Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 2: Strong Badia The Free Review
It's one month later, and Telltale returns with the second installment in its webcomic-inspired episodic adventure game, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: Strong Badia the Free. While it shows no signs of building any overarching story for the “season”, and the basic formula remains unchanged, it's a much fuller and funnier experience than the first episode.
The game opens with the traditional, ceremonial email reading, this time asking Strong Bad about the dumbest law the King of Town has ever passed. One non sequitur leads to another, and after an incident involving snack cakes, house arrest, and “taxation without representin',” Strong Bad frees himself from the oppressive, gravy-stained tyranny of the King of Town. With Strong Badia now a sovereign nation, the other residents of Town follow suit, each establishing their own, tailor-made fiefdom.
A good deal of humor is mined from punny, made-up country names and the residents' bizarre takes on international relations--Bubs' Concession Stand hosts a poorly stocked black market for weapons, cultural artifacts, and organs, and Strong Mad's idea of diplomacy is to just yell “DIPLOMACY!” There are also some good wartime newsreel gags, and even a reference to Ken Burns' Civil War. Fans should appreciate the increased presence of Homsar, who delivers a number of amusingly nonsensical gems. Amusing is actually a pretty good description of Strong Badia the Free in general--there were a few laugh-out-loud moments, but I was highly amused throughout.
One of my issues with the first episode was a general sense of aimlessness, something Strong Badia the Free curbs by providing a clearer, single objective for the majority of the game. This isn't to say that there aren't some befuddling puzzles scattered throughout, but they're not too arbitrary, and the game generally avoids frustration. Strong Badia the Free reuses a few lines from the first episode, but the game introduces as many new locations as it revisits, and it doesn't yet feel overly recycled. It also seems a little longer than the first episode, by maybe an hour or so.
The lack of a continuing plot might hurt Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People's ability to keep players coming back in the long run, but considering the self-contained nature of Strong Bad Email, it's kind of fitting. So far, though, the episodes have been funny enough to keep me coming back anyway.