Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People Episode One: Homestar Ruiner
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 08/11/2008
Also Released On: Nintendo Wii
2008 is certainly the year where Adventure games returned to prominence. It’s also the return of licensed Adventure games. Remember the days of the LucasArts Indiana Jones point and click titles and games of that nature? Well in 2008, I’ve already reviewed Adventure games like Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law, LOST: Via Domus, and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
Now I’ve picked up yet another licensed property that uses the point n’ click genre to tell its tale, based on the characters from the popular Homestar Runner website created by the Brothers Chap. I’ll admit I’m a pretty big Homestar Runner fan. I have friends that have gone as Teen Girl Squad for Halloween. I have a Trogdor label for the rear window of my car, and I even own a “The Cheat” stuffed animal.
I chose to review the PC version for several reasons. One, my time with And Then There Were None left me with a bad taste towards Adventure games on the Wii. Two, The Wii has such little space for games that I’ll choose my PC and its massive hard drive over the Wii for something like this any day. Three, it’s $10 per episode on the Wii, make this a FIFTY DOLLAR Adventure game, which is insane considering this is the age of $19.99 to $29.99 adventure games. On the PC however, you can buy all five episodes for a bundle price of $34.95. This is still a bit pricier than the average game in this genre, but hey, it’s also $15 cheaper than the Wii version.
So is this game worth it, or does the fact this review will take me longer to write then it did for me to beat the game stick in my craw?
If you are unfamiliar with the characters and stories of Homestar Runner, I suggest you go visit the website. Otherwise you may be a bit lost as to some of the things occurring in this game.
There are actually two stories in this game. The first is a quick 5-10 minute tutorial about Strong Bad trying to find his missing laptop. It’s quite funny, and even if you can play adventure games blindfolded and without using your limbs, you should check this out for the amusement value. The second story is about two and a half hours long and involves nearly every character from the Homestar Runner universe.
As always, Strong Bad, a loveable jerk who always wears boxing gloves and a Lucha Libre mask goes to check his email. This time a reader asks about the elephant in the room: Why the hell hasn’t Strong Bad beaten the living tar out of Homestar Runner yet. Strong Bad admits this is a wonderful idea, and then goes out to do the nefarious deed.
This of course never happens. Instead Strong Bad is distracted by something I will call via abbreviation, “The Race to the End of the Race.” In scheming to become the winner of this race, which only happens every three years, Strong Bad ends up making Homestar public enemy #1 by framing him as a pyromaniacal streaker. One would think this would make Strong Bad happy as he’s finally ruined the life of Homestar, but alas, as an outcast, Homestar moves into the House of Strong, forcing Strong Bad to make the town love him again.
The game is amazingly funny and I haven’t laughed this much at a video game since the furrie porn bit in Harvey Birdman. From the make your own Teen Girl Squad comic to the playable Snake Boxer V video game complete with secret code that lets you play as the snake, Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People is one of the funniest games I’ve played in years, and also has a story that fits perfectly within Homestar continuity. You couldn’t have asked for a better job plot and characterization wise.
Story Rating: Unparalleled
2. Graphics Rating
Considering the cast of Homestar made their debut on the Brothers Chap’s copy of Mario Paint, and that it currently exists as a crudely rendered flash cartoon series, one would expect the game to capture the same sense of style. Well it does…somewhat.
Part of the problem is that the cartoon is 2-D and the video game is a little more 3-D. There are some noticeable animation problems from the very beginning of the game like when Strong Bad is singing his opening song and the box of potato chips on his hand occasionally flickers and disappears while he is walking. There are also a lot of jaggies around each character which could have/should have been cleaned up. Strong Bad is the most noticeable as you are playing as him, and it’s especially noticeable when there is a green background for some reason.
There are a few other graphical glitches involving flickering and some poorly done animation which does detract from the stylistic enjoyment of the game. Still, seeing a Teen Girl get eaten by rats helps make up for that.
For the most part though, the graphics are cute and true to the cartoon in every way. Fans of the series will enjoy it for what it is. People who aren’t as Homestar aware though? Well, they’ll probably find it ugly, garish and something that could have been done two console generations ago. To be perfectly blunt, compare this game to say, Grim Fandango which is another Adventure game that came out almost a decade ago and see how much the latter blows this one away in terms of visuals, details and character design. Yes I know that Homestar Runner is supposed to be a bit pants visually, but as a critic I have to judge the graphics by the standard set for gaming, not flash cartoons, and as such, the visuals here are decidedly mediocre. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them. It just means it’s a bit behind in what is possible.
Graphics Rating: Mediocre
Every single character has their actual cartoon voice in the game, which is a huge plus. Compare that to the recent LOST game where only half the cast supplied their acting talents. The voice acting in Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People is top notch and utterly hilarious. Even the slightest fan of the character will be satisfied here.
Sound effects like the Tarantula Black Metal Detector or even the moles Strong Bad gives illegal muscle building substances to are hilarious and surprisingly spot-on. Telltale has put a lot of time and effort into every sound gag in the game and it shows.
Besides the story, I feel the aural aspect of the game is its strongest area. This is no doubt because the Brothers Chap had a great deal of control here.
Sound Rating: Unparalleled
4. Control and Gameplay
This, however, is where the game is weakest. It is pretty hard to make an Adventure game into a bug glitch filled mess, but Telltale sure tried their hardest here. Glitches I encountered in this game included: the sound turning itself off for no reason for an extended period of time, Strong Bad not interacting with the item you clicked, Strong Bad moving in the exact opposite direction from where you clicked, the game refusing to let you click on the map, inventory list, or camera, which also prevents you from saving the game, and items on your map moving location without you doing so. Wii fans have it worse as it has been reported that the game crashes when Coach Z speaks. Of course Coach Z is fundamental to many aspects of the game, so Wii fans be warned.
With all these gameplay glitches, in addition to the visual ones, you might be wondering why anyone would play the game. Well, Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People still manages to be fun because of the relatively simple control scheme of the game. You just point and click for everything: to talk to other characters, to move around, to take objects, to use objects, and so on. The game certainly has control issues, but aside from the crashing that can happen to Wii owners, nothing here is truly game threatening. It’s still a disappointment that the game was released with so many issues though. Considering Adventure games are considered the easiest and most reliable game to make gameplay wise, AND that a lot of Telltale came from LucasArts, well, there’s no excuse for this shoddy job.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Poor
Like most Adventure games, Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People is very linear and there are no branching paths or multiple endings for those of you into that sort of thing. However, where this is generally the weak spot in Adventure games, Telltale has added so many extras, that you can easily come back and keep playing time and time again, thanks to extended mode. There are Snakes to box, Teen Girl Squad character to kill and achieve a high score on, the ability to dress up Strong Bad in a limited array of costumes, treasure to find with your metal detector, the ability to beat your time in the “Race to the End of the Race” and obscure trophies to win. Here’s a hint for one: Trim every hedge you find!
Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People has more replay value then most Adventure games I’ve come in contact with for a long time. However, you’ll be replaying for the weird extras and not the main game itself. Now if only I could get that Trogdor machine to work…
Replayability Rating: Above Average
Adventure games are generally known for their puzzles and brain teasers. For some gamers, these puzzles can be quite hard or even outside their realm of logic. Adventure games are generally a thinking person’s game, and are a quite different beast from the running around killing things titles that sell far better.
With Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People however the game is quite easy. Long time Adventure game fans will probably be a bit distraught with how easy the game is and how obvious nearly all of the puzzles in the game are. In fact there is only one in game puzzle that wasn’t immediately obvious to me and it was in the King of Town’s castle. The other puzzle, which earns you a TGS card is an optional piece and will probably drive non point and click gamers insane trying to figure it out. Here’s a hint, I mentioned the solution somewhere earlier in this review.
Gamers that aren’t used to logic puzzles, which tends to be most casual gamers outside of the Sudoku bent, might find this game actually quite hard. That’s why they included a tutorial however.
Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People really is meant to be “Baby’s First Adventure Game” and a gateway drug into the genre for people that have either never played point and click games, or for people that have shied away since the days of Monkey Island or Shadowgate. If you’re looking for a real challenge, the only aspect of it you’ll find of it here is in the controls.
Balance Rating: Decent
In terms of gameplay, this is a fairly generic game. However, there are a lot of key areas where Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People is fresh and innovative. From the mini games that are strewn throughout the title (which is something most Adventure games are totally lacking) to this being the first video game featuring the Homestar Runner cast, Telltale games have made a pretty out there title, which is something this genre desperately needed as it’s been mainly detective and horror games for the last few years.
Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People has done some nifty things for the genre. It’ll be interesting to see if what feels fresh and new now turns into formulaic laurel resting by the last episode.
Originality Rating: Enjoyable
If you know the characters, this is probably going to be a high mark for you. HSR fans are used to short animations of about ten minutes or so at most. However the game does start to drag a bit after about 90 minutes as the last hour just has you dealing with Strong Mad and Poopsmith in a little stealth section, trying to win the big race, fixing Homestar’s life, and forcing grievous injury upon those who invade your home with a conga line. As I said at the beginning, I’m a big fan of HSR, and even I began to get a bit bored towards the end.
I can’t really say how people new to Homestar Runner will react. All the characters are new and fresh so it might keep them engaged longer as they aren’t predisposed to these characters in shorter spurts. At the same time, the game makes no attempt to introduce these characters or explain itself to newcomers, so more than likely, this will put out some purchasers.
The game can drag a bit, but it’s also laugh out loud funny, so it balances out. Had there not been all the optional things to find and do, I probably would have lost interest in the game, which is a bit sad considering it’s the length of a summer blockbuster.
Addictiveness Rating: Above Average
9. Appeal Factor
Homestar Runner has a huge fan population. Sales will surely reflect that and fan boys with a less critical eye will rave about the game, ignoring the many obvious glitches in the game because, hey, you can play as Strong Bad!
Even with the glitches though, gamers will enjoy the game because of the ease of controls and the hilarious antics of these weird ass characters. This is probably going to be the best selling Adventure game of the year when all is said and done, which says more about how gamers have chosen to be ignorant about the genre, then the quality of the game.
Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of Homestar Runner, if you can’t laugh at the thought of “Foot Replacement Surgery” or Snake Boxer V, then you have no soul.
Appeal Factor: Great
I began this review by prefacing my issues with the cost of this game compared to others in this genre. If I was reviewing the Wii version of this game, I’d give the lowest score we can in this category because I find it really unscrupulous to charge nearly twice the going rate for this genre’s new releases. For the PC though? I’m paying approximately $3.50 an hour for this episode, which I can live with and find quite a nice bargain as that price drops the more I try to uncover everything I have left to unlock in the game. Maybe someday I’ll beat the 20th level of Snake Boxer V.
I’m happy with the extra and the stylistic qualities of Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People. Quality-wise however, I still have reservations. This game by NO MEANS displaces The Lost Crown as the best Adventure game of 2008 so far, but Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People is awesome in the same areas TLC is, just in exactly opposite ways.
A nice two hour game with a lot of memorable moments and some cute throw-ins. A good deal all-around and that’s all you can really ask for.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Control and Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Great
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
For $7.50 (or $8.95 if you bought the episodes individually), Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People Episode One: Homestar Ruiner isn’t a bad way to spend an evening. The title is longer than the game itself, but for fans of Homestar Runner, you probably couldn’t ask for a better video game version of the cartoon. Again, I advise getting the PC version as it is cheaper and less buggy (Which frightens me considering how buggy this version is), but either way, you’re in for a hilarious time.