Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Review

Hey there, got episode 1 and 2 of SBCGFAP the other day, entitled 'Homestar Ruiner' and 'Strong Badia the Free', respectively, and wrote a review for them both, together. I merged the two reviews, seeing as how the games play the same, but have different stories, so I apologize for any confusion there. I plan to either update that same review or create a brand new one for the future 3 episodes, but I'll let you know when the time comes. And yeah, you can view the review from our super review database over at VFH Classic, so go check it out.
UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead:

Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner & Episode 2: Strong Badia the Free

I was introduced to Strong Bad and the rest of the Homestar Runner gang about 6 years ago, with Strong Bad’s Trogdor and Techno emails and fell in love with his humor. There are a ton of things to see and do on, from viewing the emails and comics, to playing some 8-bit inspired games, but now, with the help of Telltale Games, you can play through a real adventure with all of your favorite characters in Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People.

The game is broken up into five chapters (sold separately), two of which are currently available and which I am basing my review on. The two chapters available are, in chronological order, ‘Homestar Ruiner’, and ‘Strong Badia the Free’, each of which are 1,000 points on the Wii, or $8.95 from for the PC. They both have you play as Strong Bad, although their stories are completely divergent, so you don’t have to have played one to play the other.

Each chapter starts off with an introduction and shows Strong Bad reading his email, which spurs the story of the game. From there, you are brought into Strong Bad’s realm and environment, which include all of the familiar favorites, from Strong Bad’s house, to Bub’s Concession Stand and Strong Badia. The game contains a central, circular hub, where various locales are placed. You also have a map which you can access at any point in the game to transport yourself to any location you desire, so moving around town is very simple. To progress the story, you must solve puzzles and do certain things to create a situation that will allow for a specific event to take place. Because this is a point-and-click adventure, you must go around town, talking to a variety of characters to learn key information that will help you, as well as collect and use items at the right time. There are a variety of items you can acquire throughout each game, and you will not be able to use them in anyway unless it is necessary, so you can’t screw up, however, knowing when and where to use certain items isn’t always obvious, which makes the game challenging and rewarding when you do come up with a clever solution to a problem. The inventory system is very easy to access and use, as you simply need to move your cursor to the top of the screen to access the inventory system, and then select the item you want to use. Then, you can click on Strong Bad if you want him to use the item directly, or you can click on something else to use the item on that object or person.

One of the exciting places you will find on your travels. Oh yeah, da Cheat. So cool.

With these basics in mind, you are free to go about your business and explore the town, clicking on items and people to hear witty banter and back-and-forths that you are used to from the Homestar Runner universe, which is what makes this game so great. On the surface, the game is a some-what simple point-and-click adventure, with some complex puzzles, but with the application of Strong Bad and the gang and the great dialogue, you’re bound to fall in love with the game if you are a fan of the website.

Aside from the main objective, the game presents lots of side-quests and activities to partake in, which break up the regular gameplay nicely. Present in both games, are interactive Teen Girl Squad comics, 8-bit games, and collectibles. The Teen Girl Squad comics set up a scenario and present you with three scenes, each of which allow you to do a number of events. At the beginning, you have about 10 items you can choose to use to perform an event in the comic, with the underlying goal of trying to destroy all four girls by the end. In order to be successful, you will have to play through each comic a few times before you understand how all the items work and how best to use them to complete your goal. Some items require other items to properly work, or need to be used during a certain time in each comic. At the end of the comic, Strong Bad awards you points for how entertaining your comic was, so keep experimenting with the items to find the best combination. Also, there are four idea cards scattered throughout each chapter that you will need to find to attain the best score, so get to exploring. It is also important to note that these comics are pretty hilarious, delivering some of the best quips in the game, such as "Fundamentals!", "Triple Doubl’d", "Meteor’d", and others, which you will have to play through to understand, but will undoubtedly repeat to yourself again and again.

Here, you can see the items you can use, which when carried over to a girl, sparks a certain event, some of which need to be timed properly for mass effect.

Aside from a single Teen Girl Squad comic per chapter, each also contains an 8-bit game to play. The first chapter contains the thrilling Snake Boxer 5, while the second chapter has Math Kickers. Snake Boxer 5 is very simple and just pits you against a snake, where you can move up and down and punch. Math Kickers is a bit more interesting, where you can attack both left and right, and need to solve math equations along the way. There are a number of enemies, and the total number of enemies you hit equals the variable in the equation, so you need to solve the very basic algebra to know how many enemies to attack. There are however, boss fights which involve very complex equations that get simplified as you battle. Each game has a secret code or two you can input to help you out or unlock special effects, and you can obtain these codes by finding pages of the manual.

There are four pages to find and they are scattered throughout the world, hidden in a variety of places, including underground, so you must use your trusty metal detector and shovel to find them, even though the pages are paper…and not metallic…but Strong Bad makes mention of that fact too. Aside from game manual pages, there are other collectibles and things to find throughout both chapters, including costumes, flags, and those Teen Girl Squad cards, all of which you can keep track of via the games map and stats menu, where you can see how many items you have collected, how many more you need, and certain other percentages and scores.

Like I mentioned, you can find costumes, however, you can’t wear them in public. Instead, you can make your way to the photo booth where you can try on all those clothes and accessories and then pose for pictures. There are a variety of backdrops you can use, and once you find one you like, you can ready the camera and Strong Bad will go through a few poses. Aside from the photo booth, you can also take pictures of the game whenever you like, aside from in the middle of conversations and such, but anytime in which you can bring up the inventory you can snap a picture. In the Wii version of the game, you can send these pictures to your friends via the message board, which is a pretty neat feature.

Here, you can see the dialogue tree, where you can choose what you want to talk about with that person.

Aside from the story, both the chapters play the same, with the point-and-click adventuring scheme, where you go around, talking with people and figuring out clever ways to use those items you’ve found, although I found that chapter one was a bit more clever and challenging than chapter two. For the curious, chapter one, Homestar Ruiner, centers around Strong Bad’s desire to pummel Homestar and then win a certain, ridiculously named race; while chapter two, Strong Badia the Free, is about performing a coup on The King of Town, renamed Of Town by Strong Bad, after Of Town enacted an email tax, but in order to take over the castle, he must first enlist the help of his friends who have each started their own "countries". Each of the stories is interesting and the development plays well on the story, for instance, with old-timey war reels playing every time Strong Bad annexes a new country in chapter two.

Each of the chapters will take you around 3-5 hours to complete, depending on how intuitive you are, but once you complete the main story, you can always continue and try to find all the collectibles and finish everything, as well as get a high score in the 8-bit game. Unfortunately, because the style of game, there is no real replay value, as once you beat it, you know exactly where everything is and how to use everything, as there is no improvisation possible; each item has a specific use(s) and you can’t deviate from that to go about a puzzle or problem in a different way.

At the top, you can see the menu system. The first item on the left brings up your inventory in that area, while the second item will bring up your map, where you can choose where to travel to and it also houses the stats section. The third icon is the camera and lets you take a screen shot. The one on the far right is the main menu, which lets you load and save games, as well as change your settings and quit.

That being said, the game is still great while it lasts, with the Homestar humor coming out constantly, from item descriptions, comments about any and everything you click on, conversations you have with others, and other exclamations Strong Bad belts out. The writers have definitely done a great job and have stayed very true to the website, so if you check the website on a daily basis, then this is the perfect game for you. The first two chapters were a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next three, each of which come out monthly. You can tell they are working very hard on these games, and I can’t wait to see the situations Strong Bad gets himself into and how Videlectrix and Telltale Games improve on the presentation and puzzles, which I believe will continue to get more and more clever and interesting.

Keep your eyes open for impressions on all of the future chapters when they are released.

Episode 3: Baddest of the Bands

Another month brings another episode in Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, entitled Baddest of the Bands. This episode centers on Strong Bad’s desire to fix his fun machine, which plays those classic 8-bit games. In order to afford the high cost of “a big sack of cash,” Strong Bad decides that the only logical way to get the money is to put on a Battle of the Bands concert to raise some money. However, it’s not so easy, as you must convince fellow bands to sign up, which can be quite the task.

The episode is split into a variety of goals you must accomplish: get as security guard, high some celebrity judges, sign bands, and then sabotage the bands so you can win. Each of these sections of the game present different environments to explore and characters to talk to, although they are all the same people and places from previous episodes. Naturally of course, there are completely new items and ways to use those items to accomplish your goal. Most the time, you’ll have some trouble realizing how to use an item in the correct way, but with some experimenting and ingenuity, you can figure it out without too much trouble. The hint system is also very helpful, with Strong Bad or other characters spewing out helpful phrases or dialogue.

I believe this episode is better than others in really splitting the game up into individual sections, making it easier to understand your objective. The first episode just let you walk around, exploring all of the areas and giving you a bunch of random objectives to complete whenever you felt like it, however, this episode is split up well and while you may not know exactly how to accomplish a goal, you know what the goal is and what you need to do.

After going from place to place, and figuring out what you need to do to either get bands to agree to sign up for the battle or getting bands back together, you realize that Bubs is a sneaky snake, skimming some money for himself from the entry fees, so you need to make more money, and the best way to do that is for you to enter the battle yourself and win the prize money. Unfortunately though, all the good citizens are already in bands, so you are stuck with Homesar and The King of Town….needless to say, even with Strong Bad’s awesome talent and skills, his band mates won’t be able to win the contest alone. Therefore, it is up to you to do a little sabotage, messing up each band in a unique way.

Overall, the puzzles are well done, and most of the items necessary are easy to acquire, but some are out of place and possibly hard to find unless you click on everything. Some of the puzzles require some thought, and even if you think you know what items you should use and how to use them, you may find a bit of trouble getting it all straight, which will lead to frustrating situations, but if you keep experimenting and thinking about the overall goal and what you’ve learned, you’ll be able to find a solution without too many problems.

Like previous episodes, there are a lot of items to collect and special events to find and undergo, which will lead to some exploration and replayability. While there is a new Teen Girl Squad comic, it isn’t interactive, but merely a video, which is really unfortunate, but luckily it is still funny.

Once you finish the main story, you get your fun machine back and get to play your new/old game: Limozeen Hot Babelian Odyssey. This is probably the best game yet, as you control a spaceship in this side scrolling adventure and rescue the Babelians as you go. You can move the ship up and down and shoot lasers and bombs, while using your tractor beam to save the ladies. Each level gets harder and harder as more enemies appear on screen, as do obstacles that must be avoided.

Baddest of the Bands puts Strong Band and the gang into another crazy adventure and contains all the dialogue, humor, and puzzles you’ve grown to love from the previous episodes and website. Baddest of the Bands doesn’t do too much extra from the other chapters, but if you enjoyed those, you will like this one as well.

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