By Stewie Sutherland
Telltale Game’s first attempt at making a game for a console (alongside a PC version), Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People did one of two things: if you were like me, you probably saw it and thought it looked bright and funny, maybe staring a wrestler with a Mexican accent and involving all kinds of shenanigans. For anyone who would spare a bit of time to check out Homestarrunner.com though, it was a dream come true. And so, while it may be a bit late, let’s take a look back at The Brother Chaps’ and Telltale Games’ joint game “for cool and attractive people – but you can play too!”
Taking the e-mail checking mascot of the website, self-described criminal mastermind Strong Bad would now be playable for all his throngs of fans.
I had to start off with this. Each and every episode has an identical tutorial, so don’t worry with checking them out over multiple games. Having never played at the website before, it introduced me to the controls (already familiar from the old point ‘n’ click style adventures of the past) and a small cast of characters.
You’ll quickly get used to the basics of gameplay, including the inventory (dubbed as the “surprising collection of useful useless crap”), map and dialogue choices. You can also expect forced acting, breaking the fourth wall more than usual and depressed half-elephant abuse.
“You may remember me as Pretty Much the Coolest Guy or Sandwich Ever ’98, or ‘The Fella What Stole Your Girlfriend.’ Welcome to the ‘required-by-videogame-law’ tutorial portion of my awesome game.”
“I’m gonna check my e-mail, my e-mail, my e-mail. I’m gonna check my what?”
The first episode of the series introduces new players to the cast of characters. Being my first time playing the game, I found it a spry and fun experience. Our main hero (if you can call him that) is the titular Strong Bad, who kicks off things by singing a catchy tune “(You Can’t Handle) My Style”. I came back after becoming a fully fledged fan of HomestarRunner.com and was able to appreciate it a lot more. People familiar with the website will enjoy the original e-mail song and style of the (now defunct) Lappy 486 that kicks off the episode’s theme. The game is also packed with references to old Homestar toons and e-mails, and it wasn’t until I saw the e-mail ‘techno‘ that I could fully appreciate the inclusion of ‘The Rave Switch’ in the starting computer room.
After learning that Homestar Runner is planning on competing in the Free Country USA Tri-annual Race to the End of the Race, Strong Bad decides beating him in an athletic competition would humiliate everyone’s favourite speech-impeded, long-legged hero. But being unable to join, Strong Bad decides it would be more fun if he just ruined things for Homestar instead.
A few fun basic puzzles later and not only has Homestar lost the race, he’s also been thrown out of his home and is a wanted criminal for a public nudity charge! Strong Bad’s pretty pleased with himself… until he learns that Homestar has moved in with him until his life is no longer in tatters. With a bellow of “Irony!” Strong Bad has no choice but to undo everything he’s done. Naturally, this is achieved with the help of his trusty pet The Cheat, a few items from Bubs’ Concession Stand and a fair bit of trickery.
"Ah, the short lived 7-track. Your lack of a play button was your undoing."
The first in the series, Homestar Ruiner was short, basic and fun. It introduces everyone, their personalities and their world of Free Country USA to new viewers and finishes with a sneak peek at the next episode, abbreviated as SBCG4AP (and spoken as such). Out of all five, episode one was perhaps the shortest of them all. With a simple plot, easy puzzles and quick gags, there was a good deal of fun to be had from what it offered. While some thought the length was a bad start to the series, think of it more as easing you in. With each episode leading to the next you just had to play them all. In the end you won’t be sorry. Even hearing the most random explanations of everything that was clickable made me giggle like a loon.
“This is Charlemagne, Strong Sad’s plant. It used to be healthy, but after Strong Sad started talking to it, it decided to kill itself!”
“That’s not true!!”
“That’s not what the note said!”
Strong Bad and Strong Sad comment on clicking on the dead plant in the living room.
The first episode also introduced the different minigames that were packed into each game. In each and every episode, Strong Bad’s ‘Videlectrix Fun Machine’ was playable with a different old school 2D game. For these challenges, turning the Wiimote sideways to become a more traditional controller would settle you in for some basic arcade style fun (complete with commentary).
Another minigame was present in the website hit ‘Teen Girl Squad’, written and drawn by Strong Bad himself. Using different idea cards on different characters, players can make up a short and sketchy comic strip staring the memorable Cheerleader, So-and-So, Whats-Her-Face and The Ugly One. (Yes I was a bit confused the first time I saw this bit too, and after seeing the actual e-mail that this trend started with, I understood the joke but felt I would’ve enjoyed the game addition that much more if I had seen it on the site first). Like the actual Teen Girl Squad toons, the aim of this game is to kill off all four girls in the most bizarre ways with good timing.
When Strong Bad has finally gotten his peaceful life of sleeping on the couch restored, the episode ends with an ominous Lappy program that introduces the next one.
Strong Badia the Free
“I don’t know what I’ve been told! E-mail’s best when it don’t scroll!”
Hinted at the end of the first chapter, Strong Badia the Free once again starts off in the familiar computer room where our e-mail checking wrestle man is placed under house arrest by the King of Town for not paying the brand new ‘e-mail tax’. Actually, extreme house arrest, complete with an exploding collar and security fence on his front door. We’re given our first fun puzzle here, tasked with getting out of the house. While you might be thinking of escape plans, don’t bother. There’s already a crowd of USA Free Country’s characters outside protesting the wrongful incarceration, and with a few stray items thrown down to The Cheat, Strong Bad flees to his own ‘country’ of Strong Badia.
“Friends and losers, my long incarceration has taught me that we can never be truly free until we reject the fat-thority of The King of Town! Hencetoforthwith: I shall only refer to him as ‘The Of Town’! As of today, Strong Badia is its own, independent nation!”
Rather than capturing hearts and minds, Strong Bad instead convinces people to that this isn’t such a bad idea, and soon everyone has renamed their house and property as its own country. In a campaign of tyranny, trickery, e-mails and puzzle solving, Strong Bad goes about allying each and every ‘nation’ to his own until finally he has the troops to attack and overthrow The Of Town.
A leg up from the last episode, Strong Badia the Free had a fun, story driven plot of dictatorship and rebellion. But only if you squinted. It’s Homestar Runner, after all. The puzzles were beefed up just a tad too to include a more complex path of items to progress – occasionally in order to move to the next area, you needed to ‘clear’ the current one by allying them to Strong Badia. Some of the more classic Homestar moments were there too – Strong Sad’s own little nation of Bleak House is easily acquired by taking the trusty flick-lighter to several flammable objects.
The Teen Girl Squad comic game returned, as well as another of the Videlectrix Fun Machine arcade games. And, of course, tons of one liners, jokes, gags, The Stick and by now my favourite dead plant, Charlemagne.
“Strong Sad’s suicidal houseplant. If only we had read his journal, we might have seen the signs…”
Baddest of the Bands
“In a world of stupid e-mails… one man stands ready with his delete key…”
With his beloved Videlectrix Fun Machine dying on him while playing ‘Limozeen’s Hot Babelian Odyssey’, Strong Bad takes it to Bubs to be fixed – unfortunately it’ll take One Big Sack O’ Cash. Thinking that getting a job is a write off, Strong Bad decides to put on a Battle Royal of the Bands, funding his machine repairs with the entry money.
The first of the game’s puzzles begins here. Strong bad will lie, cheat, wheel and deal to set up bands like Homestar and Pom-Pom just to get them to join. Marzipan’s band Cool Tapes will post their entry money rather than trust Strong Bad with it, but they sign up too. Getting Bubs to reunite with Coach Z as Two-o Duo however will take more than just negotiations – try broken windows, instead. After tricking Strong Sad into taking the hellish job of security and setting a car on fire to convince the real Limozeen to come and judge the contest, all is set.
After finally filling all the tasks, snatching the entry money and letting Bubs build several stages (with galvanized nails, naturally) Strong Bad still has only Half a Sack O’Cash, so he decides to tap into his inner most rock-star to enter and win his own Battle Royal of the Bands. But with only deranged Homsar and The King of Town left, it’s pretty clear Strong Bad will first have to completely sabotage and shut down all his created competition.
“Are you ready to be musically, sonically, and if all goes according to plan, PHYSICALLY assaulted?!!”
While having less minigames than the previous two episodes (Teen Girl Squad appears for the last time as an automatic addition) Baddest of the Bands was still a ton of rocking fun and the characters give some of their best performances yet. Another cute addition that rang home for me personally was learning that all of the objects in the game have a name, similar to my favourite game series Banjo-Kazooie. From Strong Mad’s dumbbell Belinda to naturally…
“We keep the rotting corpse of Charlemagne around in the hopes that he’ll one day rise from the grave!”
Oh, and if you can help Homestar Sing “Food Related Love” without falling over laughing, you’re stronger than me!
"Girl, we got a food-related love.
And it makes me wanna sing!
It’s a hot ‘n’ tangy feeling,
Kinda like a…
Like a buffalo wing!"
“Let me just check the Dangeresque Database to see if any new important missions have come in.”
For many people, Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective was the best episode. For me, it wasn’t as much fun as the others where you run around as plain old Strong Bad. It wasn’t until after I watched a few Dangeresque toons on the site that the appeal was there, but by then I had already played it to death.
Dangeresque 3 places players in what is essentially the third movie, which took “four and a half years to make, so you can all EAT IT”. The characters are now in character and radically different from their regular counterparts. Homestar Runner has become Dangeresque Too, a cool character with shade glasses who talks mysteriously. Marzipan plays the dual parts of Cutsey Buttons (who acts much like her normal self) and Sultry Buttons, a shady cat burglar who talks in a husky voice. The story is also pretty hard to follow, presented as a jumbled action movie with corny dialogue and obviously bad camera work.
Strong Bad’s voice is also extra gravelly this time around, with his fake ‘crooked cop’ accent present the entire time. While he’s in character as Dangeresque, exploring different environments and talking to people will give a very try-hard attitude answer. There’s still a lot of playability here but this time around it’s very easy to skip so many of the bonuses. Like the previous episodes, there are plenty of little extras to fill up your status screen, like using the infamous Nunchuk-gun on every character. That said, it’s very easy for a character to appear and disappear in the next scene. If you missed your chance, you have to reload or play through an extra time.
“Looks like I’m gonna have to jump!”
Don’t get me wrong – Dangeresque 3 is fun to play, but I just didn’t see the same value that was present in the previous games where Strong Bad wasn’t trying to be “so dangerous”. The funniest parts of this episode for me were when the sloppy shooting was obvious – such as moments where The Cheat was wandering around in the background handling props. Extended mode of this episode is actually the ‘director’s commentary’ where classic Strong Bad shows off the props, extras and a few blooper’s.
8-Bit Is Enough
“E-MAIL BOSS FIGHT!”
The last episode of the season (and since it’s been two years, probably the last episode period), 8-Bit Is Enough picks up immediately after the end of the last episode. After landing on his beloved Trogdor arcade machine and causing sparks to fly out of it, Strong Bad learns he has just broken the fan inside. With a yell of “Where am I supposed to get ‘fan service’ around here?” the machine grows its trademark beefy arm, a pair of legs, and chases Strong Sad through the house. “That may be… the coolest thing… that has ever happened.”
While having the Trogdor machine scaring people and beating up Homestar sounds really great, it means he can’t play it, so it must sadly be fixed. Of course, Strong Bad isn’t the best technician around and instead winds up completely releasing the dragon, as well as destroying the boundaries between the real world and the game world. While hanging out with possessed characters and zipping in and out of various Videlectrix games sounds like a damned good time, there’s two reasons why it has to be fixed up.
Homestar Runner has somehow entered Strong Bad’s Interface. And Trogdor has “burninated” Strong Badia.
With a cry of “Heel! You were never supposed to burninate MY countryside!” it becomes pretty clear what must be done… but does anyone know how to kill a dragon?
By the time the last episode had come out, it’d be a fair bet that most players would have filled in some spare time browsing the games, downloads and toons at Homestarrunner.com, so it’s really not so surprising that this game is packed full of fan service. As well as Trogdor marching and roaring in the background, Strong Bad enters, tampers and plays in several of the website’s games. Other characters such as the anime-themed Stinkoman and creepy gelatine mascot Gel-arshi make a few cameos too.
And so among plenty of areas, games, inside-jokes, a Doom style first person area and a final battle with the one-armed dragon of fame, Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People comes to a fun and unique closing.
“Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People? I hope that’s one of those cool games with like guns, and swords, and setting people on fire, and not one of those boring ‘use pie on cat’ type jobs.”
Among the entire series are a few fun bonuses. Like I mentioned before, each time you turn on an episode you can access Strong Bad’s Fun Machine, with an original Videlectrix game to play. These may be a few little knock-off’s of things like the Double Dragon styled ‘Math Kickers staring the Algebros’ and ‘Snake Boxer 5’, a top-down fighter that pits Boxer Joe against… well, snakes.
“Over the years I’ve collected every title featured on this poster… but for some reason I can only ever find about one a month…”
Strong Bad talks about his Videlectrix Poster – Baddest of the Bands
A very fun optional extra though is the Photo Booth/Snap Shak. While the option to take a photo is available almost anywhere, the Snap Shak will keep all of the different extras you have unlocked from previous episodes. Different clothes, accessories and a rotating backdrop fill out the space-distorting interior, while The Cheat will take photos of a posing Strong Bad.
While the PC version saves screenshots to your Documents, the Wii will let you have four at a time. The plus side? Going back to Strong Bad’s “state of the art” Lappy will let you compose an e-mail and attach any photo. A footer of “From the desk of Strong Bad” will end the e-mail and you can send it to anyone you want. With each and every Wii having a very obscure address, wording your message in the right way might just let you fool someone that their own submitted messages have finally been answered… and insulted.
So, are there any downsides? A few. Firstly, you can’t help but notice the loading times on the Wii. It sometimes interrupts fun scenes when the movement will shift from gameplay to cinematic. The game also can’t escape from the basic graphics that were very standard even two years ago. The setting option here is completely removed obviously. The only other downright bummer is the price. At $15 for the 1000 point download cost, all five episodes round out to cost $75, where the entire season on PC is available at TelltaleGames.com at the rock bottom cost of $29.95. If you’re a big fan of Homestar, Strong Bad or The Cheat, you might just want those five glorious Wii channels filled with animated icons, but most players are probably going to be content staying with the PC edition.
To rate each episode individually after two years would be a little redundant, so to review the entire season I’d class it in the low-high’s. It’s maybe not the best WiiWare available, but it is quirky and fun with a lot of classic moments. If you’re a fan of Free Country USA though, you probably already knew that!
If you have some free credit, give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised… if not a little addicted. And always remember –
“… please allow 10 to 15 minutes for it to properly cool before you try and handle my style!!!
Strong Bad – Homestar Ruiner
7.5 OUT OF 10