Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People Episode Five: 8-Bit is Enough
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 12/15/2008
Well it’s finally over. Five months and five episodes later the Homestar Runner series of games have come to a close. The first one was by far the best, the next two were fun but there was a drop in quality and Dangeresque 3 was a flat out disappointment. You check all four reviews below.
8 Bit is Enough however offered a bright light of hope at the end of the tunnel with a promise of Trogdor the Burninator. Many fans on the flash cartoon series and these games had been hypothesizing that you would finally be able to play the Trogdor video game in this episode. Alas, it is not to be, even in post play mode. Even with this letdown of a revelation, is the final episode of SBCGFAP worth playing or has Episode Five followed the same downward spiral of ever increasing bugs and sloppier storytelling that the rest of the series fell victim to?
Episode Five starts immediately after Episode 4 ends. Like the rest of us, the cast of Homestar Runner is disgusted with how bad Dangeresque 3 was and in his attempt to escape the angry mob, Strong Bad accidentally flings himself into the Trogdor arcade game, damaging the control board. Although this doesn’t sound that bad, it gets worse when the arcade game comes to life, sprouting legs, a tail and a giant muscular arm. TROGDOR LIVES!
In his attempts to repair the arcade game, Strong Bad accidentally causes a reality backlash merging the Homestar Runner world and that of the Videlectrix video game (A fictional company that makes Strong Bad’s favorite games). In order to save reality, Strong Bad must gather a party of characters to help him on his quest to recover the Trog-sword and slay the mighty dragon itself.
I have to admit, this was an exceptionally funny game. Not only was there in your face blatant slapstick, but there were a lot of subtle pop culture references and even more references to specific video game. Watch the Stinkoman level and tell me that the style and music isn’t a direct riff on the 8 bit Mega Man games. Peasant Quest is obviously King’s Quest, Spirits of ’76 is a send up of Atari’s Haunted House there’s a WOLFENSTEIN 3-D homage in the second to last bit of the game and the final battle between Trogdor and Strong Bad comes straight from any number of truly awful PSX/Saturn era 3-D games. 8-Bit is Enough is a brilliant send up of the entire genre and the game even makes fun of itself by reminding you that “Licensed games are never good.”
It’s rare that any game has such scope, especially a game that can be beaten in about two to two and a half hours. There is so much variety and the game moves so fast that you find yourself doubt the game is as deep as it really is. But it is in fact so. Whether it’s the Sword of Omens from Thundercats appearing as the Trog-Sword, Marzipan being possessed by the spirit of a female Donkey Kong, or Trogdor burninating the peasants of Peasant Quest, you’ll be laughing at the pure insanity of this game from beginning to end. The ending is slightly unexpected, but at least it explains why you can’t play the Trogdor video game anymore. It’s just too bad there’s no Teen Girl Squad in this game. It’s the only thing missing from this otherwise perfect plot.
Story Rating: Unparalleled
As usual, the game looks mostly spot on in regards to the flash cartoon series where the Homestar Runner characters originated. However it’s still a generation or two behind what is possible in this day and age. It’s also not a surprise to people who have played the previous four games that at times, Telltale was quite sloppy and allowed a lot of graphical and programming glitches to go through. The most noticeable one this time is that the door between the laundry room and the TV room in the House of Strong is missing. It’s just a big blue blur – something that the previous four games didn’t have an issue with. What’s up with that. There are other graphical bugs, but that’s the most obvious that you’ll encounter.
Unlike previous games in the series, 8-Bit is Enough features many different graphic styles – all which represent parodies of famous video games from our past. Although the game does refer to the 8-bit era in the title, most of the game visuals are representative of the Atari 2600 or 1980’s computer games. Still, they are spot on with the mockery of the visual quality from those eras. The Wolfenstein 3-D parody visuals were by far my favorite. Although none of the graphics in the game are up to this current generation’s visual prowess, that’s not what Telltale was going for here. They do a great job of alternately mocking and paying homage to classic games, and in this respect the game does an awesome job.
Although it’s not the prettiest adventure game, 8-Bit is Enough isn’t trying to be and what’s here is exactly the sort of graphics you’d expect to see when the plot revolves around old video games coming to life and terrorizing the world in which you live. Or something.
Graphics Rating: Good
As always, this is where the Strong Bad games excel. The entire cast (which sounds more impressive than it really is) from the flash cartoon is here to provide voices for all the classic characters. There are also some new characters you’ll meet like enemies of Stinkoman and ugh…Gel-Archie. Every character is voiced perfectly.
The music in 8-Bit is Enough is the best of the series so far. There are a lot of tracks that are inspired by the classic games of yore and sound effects to boot. The Stinkoman music is actually one of the better tracks I’ve heard this year and could easily replace anything from Mega Man 9. There’s also a full circle motif going on here as you’ll hear the opening track to the first game at the beginning and end of Episode 5, albeit without Strong Bad singing.
So not only does episode five feature the best music and sound effects in the series so far, but the voice acting cast has really brought their A game back after noticeable dip in quality and enthusiasm in the last two games. Awesome job Telltale and the Brothers Chap!
Sound Rating: Unparalleled
4. Control and Gameplay
As with the previous four games in this series, Telltale manages to make yet another buggy title filled with shoddy unresponsive gameplay that will frustrate nearly everyone that plays it. I’m not sure if it would be more annoying to someone new to the series or someone like me who has played through all five games and not a single improvement has been made. I am still reeling from a bit of culture shock that an adventure game, ANY ADVENTURE GAME, could have controls with issues like this. We’re talking about a point and click game for Cthulhu’s sake!
As always the controls are severely off, especially in the House of Strong or in the open field area comprising of places like “The Stick” and Strong Badia. Often you’ll attempt to move say, left. Like in most Adventure games you’ll point your mouse over towards that direction. But guess what happens? You go right. Sometimes you just stop at a point when you know full well you can keep moving. So just click click click and eventually the game will realize how retarded it is being and go the correct way. This is especially frustrating as the House of Strong has a ghost hunting/item recovery mission in it and the last thing you want here is a funky control scheme. Too bad.
Thankfully most of the new locations don’t have this problem aside from the redone track course. As for the rest of the game it plays exactly like what you have come to expect from an Adventure game. You use the mouse and its buttons to interact with people, objects, and locations in your attempt to lower self-esteem, kill Trogdor and save the world. If you’ve ever played an Adventure game before (Or have read the previous four reviews on this series), then you know how this works.
As always I’m really disappointed that a team of ex LucasArts employees have managed to make an Adventure game that controls this poorly. It’s just lucky for them that making an Adventure game’s controls is easier than any other genre out there. God forbid Telltale ever makes a Real Time Strategy or a Gradius game. The game is playable but embarrassingly so when compared to any other point n’ click on the market.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Mediocre
As always, there is an extended mode offered to players after they beat the game. Here you’ll be able to take Strong Bad around to find more objects, engage in more dialogue and raise your overall score. It’s not much, but it’s more than 95% of Adventure games on the market do for their audience.
Unlike the previous games, you don’t get a Teen Girl Squad mini game. Nope, it’s just collecting Cheat Commandos and old box covers to fake video games. So it’s a bit of a downer there, but again, it’s better than anything else this genre gives us for beating a game. However, you do get not one, but THREE videos games to play, so make due with that as they’re all a lot of fun for mini games.
Replayability Rating: Above Average
At first glance, one would assume that all the different video game homages would lead to a pretty unbalanced game. After all how does one take a 3-D platformer, a old school FPS, an Atari 2600 parody and more and put them all into one game why keeping a straightforward difficulty level? Easy? By making every bit an adventure game. Yes, the game at times may look like something from another genre, but it’s still all an adventure game.
The game is also pretty logical. Most Adventure games have kooky or outside the box solutions to puzzles, including other games in this series, but not really here. The closest I can think of a solution that isn’t immediately apparent is to put snakes on a crate, then use your ally Snake Boxer Joe to bash crates. This makes 8-Bit is Enough easily accessible to any fan of Strong Bad, regardless of their experience with the Adventure genre.
Although this is arguably the easiest of the Strong Bad games, it’s also the most fun. Telltale focused on telling a funny and surreal story with these characters rather than focusing on one giant fetch quest or obtuse puzzles. The end result is the best game in the series so far and a game you can playthrough in one night and walk away fulfilled.
Balance Rating: Great
It’s probably going to sound a bit daft calling a game based on retrogaming parodies original, but really, why hasn’t a game like this happened before? Retro Game Challenge is hitting the DS in 2009, but that’s clearly not the same thing. There are so many parodies and wonderful pop culture in-jokes that it’s hard to imagine anyone not laughing at this game from beginning to end.
Even though this series has been using the same backgrounds and locations in every game, Telltale managed to mix things up in this final episode. Coach Z’s track is now a hellish obstacle course, The House of Strong is filled with creepy ghosts. Bub’s is closed. It really feels fresh and original while the last two games dragged a bit. Sure it’s still an Adventure game using the tried and true format this entire genre has used for over a quarter century, but with some cleverly done parodies of other genres, Telltale is able to make 8 Bit is Enough stand out from the rest of the Adventure games I’ve played this year and even palatable to those who generally don’t enjoy this genre.
Originality Rating: Above Average
Let’s put it this way. I beat this game in a hair over two hours without stopping or saving. THIS is the game I have been waiting for from the Strong Bad series. The first game was a lot of fun, but the others had noticeable drops in quality. With this, the final installment, the Brothers Chap and Telltale gave me a game that felt more like an interactive episode of the cartoon than a licensed game.
Even if you’ve never heard of Homestar Runner before, you’ll be able to segue way into this game perfectly. You don’t get any real character depth, but that’s okay because most of the HR cast have been possessed by video game characters so everything you know about them previously doesn’t apply. Plus, I defy you not to love Stinkoman.
This is the most accessible of the Strong Bad titles for newcomers, which is odd considering it is the last game in the series and it has a lead-in recapping a bit of Episode 4. The parodies and interesting new ways to showcase/camouflage point and click gameplay will keep you glued to your seat for the movie length duration of this little game. 8-Bit is Enough is proof that a game doesn’t have to be a zillion hours long to offer a great story and a great gaming experience.
Addictiveness Rating: Great
9. Appeal Factor
Per earlier reviews from this series:
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 (If taken as a whole) 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.
Honestly, this is one of the funniest video games I’ve ever played and unlike say, A Vampyre Story this game has both an ending and the bloody thing doesn’t drag on until Wolfenstein 3-Dsday. And who amongst us can’t appreciate a good taking the piss of early video games? Even if you dislike Adventure games or Homestar Runner in general, there’s something in this game that will make you laugh out loud – guaranteed. Even if it’s the bugs…
Appeal Factor Rating: Good
8-Bit is Enough is probably proof that with a well done, intelligent and witty story, I can overlook some general gameplay issues that would otherwise having me using copious amounts of profanity. This was a really fun romp through the world of Homestarr Runner although I only really loved the first and last games, four out of the five were worth experiencing, with only Dangeresque 3 sucking the big one.
I wish that this game would have had a Teen Girl Squad adventure in some form, but the really big thing that bugged me was the lack of the actual Trogdor video game. People wanted it and Telltale failed to deliver here. Or did they? After you beat the game you’ll be treated to the all new, all awesome TROGDOR 3-DUNGEON! Sweet! This was a lot of fun but man my wrist is arching after a few games of that.
So yeah, no TGS or the original Trogdor, but what’s here is a great replacement. So we have the best plot, the best laid out adventure game and the best extended play experience. If you’re going to pick up just one episode of SBCGFAP, make it this one.
Miscellaneous Rating: Great
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Above Average
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
8-Bit is Enough is a wonderful swan song for the Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People series. It’s going out on a high note with the funniest story yet and some awesome homages to retrogaming. I wish Telltale could work out the bugs of their engine so poor Strong Bad would move in the right direction yhou point him in and that some graphical glitches would be improved, but for a two hour episodic video game, I can’t think of a better product Telltale has put out yet. I’d honestly recommend this and Homestar Ruiner if you are still on the fence about the series, and remember, you can always upgrade to a season pass if you like what you see.