For those who are already predisposed to the particularly off the wall flavor of humor the Chapman bros. dish out in their Homestar Runner web cartoon, the Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People episodic series for WiiWare and PC is an easy sell from the get-go. We’re now three episodes into the first season of Telltale Games’ oddball point-and-click adventure series, starring the crudely charming, diminutive lucha libre villain, and the side-splitting antics continue to please. Episode 3: Baddest of the Bands dials the crazy up a few notches with a dose of sonic awesomeness that will make your head bang.
This far into the season, many of the gags rely on players possessing, at the very least, a working knowledge of the series and its characters. Playing the first two episodes isn’t a necessity, but it’s highly recommended before embarking on this rock-n-roll odyssey. Here’s a quick recap. In the series premiere, Strongbad’s plans to pummel Homestar Runner backfire, sending him racing to beat his sporty nemesis in other ways, and ultimately land him in an even worse position when he finds his house full of more unwanted guests to get rid of. Episode 2 found Strongbad and pals mounting a bizarre risk-like board game revolution against the King of Towns for imposing a draconian snack cake tax on every e-mail sent or received. Once again, Telltale changes things up to keep the humor fresh and punchy with Episode 3.
Baddest of the Bands switches gears right from the start, and that’s a good thing. Practically abandoning his regular e-mail question and answer intros, Strongbad instead sits down to play a few rounds of Limozeen: Hot Babelian Odyssey on his fun machine. Sadly, the retro console craps out mid-level, sending Strongbad on a desperate quest to find the money needed to get the ailing gaming machine fixed. His preferred solution to the fundraising dilemma has the scheming anti-hero assembling the various musical groups in town – apparently, everyone is in a band of some sort these days -for a massive battle of the bands. In true Strong Badian fashion, he then decides to sabotage the competition to make his “band” appear less horrendous. Without giving any more of the plot away, let’s just say the episode is a wild, ear-bleeding ride rife with plenty of laughable musical nonsense.
As an aside, Limozeen: Hot Babelian Odyssey is one of the more playable retro mini-games featured in the series. For those not in the know, Limozeen is Strong Bad’s favorite glam metal band. Hot Babelian Odyssey is essentially a Defender clone, where the band loads up into a space ship to beam-up hot babes before they fall into alien hands. You’ll also blast baddies and dodge flying V guitars. Awesome. Sadly, you’ll have to complete the entire episode, before you can rocket through the cosmos rescuing hot babes in 8-bit style.
SBCG4AP has a very distinct visual style that matches the animated flash cartoons the series is based on perfectly. Each game is brightly colored, and the 3D spatial differences are noticeable improvements over the cartoons. The bulk of the visual changes from one episode to the next are primarily in the form of new characters, new locations, amusing props, and subtle changes to old locations. While Episode 2 changed things up more dramatically by incorporating a Risk-like board game element and map mechanic into the game, Baddest of the Bands takes a step back to match the flow of the series’ premiere. Don’t expect much to change in terms of graphical quality as the series progresses; the show practically hinges on the medium-fi visuals. Regardless, it works.
Due to the rock-n-roll nature of Baddest of the Bands, the audio work is more noteworthy this time around. All of the voice acting remains as strong as it has been from the get-go; the combination of character dialogue and Strong Bad’s oddball comments are often so amusing you won’t mind clicking on every single interactive hotspot just to hear what he has to say.
The quirky music for the makeshift bands in the game really enhances the rock vibe of the episode. The alt-rock, neo-political blasts from Marzipan’s group, The Cool Tapes, are pretty funny. Coach Z and Bubs rap treacherously, while Homestar requires headphone prompting for his spoken word act with Pom Pom’s musical backup. The painful reality of how horrible each band sounds makes the situation all the more hilarious. Strong Bad’s group takes the cake, sounding like a cross between the gates of hell opening and a heavy metal guitar dying.
The series’ puzzles continue to increase in cleverness, though many of Episode 3’s challenges run a tad on the easier side this time around. The solutions seemed to come a little quicker, due to the puzzles being more intuitive in nature. It’s not quite as hard to figure out where to go next and what to do as it was in some of the past episodes. That’s not really a complaint as much as it is an observation. The point-and-click genre often suffers from inanely unintuitive puzzles that require in-depth walkthroughs to overcome. The joy of this series comes more from its humor and quirkiness – not its brain teasers. Quite a few of the puzzles are delightfully absurd in and of themselves. For example, Strong Bad will have to assemble the components required to make a killer Limozeen album cover featuring a bikini-clad blond wielding a giant sword while atop a flaming car. Not to be forgotten are the snarling dinosaur and an exploding star in the foreground.
Like the episodes before it, Baddest of the Bands is wildly ridiculous and largely entertaining. It doesn’t pack quite the epic feel or the challenge of Episode 2, but the rocking subject matter is a perfect fit for Strong Bad’s outrageous wit. The first season continues to go on strong through its mid-point, and we’re hopeful the team at Telltale can keep the funny rolling through the remaining two episodes.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Still the same, still great. 3.9 Control
Basic, functional point-and-click controls. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent voice work. The rock-n-roll mayhem in this episode is ridiculous and hilarious. 3.6
A little less challenging, but definitely a lot of fun.
4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.