Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People is the latest episodic adventure series from Telltale Games, the makers of Sam & Max: Season One and Season Two (plus some CSI games that it’s probably better not to think about). The Same & Max games must have done well for the company, because they’re no longer relying on the likes of GameTap and The Adventure Company to publish their products, and instead they’re only selling episodes directly from their own web site. The price seems to have gone up (you can buy each episode for $9 or the entire 5-episode season for $35), but that’s not much of a detriment if you like humorous and twisted adventure games, because it’s hard to beat the quality that Telltale offers.
Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People is based on the Homestar Runner comic book series written by Mike Chapman and Craig Zobel. This comic debuted in 1996, and it features the likes of Strong Bad (who sort of looks like a smaller version of Jack Black from Nacho Libre), his brothers Strong Sad (think the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) and Strong Mad (think Frankenstein), and other assorted characters including Strong Bad’s arch-nemesis Homestar, Homestar’s girlfriend Marzipan, and Bubs, the concession stand owner. I’d never heard of the comic book series before playing the game, but from what I can tell it relies on Strong Bad’s warped sense of reality (including that he’s cool and attractive), and it leans more towards “South Park” than it does the Freelance Police.
In the first episode, Strong Bad decides to ruin the reputation of Homestar. This is surprisingly easy to do, since nobody seems to notice when Strong Bad dresses up like Homestar or imitates his voice on the telephone, or when some odd things happen at the Free Country USA Tri-Annual Race to the End of the Race. Only... Strong Bad’s revenge is short-lived. He soon discovers that his actions have created some unintended side effects, and so he has to spend the second half of the episode undoing everything he did in the first half.
Like with the Sam & Max episodes, Strong Bad: Episode One uses a fairly simple graphics engine and interface. You pretty much do everything by left clicking, and you only need to right click to close menus or bypass dialogue. All of the animations are in 2D, but they’re colorful and they match the style of the original comics exactly, and so they’re fitting. Plus, since the engine isn’t complicated, it has only a small download size (70 MB) and it should work on most any computer.
The required part of the episode takes about four hours to complete. The puzzles are generally basic, mostly only requiring you to figure out where to use inventory objects, but they’re also funny, and just listening to Strong Bad’s responses to situations is enough to make the game fun to play. Better yet, there are a bunch of optional mini-games and bonus activities in the episode, such as playing Snake Boxer 5 and illustrating Strong Bad’s “Team Girl Squad” comic strip (where you try to kill off the girls in as grisly a manner as possible), that add extra entertainment value. I didn’t have any trouble completing the required elements of the episode, but I missed a lot of the bonus stuff, and that gives the episode some replay value.
The first Strong Bad episode is out now, and the other episodes are scheduled to be released in the upcoming months. I enjoyed the first episode a lot, and I think the Sam & Max episodes work as a good litmus test. If you liked the humor and structure of the Sam & Max episodes, then you’ll probably enjoy the Strong Bad episodes as well. The Strong Bad episode is also a much better “animated feature” than what just came out in theaters last week, and for about the same price.