Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner

Posted by Kenneth Wilson.
First posted on 13 August 2008. Last updated on 10 August 2009.
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Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner
Fans of the Homestar Runner website will feel right at home with the menu interface.
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner
The episode is introduced via a sbemail (Strong Bad Email), and there are more throughout the game.
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner
Snake Boxer 5 is the very latest in videogame technology by Videlectrix.
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner
The Homestar Runner universe makes the transition from 2D to 3D capably, if not terribly gracefully.
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner
The game includes several measures of awesomeness as well as trophies to earn for accomplishing mystery tasks.

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People

The season is comprised of 5 episodes:

Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner

Episode 2: Strong Badia the Free

Episode 3: Baddest of the Bands

Episode 4: Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective

Episode 5: 8-Bit is Enough

In 2006, Telltale Games came up with a winning formula for creating episodic adventure game series. The first part of this formula involved finding a property with enough of a fanbase to provide an instant market for its game, but not enough to kill its development budget with licensing fees. Telltale Games would then depend on the creator of the franchise to provide the setting, personality, and a fair amount of the game's content, while the design team would put its efforts into wrapping that content around an adventure game, making mid-series changes as necessary based on player feedback. The first series born from this formula was Sam & Max, based on the popular comic series by Steve Purcell. The first season of Sam & Max was successful enough to warrant a second season, and the second season was successful enough to convince Telltale Games to apply the same formula to a new "niche" franchise. This new collaboration would be with Matt and Mike Chapman, the team behind the popular Homestar Runner animated cartoon. The series would be called Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People.

When the Brothers Chaps began their website to host their cartoon in 2000, they named it after their main character—Homestar Runner, a terrific athlete who runs fast and thinks slow. At the time, he was the dimwitted "good guy" protagonist, fighting against the comically nefarious deeds of Strong Bad, a self-centered luchadore with boxing gloves. However, in August 2001, Strong Bad was given his own segment, where he answered emails sent in to him by the website's viewers. While these segments were initially short and plain, they quickly became the driving force of the website. Strong Bad's answers would spawn mini-adventures, create new characters such as Trogdor and Stinkoman, spin-off other new segments such as Teen Girl Squad and Sweet Cuppin' Cakes, and last longer eventually than the original full-length cartoon online. While their core personalities never changed, it seemed as if Strong Bad had gone from the "bad guy" antagonist to the "bad guy" protagonist, with Homestar Runner his dim-witted nemesis. It was this turn of development that ensured that a game based on the Homestar Runner franchise would, in fact, feature Strong Bad as the title character, and the only playable character.

Indeed, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner begins with an email to Strong Bad, and the plot reads like a typical synopsis of a Strong Bad Email episode—Strong Bad must prevent Homestar from achieving fame and glory in the Free Country USA Triannual Race to the End of the Race and ruin his life in the process, and in doing so, face unintended consequences. Although the game features the entire stable of main characters, it does not feature any of Strong Bad's alter egos, such as Strong Badman or Senor Cardgage. A number of notable locations from the cartoon are included in the game, such as the King of Town's castle, Coach Z's locker room, Bubs' Concession Stand, and the Stick. During the course of the game, Strong Bad will check his email a number of times, with each playing like an episode from the web series.

Unlike with the Sam & Max series, Telltale Games does not need to secure separate voice talents to match the characters. Matt Chapman, along with being a principal writer for the series, provides the voice for all of the main characters except Marzipan, whose voice is provided by Mike Chapman's wife, Missy. It is therefore no surprise that the game sounds exactly as the online cartoon. How it looks, however, is another matter. This is because the original comic is entirely animated in Macromedia Flash in 2D, whereas the game rendered with the Telltale Tool is in 3D. While Telltale Games is no stranger to bringing franchises into the third dimension—both the Sam & Max and the Bone series are based off of comics—the universe of Homestar Runner does not make the transition as gracefully as previous franchises have. While the game is by no means ugly, there are times when the characters just look odd, especially when viewed from any angle but a full profile. These moments are rather uncommon, however, and for the most part, the visual style works well with the gameplay.

Aside from what can only be described as "minigames", the game series does little to change up the system of classic point-and-click adventure genre. However, that can hardly be unexpected or counted as a complaint, as Telltale Games knows exactly what it does best, and it does it very well. The puzzles in this episode seem to be rather easier than those in Sam & Max episodes, each seldom requiring more than a moment of focused thought, and none of them especially likely to require a dedicated in-game hint. The logic of the puzzles is sound within the context of the game's universe, and the game does not suffer from the need to pixel hunt or talk to every character about every object in the inventory to proceed. Ignoring all of the side missions, the game represents no more than 2 hours of gameplay, though it can be extended by a series of side activities and quests. Unfortunately, most of these extraneous activities are not especially compelling, such as "Snake Boxer 5", a faux 8-bit videogame that is very faithful to the tediousness of that era. Another, based around the Teen Girl Squad spinoff of Strong Bad Emails, is worth a few playthroughs, but not enough trial-and-error to achieve the best score possible.

Ultimately, just as in the other adapted franchises from Telltale Games, the strength of the game relies on the strength of the material. The developer has earned a reputation for handling Sam & Max very faithfully, and its treatment of the universe of Homestar Runner is no different. Mike and Matt's handiwork is all over this game, and at times it feels like a couple of their cartoons interspersed with short segments from their website all run together. How much that idea appeals to you will be the key element to how much you will enjoy this game. Aside from slight issues in making the transition from 2D to 3D, the world of Free Country USA is much the same in the game as it is on the internet, and the quality of the gameplay makes this game an easy recommendation for any fan of the Homestar Runner series and worth at least a try for all adventure game fans.

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