The hype surrounding the fifth and final episode of Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People series has been building steadily, as the past four episodes continued to drop minor teasers about the broken Trogdor arcade cabinet sitting in Strong Bad’s basement. Though it may have fallen off the radar in some episodes, the ridiculous arcade game was an omen of great things to come. Telltale Games and the Chapman bros.’ foreshadowing now comes to marvelous burninating fruition in Episode 5: 8-Bit Is Enough. The big finale is finally here, and it was well worth the wait.
Looking back throughout the brief series, Strong Bad enthusiasts have been dropped into some truly bizarre situations from one episode to the next. From causing general havoc for Homestar Runner and staging a massive Risk-like revolt against an unfair Creamy Ding Snack Cake e-mail tax to engaging in audio sabotage with a noise-polluting array of bands and acting out B-movie action star fantasies, Strong Bad’s absurd adventures have kept players on their toes. The wildly fluctuating themes have kept the series feeling fresh and exciting, and the epic conclusion is definitely a show-stopper. Though it’s easily the strangest episode yet, 8-Bit Is Enough homes-in on a subject that’s very near and dear to all of our hearts: old school video games.
The final episode opens with Strong Bad accidentally unleashing the full 8-bit fury of the once-dormant Trogdor game cabinet, which sends the winged, fire-breathing serpent with a single muscled human bicep on a burninating rampage across Free Country, USA. An attempt to tame the beast results in Strong Bad ripping the fabric of time and space, causing the video game world to blend with the real one. The quest to slay the mighty Trogdor and return everything to normal takes Strong Bad on a winding path through some of the more familiar terrain in Free Country in addition to excellently ridiculous games like Peasant’s Quest, Gel-Arshie Pro Fruitboarder, Stinkoman 20×6, and Videlectrix Halfathalon, among others. It’s a mirthful smorgasbord of retro gaming humor that takes great advantage of the series’ light adventure game and puzzle elements.
Strong Bad’s mishap brings many of the 8-bit characters (like Snake Boxer’s Boxer Joe, Limozeen Larry, the Algebros, and the dancing space bear from Space Circus Catastrophe) from the numerous Videlectrix games scattered throughout the series to life. It also blends the two dual-realities together in other odd and hilarious ways like causing a few of Strong Bad’s friends to take on the personas of video game characters – a somewhat surreal twist, considering they’re characters in a video game to begin with. Seeing the different ways the game’s staple characters play bit parts in the different retro-inspired video game worlds and vice versa should elicit plenty of laughs.
While the topics and story themes covered in each episode have varied tremendously, the core point-and-click gameplay and item-centric puzzle solving gameplay has remained almost exactly the same. Some episodes have thrown in substantial design changes that have added to the gameplay, but it’s mostly still a matter of clicking on every possible hotspot, collecting items to use on them, and frequently interacting with characters via multiple-choice dialogue icons. 8-Bit Is Enough offers little in the way of major changes into the formula, though it introduces a few entertaining mechanics that add to the fun.
As Strong Bad wanders around on his adventure, characters he helps will “join his party” and be added as diamond-shaped icons in the inventory. You can pull them out at different times to solve puzzles and trigger special events throughout the game. In another section, you’ll pick up a special ghost-busting peripheral that allows you to navigate a darkened region and fire off blasts to ward off malevolent spirits. Further along in the game, you’ll find yourself selecting armaments and using them in a first-person dungeon hack. These and other additions round out the general gameplay well.
The copious amount of humor found in 8-Bit Is Enough pays homage to classic, old school games, while taking every possible opportunity to make fun of them at the same time. Genres like first-person dungeon hacks, 2D RPGs, platformers, side-scrolling shooters, 3D brawlers, anime, and sports games all serve as the butt of numerous gags. You’ll find plenty of nods to specific games as well.
Other gaming tenets and mechanics also factor into the humor. For example, age-old gaming concepts like item fetch quests, checkpoints, med-kits, password wheels, and weak level-1 monsters are among the many staples used for a quick laugh. SBCG4AP has traditionally contained tons of inside jokes and fan-service from the popular Homestar Runner web cartoon it’s based-on. While that’s still very much the case in the season finale, the gaming-related wisecracks should double the enjoyment for players well acquainted with video games of days long past.
SBCG4AP’s cartoonish visual quality is greatly enhanced by an entirely random smattering of different retro video game styles. Some characters and elements you’ll encounter are very pixelated, while others are worked into N64-style 3D. Aside from an obvious nostalgia factor, the array of unique gaming visual designs incorporated into the episode adds to its enjoyability and humor. The awesome, heavy-metal Trogdor theme from Guitar Hero II makes a few brief appearances, but much of the music in the game incorporates the blips and bleeps of 8-bit audio chips.
So far, each episode has provided a Videlectrix-produced, retro-style bonus game. 8-Bits Is Enough’s offering, Gel-Arshie Pro Fruitboarder, tasks players with riding a fruitboard while snatching up an onslaught of red fruit and avoiding dangerous yellow pineapples. Like the others before it, the gameplay isn’t as fun as the novelty. Gel-Arshie Pro Fruitboarder is also worked directly into the gameplay, so there’s no avoiding it. Fortunately, after making it through the full episode, players will be treated to another special bonus surprise.
After five months of digging into each episode of the highly amusing series, it’s disappointing to see it drawing to a close. Still, 8-Bits Is Enough offers a satisfying conclusion rife with gaming nostalgia and Strong Bad’s trademark ridiculousness. While it’s hard to say whether Telltale and the Chapman bros will eventually cook up another batch of gaming episodes, surely there are plenty more absurd adventures worth exploring.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
The cartoonish foundation is enhanced by side-splitting retro gaming graphics. 4.0 Control
A typical point-and-click formula gets a few fun additions this time around 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent voice work, as always, and a slick 8-bit audio style to match 3.6
Though slightly less cohesive as some previous episodes, the finale aims to please.
4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.