Marshall McLuhan would probably have a field day with Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 4: Dangeresque 3 were he studying video games. And not dead.
$10 (1000 Wii points)
The game takes the poorly made "VHS" movies from the Homestar Runner cartoons, and the game is-- follow this-- Strong Bad (the red guy, for those just joining us) playing one of his home-made movies for his friends and co-stars on a crappy video player. The game is you basically playing the movie, complete with awful special effects, ridiculous jump cuts, fake stunt doubles, and tons of amazing gags that, the more you think about it, reveal an astonishing level of creativity and thoughtfulness. In a game, it's easy to simply make an effect-- having a tree whizz by is simple. But having a character running around a car with a plant to give the illusion of movement? That's genius.
The classic PC point-and-click style is once again applied here with the elegance and simplicity you've come to expect from the series, making it easy to walk around or grab things. Just click the screen and you'll walk there. Usually. Sometimes you'll end up going in the opposite direction for reasons I have not yet been able to determine... but largely, this is a simple one to control. The game works well without too much explaining, and the optional tutorial says it all.
Graphics & Sound & Gameplay
As far as recycling goes, this game does an incredible job-- and draws your attention to it. The same world backdrops are reused from previous games, but are redressed as "sets". The same location is frequently decked out with incredibly fake-looking "cardboard" landmarks to give the sense that you're traveling to a strange new country, as do the characters. Simple drawings and masking tape are used to create sets like labs and jungles, and the effect simply works. It's a little weird to see "Strong Badia" redressed as "Strong Borneo," so the renamed locations may be a little jarring to those who beat the previous three episodes in the series. But it's nothing you can't figure out easily.
Telltale's expert developers went nuts with the sound on this one-- creating bad sound effects and somewhat convincing music for a mystery/adventure/noir spoof is no easy task, and a real departure from the other titles. A simple facelift really gave the game a different look and feel, even though you're basically dealing with all the same characters in the same engine, all made by the same people. Although one character shows up in this one that wasn't in the previous three adventures.
While the bonus game was a prize for completing the game in the third installment, you'll get your game pretty early here. Other than that, it plays like you would expect-- go find stuff, give stuff, solve puzzles, repeat. Get some notepads handy, you're going to need a sheet of paper to jot down some notes for this one, too. (The puzzle is simple, you just need to reference something.)
Space Circus Catastrophe is... unique. The descriptive title tells you that you're in space and there's a strong circus element. Your ship has to rescue bears and circus folk, shoot clowns, and dodge circus peanuts. For reals. It's goofy as heck but pretty fun for a game which basically has the same gameplay as Dragon's Lair minus the animations and such. It's worth giving a whirl or two, but like a real Atari game, it may not hold your interest for too long. The title also makes an appearance near the end of the game as you have to play a stage as part of the story. (Clever!)
It's not particularly memorable, but it's a fun extra in an already good game.
Is It Worth It?
YES. It's a little in-jokey-- you really ought to be familiar with the cartoons to enjoy this game-- but the sight of these characters essentially putting on their interpretation of a blockbuster movie with the worst props and costumes you'll ever see is so gosh darn delightful that you really do need to see it. Typically video games stick to their own medium and conventions, on occasion reaching out to borrow from a movie or cartoon. Rarely do they borrow from home movies and the imaginations of future filmmakers.
I enjoyed this immensely-- the spirit behind it is infectious, the characters are charming, and oh yes-- the script is funny. That's important. If you know someone who enjoys the Homestar Runner family of cartoons, or students of the media, you owe it to them to tell them they need to try this.
May 6, 2009