Reviews: Mildly pleasant-looking people need not apply.
It's safe to say that most web-savvy individuals will possess at least a passing familiarity with Homestar Runner
. Brothers Mike and Matt Chapman created the Flash web cartoon in 2000. Since that time HomeStarRunner.com has become one of the most popular humor sites on the Internet. The cartoon outwardly appears geared toward children. Underneath this cheery fa?ade, however, is a product brimming with social satire and pop culture references for the Gen-X/Gen-Y crowd. For the first time, the Brothers Chaps (the brothers' collective stage name) are bringing their creation to the video game market with Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
(SBCG4AP), a point-and-click adventure title developed by Telltale Games.
Telltale, founded by a group of ex-LucasArts employees in 2004, is best known for its episodic Sam and Max
adventure games. SBCG4AP is arguably the company's highest profile game to date. Like its previous games, Telltale plans to release SBCG4AP in episodes. This month's episode, entitled "Homestar Ruiner", is the first of five chapters that will comprise SBCG4AP. Telltale will release a new episode each month until December. These are available for download on the PC and the Nintendo Wii (via the WiiWare service).
Much like the Looney Toons, the Brothers Chaps created a universe containing a cast of colorful characters. Among these individuals is the titular Homestar, the cartoon's armless, dimwitted hero. Arguably more popular, however, is Strong Bad, the cartoon's principle antagonist who always appears wearing a Mexican wrestler's mask (Suda 51 would be so proud). In addition to the cartoon, Strong Bad is the star of his own weekly spin-off, ?Strong Bad E-mail? in which he answers messages from real-life fans. The character is notable for his mischievous nature, arrogant demeanor, and a strong affection for video games.
Considering his popularity, it is no small wonder that Telltale chose to make Strong Bad the game's central character. The story begins with Strong Bad playing a trick on Homestar. This prank leads to the hero's ruination and shunning by the denizens of Free Country, USA (the cartoons' setting). Fate calls Strong Bad into action when, in a fit of irony, Homestar's plight begins to negatively affect his misanthropic existence. The anti-hero must now solve the dilemma he created in order to preserve his ?style.?
Fans of the web cartoon will not be disappointed. The game retains the cartoon's quirky sense of humor, including its pop culture references and charming eccentricity. There are a lot of in-jokes that Homestar Runner
aficionados will appreciate. For example, a Cheat Commandos cereal box sits on top of Strong Bad's kitchen counter. The game also allows the player to create his or her Teen Girl Squad cartoon.
While it would be easy to simply breeze through the game and complete the necessary tasks to win, a decent bit of longevity derives from the player wandering around and interacting with as many characters and objects as possible to see what humorous things Strong Bad will say next. A lot of the comedy lay in the fact that Strong Bad seems to be the only character with any common sense. All the other inhabitants of Free Country are clueless rubes. After awhile it becomes easy to understand why Strong Bad feels compelled to antagonize them.
All this being said, the esoteric nature of the source material somewhat works against the game. While fans will appreciate the humor, those unfamiliar with the cartoon may be left out in the cold. Since SBCG4AP is so heavily driven by its comedic storyline and characters, if the player isn't a fan of the Homestar Runner
, then they will probably dislike the game. A visit to HomeStarRunner.com is recommended for those players alien to the concept.
In terms of the game play, SBCG4AP follows the point-and-click adventure format to the letter. The player moves Strong Bad about by simply clicking on various areas of the screen with the mouse or Wii remote. The game requires the player to backtrack a lot between areas. Fortunately this never becomes an annoyance since the player can easily jump between areas with Strong Bad's map.
The game's puzzles are primarily inventory-based. This means that for the player to progress in the game then he or she must discover a particular item to complete a specific task. Fortunately the puzzles are logical (albeit the deranged logic of Strong Bad's world), and the goal is always clear. Players will use each item at least once.
SBCG4AP deviates from the typical point-and-click adventure game with an arcade and stealth section. The former is a race that Strong Bad must participate in at least twice during the course of the episode. The controls here involve simply pushing the correct buttons. The stealth section is a bit clunkier and can be slightly frustrating until the solution presents itself.
All in all, however, the first episode is not overly difficult and will take 2-5 hours to complete depending upon the player's experience with adventure games. The game is pretty liberal about giving hints. Strong Bad will remind the player of the task at hand if he or she wanders around for too long. Players can adjust the frequency of these hints in the game's main menu.
Telltale has done an excellent job of translating the look of the Chapman brothers' Flash animations into a 3-D setting. While the graphics aren't pushing any boundaries, they are large, colorful, and accurately reflect the cartoon's style. Like many point-and-click adventures, the animated characters move around a largely static background. Meanwhile the voice work is all-around excellent and entertaining. As with the web cartoons, Matt Chapman provides the voices for almost all the characters. These voices clearly display each character's personality and add a lot to the game's humor.
Telltale has clearly made an effort to stretch out SBCG4AP's replay value (a common pitfall for adventure games). Once a player finishes with the main game, he or she can venture into the world and discover hidden items with Strong Bad's metal detector and shovel. These items are either pages to Strong Bad's Snake Boxer 5
video game manual or extra ideas for a Teen Girl Squad cartoon. Players can also earn trophies by completing certain tasks like trimming all the unkempt hedges in Free Country. Even with all these activities, once the main quest is over, there is not a tremendous pull to play the game again.