Well, color me surprised.
I'll be honest, my expectations for Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People (from here on shortened to Strong Bad) have been low. Sure, the five minute "e-mails" are hilarious enough for me to subscribe as a podcast, but translating Internet shorts into an adventure game, or five episodes for that matter, seems difficult to me.
For now, at least, I will concede my initial impression was wrong.
The premise of the first episode, "Homestar Ruiner," is pretty straightforward: Strong Bad simply needs to beat Homestar Runner in a race which includes some less than traditional hurdles. There will be complications, of course, with this being an adventure game and all.
The style of gameplay should not come as a surprise to anybody who has played the Sam & Max seasons, with the interface being nearly identical, and the puzzle structure being fairly similar. The puzzles seem to actually be a bit more complex than any of Telltale's earlier offerings actually, and this might prolong the gameplay just a bit. I consider this a good thing.
There are also plenty of mini-games to be found throughout Free Country, USA. My favorite is the "design your own Teen Girl Squad strip," a feature that probably will be a hit amongst fans of Homestar Runner. In fact, while some might have been afraid the sparse environments of Strong Bad would provide less interaction than the Sam & Max games, the truth of the matter is that there's quite a bit more to do here. (Including video games within the video game.)
As for the graphics, yes, they do stay true to the very simple style of the on-line shorts, but are spiced up a bit here and there with some simple but neat details. An example is the transitions when walking between rooms in Strong Bad's house; while Telltale could have gone with the traditional flick screen scroll, the camera nicely follows the movement of the character. Simple? Oh yes, but it adds just a bit to the overall feel of the game.
Most importantly, the humor is top-notch throughout, with all the wit you'd expect from a game starring Strong Bad. A personal favorite touch is how Strong Bad can cut other characters off mid-sentence when you initiate a conversation by telling them to shut up. Again, a simple touch, but one that works very well. Of course, if you are not a fan of Homestar Runner there is little that will change your mind here, and you're better off waiting for Wallace and Gromit.
While the Wii and the PC version are similar, there are some minor difference outside of the pure technical sides. On the Wii version, the lappy can be used to send pictures which you can take in-game to your friends. You can still take pictures in the PC version, however. Also, the Snake Boxer 5 mini-game is controlled by turning the Wii remote sideways, which, of course, is controlled with the keyboard in the PC version.
Overall then, the first Strong Bad episode is both hilarious and challenging. It is definitely worth the price if you are a fan of the on-line series, or simply want to check out the Homestar Runner universe for the first time. Of course, the nature of episodic gaming makes it impossible to judge how the experience will hold up come the end of the season, but for now I choose to forget about my initial impression and just look forward to the next episode.
11th August, 2008.
Pros: Funny, faithful and frilly.
Cons: Doesn't do much for you unless you already love Strongbad