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Izzardius 01-03-2009 04:11 PM

Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
"Remember kids, licensed video games are NEVER good." -Strong Bad

HIGH: Teen Girl Squad choose-your-own adventure minigames

LOW: Metal detector use gets a little tedious

WTF: All the WTFs are acknowledged and made fun of by Strong Bad at some point

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I am a huge fan of Homestar Runner, a group of Flash cartoons that have been around since 2000. If you've never availed yourself, I can say with certainty that you're missing out. I've followed the series since 2001, I can tell you what most of the sbemails are about by the title alone, and I can do a pretty dern gord Coach Z impression. In fact, I'm not even sure I would call Homestar a series, but rather an amalgamation of things that are awesome, or an AOTTAW. Hey, I just invented a new acronym; please take note Internet. So obviously, I was interested in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People from the moment it was announced, and thankfully I was not disappointed; Telltale and the Chapman brothers (Homestar's creators) have joined forces to bring us classic Homestar awesomeosity.

The player takes on the guise of Strong Bad, everyone's favorite wrestling mask-clad antihero. The game goes hand in hand with Telltaleís revitalization of the adventure genre, as Strong Bad must make his way through each tale of silliness using his wits, his rakish good looks, and any random object that happens to be clickable. The controls, like in most games of its type, are as simple as can be and are extremely easy to learn. The only complaint I can really make against SBCG4AP is the use of the metal detector to find a lot of the extra items which are buried somewhere in the game world. This requires a lot of walking around in random places, which can get a little annoying. Fortunately, most of the things you can find with it aren't required to finish the game, and even Strong Bad himself eventually acknowledges that the metal detector can make things a little dull. Indeed, the game's propensity to poke fun at itself in this manner is one of its most appealing aspects.

SBCG4AP follows the episodic distribution pattern that Telltale has been using for Sam & Max, making its debut with a five-episode season. Each episode is about 2-3 hours of gameplay (with enough extras to push it to 4 hours if one so desires), which is precisely the right length for something like this, as the game never wore out its welcome with monotony or tediousness in any of the episodes. SBCG4AP follows a familiar adventure model, powered by the Telltale Tool with a shiny new coat of Homestar Runner paint. Strong Bad must acquire items scattered about the game world in order to solve puzzles and thus advance through the game. Fairly standard, yes, but it fits the story like a glove (or the story fits the engine like a glove depending on your analogical preferences), and in an adventure game the story is what it's all about.

The humor of Homestar Runner is unique to me, in that the comedic reaction it provokes is more akin to that of an 8-year-old watching cartoons on Saturday morning rather than a Family Guy-esque guffaw. Homestar's quirky, goofball charm is something that I initially feared could not be effectively captured in a game, but Telltale along with the Chapman brothers have done just that. Each episode looks, feels, and sounds just like a fresh-off-the-Flash presses Homestar cartoon, and can be listed among the Chapmans' better work to boot. Throughout each episode, I found myself enjoying the back-and-forth between Strong Bad and the rest of the cast just as much as if I was watching one of the cartoons. The writing feels natural for the characters and the all the gags are what I have come to expect from Homestar.

Needless to say, if the player doesnít like Homestar Runner (or if he doesnít like adventure games) then he wonít enjoy SBCG4AP. Adventure games are tied to their narratives more than any other genre, even more than any flavor of role-playing game. The only way the player interacts with the game world is by selecting items from inventory, using items on selected objects/puzzles, and choosing different conversation options. Adventure games don't lean on their story, they are the story. I'm sure as hell not going to play Carlos Mencia's piece of crap game for people who like bad comedians, even if it was made by Telltale. If the story is good, then the game is probably good. If not, then the game is nothing regardless of what new features the engine might have to show off. SBCG4AP is an adventure game, plain and simple. And itís a darned good one, depending of course on your particular like or dislike of Homestar Runner.

Usually when I say I like a game it will come with a few caveats, such as camera problems or lack of difficulty that will hamper my playing experience to a degree where I become annoyed. A great game to me does not necessarily need to be the pinnacle of design or feature some exciting new gameplay mechanic. Those things are fantastic in their own right, but they aren't absolutely necessary. Rather, a great game is one that has no "lows" (as the GameCritics review format so succinctly puts it) that severely hamper the experience. I came into SBCG4AP expecting quality adventuring, the unique comedic stylings that make me feel like I'm a kid watching Rocko's Modern Life again, and some good old fashioned The Cheat kickin'. That's exactly what I got, and there was virtually nothing throughout the experience that annoyed or dissatisfied me.

9/10

Disclosures: All five episodes were obtained through purchase and download from Telltale's website and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 12 total hours was spent in completing each episode once.

Parents: The ESRB has given all five episodes a T rating, for some mild cartoon violence and suggestive themes. There isn't anything here I wouldn't be comfortable exposing a child to.

Deaf & hard of hearing: While all spoken lines can be subtitled in the option menu, much of the game's charm comes from the music and the voice acting, so the hard of hearing will miss out on quite a bit.

Tera Kirk 01-03-2009 07:59 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Izzardius,

Your writing just gets better and better. Greenlight from me.

Tera

David Stone 01-03-2009 08:48 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Hey Izzardius,

I loved your intro. You had me hooked form the get-go. While the 10/10 kind of worries me just a smidge, I too have played the Strong Bad games, and loved them all as you have.

I'm definitely giving the ol' thumbs up here. If I had one criticism (and don't I always? I'm such a jerk) it's that the ending could have been a little punchier like your intro. But I'm splitting hairs - with an Atomicasized Cannon of DOOM!(tm)

Izzardius 01-03-2009 09:09 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by David Stone (Post 159995)
Hey Izzardius,

I loved your intro. You had me hooked form the get-go. While the 10/10 kind of worries me just a smidge, I too have played the Strong Bad games, and loved them all as you have.

I really, really debated the perfect score, but in the end I couldn't find anything in the experience that warranted losing a point.

Thanks.

Brad Gallaway 01-03-2009 10:10 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Hey Izz.

this is probably your best-written piece yet... you do good work, no question.

that said, i'm gonna have to be the wet blanket here and say that it's all fine... except for the score.

a ten is a big number to hand out, and IMO, a ten has to be more than just avoiding problems. it has to really push the genre forward somehow, or really bring something special to the table. it doesn't need to be perfect, but it's got to have an element (or two) that really pushes it over the top.

i can understand your enthusiasm for Strong Bad, but i would encourage you to step back from your own personal appreciation and try to imagine how good the game would be if you weren't a Homestar fan.

for example, i played Ep 1 and found it to be a standard Adventure game that didn't really change up what i expected from the genre. in addition, i was not at all familiar with the Homestar mythos, and as a result, i was left wondering what was so funny when i knew full well that i was supposed to be chuckling at something. i strongly suspect (and it's sort of backed up by your own piece) that someone who's not already a fan probably won't be into the game, and that alone precludes the game from being a 10, IMO.

i don't say this as criticism of your writing at all, but as someone who's written reviews for the last decade... it's very easy to get carried away with how much fun you had with something and score it high, but like i said.. take a step back and really try your best to look at it objectively.

personally speaking, i can think of several games i would have loved to score 8's or 9's, but then i might go with a more realistic 6 or 7 once i try to extract my own personal tastes out as much as possible and take the game on its own merits, as well as how it compares to others in the same genre, and so forth.

i give the writing a green light with no edits, but the meta position of the review might need a nudge. ;)

Izzardius 01-04-2009 11:00 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Brad,

I definitely understand where you’re coming from. My own appreciation for Homestar was something I was really worried about as I began writing the article, and I seriously considered scrapping the whole thing since I thought I was coming off as too much of a fanboy.

But when it comes down to it, I can’t write as anything other than a fan since that's what I am. I tried as best I could to temper it and to point out that my enthusiasm was based on my previous appreciation for Homestar Runner, but in the end the article and the score reflect my opinion and my experience, and I felt that the score was warranted based on that experience. Believe me, if I didn't think that the game was up to snuff I would gladly give it the thrashing it deserves.

I understand that someone who doesn’t like Homestar will disagree with the score, but I can’t rationalize penalizing it when the score is based solely on my opinion.

Anyway, that's how I feel. If a score change is absolutely necessary then I'll comply, but I just wanted to explain the thought process behind the rating. Thanks.

Brad Gallaway 01-05-2009 04:00 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Hey Izz.

Thanks for the words on your process, it's totally appreciated.

And hey, there's nothing at all wrong with being a fanboy as long as you're a literate one-- and your writing is strong enough to support your view. make no mistake, i was into what you wrote.

that said, i'll be totally honest and say that i would have to veto the review based solely on its numerical value. the review itself is A-OK, but we've been working for a while to sort of rejigger our scoring, and that plays a role. if you want to drop the score down a bit, i'd see no further problem and we'd be glad to run it on the homepage.

Thanks!

Izzardius 01-05-2009 08:52 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Dropped the score from a 10 to a 9, and added a little explanation as to why. Let me know if you need anything else.

Thanks.

Izzardius 01-08-2009 11:15 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Made another edit to the high/low/wtf section to reflect the metal detector comments.

Brad Gallaway 01-08-2009 11:41 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Hey Izz. It all looks good to me. I suspect we're ready to roll. : )

Jason Karney 01-12-2009 07:26 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Looks good, and I approve also, so we'll put you in the publishing queue. Thanks for keeping up with the editing.

And SBCG4AP just seems like a mouthful, doesn't it? :D

Chi Kong Lui 01-14-2009 08:05 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Avoid acronyms unless its widely known like MGS or GTA. I'd go with Attractive People for the abbreviation.

Nice job overall. Being someone who is not familar with Homestar or Strong bad, I would have liked to see more general background informaiton, but that's just something to keep in mind for future reviews. I didn't even think this was real game when I saw the title!

Chi

Jason Karney 01-21-2009 09:31 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
I second Chi, I don't know anything about the subject of this game.

That said: what's an "sbemail?" (This is a case where it's legitimate to use quotes in a review, as I'm assuming it's a term specific to the series.)

Izzardius 01-21-2009 06:07 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 
Noted. Added a little background info and a link.


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