The goal of selling an "interactive cartoon" is something companies have been trying, largely unsuccessfully, for years. And if you're old enough to remember games like The Adventures of Willy Beamish, then it's very likely that you're the market that Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner is gunning for, except the Telltale Games people made this one work nicely. Packed with references to the popular Homestar Runner online cartoon as well as the 1980s, the game fills in the formerly much-needed gap in adventure gaming. Sierra On-Line, Dynamix, and LucasArts' classic adventure games may be long gone, but Telltale has figured out how to make the genre work in the post-post-VGA era.
$10 (1000 Wii points)
Point, click, repeat. For the most part it works quite well, you point your Wii controller at a spot on the screen, press "A", and you walk there. The strange thing is that there are a few areas in which you direct Strong Bad, your playable character, to one side of the screen and he walks to the opposite side. I assume this is a bug, and while it's not a fun-crippling one, it is annoying. Moving from one area of the town to another is easy, you just access a hand-drawn map and click where you want to go.
So, what would you do in a Strong Bad game you ask? As the title may suggest, you're out to ruin Homestar Runner, the goody two-shoes athlete with (I assume) a learning disability. That's just a hunch. While going around Free Country, USA, you can talk to most of the characters from the cartoon and pick up stuff. As a fan of Space Quest games, this plays a lot like the later point-and-click games, right down to the token mini-games to break up the exploration and trial-and-error which make up the bulk of the title.
It's hard to stress just how much this game is like an old adventure game. One of the things that Telltale wisely added was a "hints" option, where if you're taking too long to do something, you might get a clue. You can turn these off, or increase their frequency. Given that I'm sure Sierra's business model had a lot to do with selling those $10 hint books, it's nice to see a company not grab for the upsell.
Snake Boxer 5 is in Strong Bad's room. It's an Atari 2600-esque title in which you can punch snakes. So far I've managed to get to level 7. Strong Bad provides commentary over it, which is a little annoying, but it's better than the silence you would normally get from an Atari-esque title.
The Race to the End of the Race feature involves a lot of specialized controls and, most important of all, cheating. I can admire this. There are also Teen Girl Squad comics to animate, which is basically a choose-your-own-adventure title in which you kill teenage girls. It's funny how the game's light play and breezy humor can look when you write it out like that.
Is It Worth It?
Yes! And no. The game is a little short but compared to some games which drag on and on, this may be a plus. If you're a dawdler, you'll probably get through the story and find most of the goodies in the game in about five hours. It's not as funny as the free cartoons on the Homestar Runner site tend to be, but it's plenty of fun and funny enough that you won't be sorry you tried it. Besides, if you've watched the hundreds of cartoons for free, at least this way you can give the creators a couple of bucks by picking up the game.
There's not a ton of replay here, but I could see coming back to it in a few months or a year to play through it again. Or just playing through the next episodes, which I'll be doing shortly.
April 16, 2009