As a series of episodes, the Cool Game for Attractive People franchise is showing great signs of improvement as we move along to Strong Badia the Free. The first game was a good translation of the online cartoon into game form, but the second game manages to do a much better job of taking an original story and making it work as a game. In the first game, Strong Bad decides to ruin Homestar Runner's race and then has to help him get his life back together. In this game, Strong Bad leads a revolt against the King of Town and, you guessed it, eventually has to put things right again. Did I spoil the game? Probably not. Strong Bad secedes from the town, chaos ensues, then there's war and fire. It's a good time.
Strong Badia the Free
$10 (1000 Wii points)
Point, click, repeat. If you played the first game, it's the exact same engine, and it's very easy to get the hang of. Like in the first, there are a few times when you click on the right side of the screen and your character will move left, or vice-versa.
Graphics & Sound & Gameplay
There's quite a bit of exploring and hunting, as the game starts you off with a metal detector which you're going to be needing to use a lot. So prepare to cover a lot of ground in your quest, but it's quite rewarding to do so. There are a number of collectible flags to see, plus a fair amount of Strong Bad commentary if you're in to that sort of thing. Another fine feature in this game is rather than merely "collect" things, you'll eventually get a lighter and there are a number of things you have to set on fire. So to reiterate, the game involves setting stuff on fire, playing games within the game, and war. On paper this may well be the video game every 11-year-old boy dreams of, and as a much older person, I can tell you it's a good time.
Strong Bad marches across Free Country, USA to conquer the many lands that lay between him and the King of Town which have names like East Marzistar, Coachnya, and Poopslovakia. Each has a series of challenges, quests, dance-offs, and other diversions which really highlight the characters' personalities while giving Strong Bad a lot to try and do. This sequel really gives the cast of characters a massive toy box to play in, plus there's just a whole bunch of weirdness to enjoy every few minutes. Except for one little bump at the end which is essentially a Mad Lib that has a specific right answer, we found the game fairly easy to reason through.
The graphics are about as good as the online cartoons, although now that we sprang for some HD cables we're seeing some new flaws and some other ones went away. For example, the King of Town's moustache looks a little funky, but the overall look and feel of the Strong Bad character model and the town seems to be much nicer. (This is, of course, more or less a hardware issue.) If you play on a big HDTV or a standard CRT display, it's going to look pretty much fantastic.
An area where I have issues with the Brothers Chaps (the guys who voice the characters and animate the toons) is in the sound. Most characters have distinctive voices which you can easily understand-- but there's a lot of distortion involved in places to the point where it's actually quite difficult to understand the muffled or otherwise digitally altered voices are saying. Most of these tend to be gags or non sequiturs, so it's not like it really matters, but it would be good to clearly understand the words which are being spoken in the ancillary areas of the game. The main characters are all as clear as a bell, even Homsar, who manages to stand in for native Americans in the war march part of the game.
Math Kickers Featuring the Algebros has replaced the game from the first title in Strong Bad's room. It plays a little more like a questionable NES game in which you have to punch ninjas and solve algebra equations, but don't worry because it isn't terribly difficult to figure out what "1 + X = 3" is. You'll do fine.
The other main mini-game is Maps & Minions, a simplified variant on chess or other similar games in which you play against the computer in a simulation of the battle between Strong Bad and the King of Town over final control of the king's castle. It involves a lot of trial-and-error and, at first, I got fairly frustrated-- but after a couple of play-throughs it started to make sense. Unfortunately it doesn't give you much indication over what the real rules of the game are, but if it did you'd probably slam through it in a few minutes. So score one for Telltale working in some additional challenges. Surprisingly, Strong Bad really doesn't play in to this final scenario much and for the last chunk of the game he really doesn't seem to have a lot to say.
Is It Worth It?
Yes! If you're short on cash, skip the first one and get this one. It's significantly funnier than the first-- I laughed out loud along with my key co-conspirator-- and the game designers did a bang-up job coming up with ways to get all the characters fighting one another. The entire game is filled with some of the funniest Homestar Runner gags I've seen anywhere, and the showdown between Strong Bad and Strong Mad in the country of "Country" simply must be seen to be believed. I'd love to tell you about it here so you'd go run and play it, but that would ruin the most excellent surprise.
Like Homestar Ruiner, it doesn't seem like it will demand numerous replays but it's so much fun that you should get it to have some fun over the weekend. Expect to get four or five hours out of this one if you don't cheat.
April 28, 2009