Strong Bad’s signature Lappy 486 computer gets interactive with you. And yes, it’s funny.
It’s hard to explain Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People to someone that has never heard of Strong Bad or Homestar Runner before. Yet, the title itself is so over the top, it’s bound to get some attention. And developer TellTale Games has carved out a nice niche for itself as the flag-bearer for the revived adventure game genre. If you’ve watched the popular Homestar Runner web cartoon that these characters are based on, you’ll probably buy the game sight-unseen. And if you haven’t seen the show? Well, this review of Strong Bad’s Cool Game, Season 1 (with five episodes) might help you make up your mind.
One of the problems with TellTale’s other notable properties (Monkey Island, Sam & Max) is that the controls are fairly clunky. In those games, character movement always feels a tad sluggish and it can be hard to maneuver around objects. In Strong Bad’s Cool Game, movement feels crisper and cleaner, and because the backgrounds and environments are a lot more sparse than the other games, interaction is clear and easy. Three buttons take care of your primary actions — one to interact, one to go to your inventory, and one to go to your map. Just like the other TellTale games, trigger buttons cycle through the possible interactions, and the corner HUD provides you with a short description of what the action is.
It’s streamlined and efficient. For a game designed around jokes, conversation, and puzzles, it works well. TellTale would be wise to take the crisp feeling of Strong Bad’s movement and bring it into the new iterations of its other games.
When it comes to graphics, it’s all about context. Games like Mega Man 10 are all about recreating the 8-bit world, so if they succeed at that, then they get full marks. Games like Gears Of War or Uncharted are meant to push the boundaries of environment, animation and models, and those games should be judged as such. Strong Bad’s Cool Game is based on a Flash animation web cartoon. It brings this world to life with exact recreations of those characters, along with smooth animation. So when it comes to graphics, it fulfilled the to-do list completely.
Sound is actually more important for this game, as it’s critical to recreate the cartoon experience but make it interactive. With this, TellTale really flies high, as the voice acting is spot on and that really makes the experience go. Even for someone that’s relatively new to the Homestar universe, the voice acting quickly captures what’s great about the cartoons, and it makes it a joy to discover.
Each episode of Strong Bad’s Cool Game plays out like an extended cartoon episode. Yes, there’s interaction and yes, there are puzzles, but it’s really more about the funny dialog and goofy situations that come up. Because of that, gameplay actually takes a backseat to the writing and voice acting, unlike Monkey Island and Sam & Max, where the two go hand-in-hand. This isn’t bad, but it’s important to temper your expectations. Strong Bad’s Cool Game isn’t an adventure game experience that will remind you of, say, classic Sierra titles (though there is a fantastic reference to the old Police Quest games). It is, however, something that’s extremely fun if you take it for what it is — a chance to navigate through a very absurd world with fantastic dialog and strange characters.
Here’s a basic summary of how gameplay goes: Strong Bad goes to a location on his map. He interacts with the objects on the screen, most of them placed there simply for him to read a goofy piece of dialog. He talks with a person, and that spawns a new location on his map. Some situations are more complicated than this and some are as simple as such. In a way, it does make playing the game for casual entertainment more appealing, as the joke-to-puzzle ratio is vastly in favour of jokes, and if you’re just looking to kill half an hour, it’s certainly enjoyable. On the other hand, adventure gamers hoping for an experience they can really immerse themselves in are bound to be disappointed.
If you’re already a fan of the series, then you’ll marvel at the amount of fan service in here, from references and characters to mini-games based on series staples. For people that have never seen these characters before, my recommendation is this: I came into this game cold, having known nothing about the characters or the cartoon. In fact, the only reason I requested the game for review was because I love adventure games and I really admire TellTale’s work. The humour resonated with me right away, and the closest comparison I can come up with is that Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People is like playing in an Adult Swim cartoon. So if you like the absurd, over-the-top humour of, say, Sealab 2021 or Space Ghost: Coast To Coast, then you’ll enjoy Strong Bad. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an experience similar to Sam & Max or Monkey Island, this might not be for you.