Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner Review
Telltale Games continues its quest to restore the relevance of traditional point-and-click adventure games through the employment of irreverent humor, as well as prove that episodic content isn't just an empty marketing promise, with Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. Based on the just-past-their-prime animated shorts found on Homestarrunner.net (it's dot com!), Strong Bad seems to demand a little more familiarity with the source material than Telltale's Sam & Max series did. As someone who went through a serious Strong Bad phase, I've found the initial experience to be amusing at best, and mildly pleasant at worst.
Like Telltale's Sam & Max series, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People will be divvied up into monthly episodes, each clocking in at a few hours. The inaugural episode, Homestar Ruiner, kicks off with Strong Bad--the braggadocious luchador-man-thing who offers senseless advice to anyone who cares to send him a poorly written email--being goaded into beating the snot out of the blithely irritating and armless Homestar Runner. The pummeling gets postponed, however, as Homestar is too busy preparing for the upcoming Free Country USA Tri-Annual Race to the End of the Race. Strong Bad instead focuses his energies on sabotaging Homestar's bid for the race's grand prize, the Silver Trophy of Ultimate Destiny, a plan that ends up having unforeseen consequences for Strong Bad.
Much of the comedy in Homestar Ruiner comes from silly wordplay and the varied and absurdly fabricated patois of the various characters who populate this weird Flash-based pocket dimension. Fans will appreciate appearances by nearly every supporting player in the world of Homestar Runner, from the King of Town to Homestar's ill-conceived doppelganger, Homsar. The Teen Girl Squad makes a small appearance that had the net effect of causing me to shout “fundamentals!” and then chuckle to myself for days after playing the game.
It's worth noting that the Brothers Chaps, the creative force behind Strong Bad, seem to have been pretty involved in the game's development--helping out with the writing, providing all of the appropriate voices, and penning the game's irrefutably awesome opening song. While Jeff contends that Homestar himself is maybe a touch too coherent here, I maintain that, considering the dialog-heavy nature of a point-and-click adventure game, it stays about as true to the source material as could be expected. This extends to the game's presentation, which capably translates the look of colorful 2D Flash animations into modest polygons.
The actual adventure gameplay in Homestar Ruiner is there largely to move the story along and service the humor. It avoids the kinds of obscure puzzles that contributed to adventure games becoming the exclusive domain of weirdly obsessive pixel-hunters. There may be a few points where it's unclear where you need to go next, but the game generally does a good job of nudging you in the right direction. This style of gameplay works just as well on the PC as it does in the WiiWare version, though given the option, the PC version is preferable--it benefits from higher resolutions, and the WiiWare version can occasionally be a little stuttery.
As the first episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Homestar Ruiner feels fairly self-contained--you just don't get the sense that the events of this episode will really inform whatever happens next. While demand for this style of gaming and for Homestar-licensed products both peaked a while ago, it's an enjoyably goofy diversion.