Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 2: Strong Badia the Free
First posted on 15 September 2008. Last updated on 10 August 2009.
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
If you are a fan of online culture, then there is a good chance you have heard of Strong Bad and the gang at HomestarRunner.com. It is most easily described as an online weekly cartoon with segments featuring an oddball mix of characters, but that is to somewhat miss the point of how it takes advantage of the online medium. This is because the popular Flash animated cartoon is also interactive, occasionally letting its readers make minor choices, click on objects to activate Easter eggs, and even play small but addicting mini-games. The interactive nature of the website and game like character of this web cartoon makes HomestarRunner.com a good fit for the adventure game genre.
In Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 2: Strong Badia the Free, the titular character and antihero of the game is Strong Bad—an email answering, prank playing, style dropping fiend on a lifelong quest to affirm his own awesomeness. His favorite pastime is answering emails, a role which is suddenly put into jeopardy when the King of Town declares a tax on his prolific email activities, forcing Strong Bad into house arrest and eventual rebellion. Thus begins Strong Bad's quest to unite the squabbling territories of Free Country USA under Strong Badian rule and depose the King of Town. This back story provides a structure for your quest as you help Strong Bad advance through the various "territories", which are just the homes of his various friends, by convincing or coercing them all to join onto his side. By breaking the game world up into small areas controlled by each of the main characters, it serves as a tour of Strong Bad's world and even a fair introduction to the series.
In addition to focusing on the main characters of the series and how Strong Bad can secure their alliances, the game is also riddled with references to the web cartoon and its many minor characters, conventions, and running gags. The reality and fantasy of the series can blur sometimes—on the website, several of the cartoons take place in Strong Bad's imagination; some involve elaborate histories that nobody seems to take seriously, and some cartoons represent apparently real events. There is little or no continuity to the series in any real sense, and nothing in the game relates to the previous episode or events in the series that you would need to know about. The humor of the series simply builds upon itself, and the more you know about it the more you will be able to appreciate. A few of the puzzles depend upon understanding the relationships between the characters, but those themes are strongly reinforced within the game itself. Familiarity with the online cartoon is not strictly necessary to playing this game.
The game does a good job recreating the look and feel of the website. The art features a 3D approximation of a 2D world, and it generally works well to mimic the feel of the characters and their world. The game uses a fixed perspective camera for navigation and employs different camera angles during conversations and action scenes, giving them a cinematic feel. It does a good job capturing the feel of the web cartoon, with cut scenes in the game reminiscent of their 2D counterparts in the online cartoon. There are breaks in the action for other game specific features, such as a teen girl squad cartoon for which you need to arrange the scenes and a playable 8-bit styled video game from Videlectrix. Above all else, having all the voices in the game handled by the same 2 voice actors as the online cartoon, Mike Chapman and Missy Palmer, does a lot to tie the game to the feel of the source material.
As with the previous episode, the basic gameplay involves a lot of clicking on objects and having conversations with other characters just to see what reactions they produce, all while Strong Bad's commentary lends dramatic import to the events happening around him. The puzzles in the game are fairly simple, if only because of their small scope—the player never needs to build up a large inventory or engage in significant backtracking to complicate the quest. To ensure that players have a strong chance of finishing the game and moving on to future episodes, the developer has even included an automated hint system that causes Strong Bad to spur your game forward with surprisingly insightful observations whenever it finds that you are having difficulty making progress in an area. Most of what you will be doing to solve the puzzles is probing the areas for items and characters to interact with and using the right inventory item in the right place, though the game's finale wraps up with a few more sophisticated puzzles.
While the main puzzle solving branch of the game is fairly simple by adventure game standards, the game contains a number of interesting supplementary activities. In addition to the teen girl squad cartoon and mock arcade mini-games, you can find a number of hidden outfits for Strong Bad to try on, collect flags from the various nations, and even track stats such as the number of names Strong Bad has called Strong Sad or how many things Strong Bad has set on fire. On many levels, the game is basically a more puzzle driven adaptation of the website's experience.
In terms of humor and story, the game is comparable to some of the highest quality material on the website. The main difference is that the best material from the web cartoon succeeds by introducing creative new elements and characters into the cartoon world, whereas the game is about taking the existing elements of the same world and working them into the structure of a game. If you are a fan of the series, you are unlikely to be introduced to anything new from this game. It will be interesting to see if future episodes of the series will continue to build up the world of Strong Bad for a gaming audience, especially if the games attempt to go beyond the basic premise of the website.
The game is undoubtedly tailored to fans of the Homestar Runner website, raising the question of whether or not the game can be recommended to an adventure game fan who is unfamiliar with the online cartoon. To begin with, if you have not seen the web cartoon, I highly recommend checking it out forthwith. What you can expect from the game is a similar approach to storytelling and characters to what the website has. If you enjoy the website, you are likely to appreciate the game.
Keep in mind that this game is meant to be an "episode" of a longer running series rather than a full-length feature. It also appears that each of the episodes in the current season will stand on their own rather than contributing to an ongoing story arc. An experienced adventure gamer can easily complete the entire episode in around 3 hours. Overall, for Episode 2: Strong Badia the Free, fans will enjoy the few interesting challenges that the game has to offer, but the biggest draw may simply be the chance to mess around in Strong Bad's world just for the fun of it.