the first installment of Strong Bad is where it’s at. This new monthly series shows tons of promise, and the next episode, Strong Badia the Free, looks even more delightfully ludicrous. If you own a Wii or a PC, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t throw down some money to pick up Episode 1. Strong Bad’s first wacky gaming adventure is highly recommendable, but can you handle his style?
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
A great 3D translation of the original flash cartoon series 3.9 Control
Basic, functional point-and-click controls. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Superb voice work, and even the odd tunes worked into the game are hilarious. 3.0 Play Value
Lots of fun…in a very short time span 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.