While the name Homestar Runner was practically synonymous with online Flash cartoons from the year 2000 onward, its popularity has dampened somewhat. Developer Telltale Games is attempting to change this with the downloadable game, “Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People” for the PC and Nintendo Wii.
Using the same episodic gameplay style of their popular “Sam & Max” series, the game will be released over five “episodes” – small chunks of a game typically lasting no more than a few hours, released at a smaller price tag. Episode one of Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People” (humorously referred to as SBCG4AP), “Homestar Ruiner,” was released earlier this month, with the other four episodes planned for release over the next four months.
I would attempt to explain the Homestar Runner phenomenon here for those unfamiliar with the cartoon, but the game itself is often so dependent on series familiarity in order to deliver laughs that it would be a wasted effort. If you don’t already know the characters of Strong Bad, Marzipan, Coach Z, and the King of Town, then your enjoyment of this game is most likely going to be limited from the get-go.
That said, the humor in SBCG4AP is such that it is both entirely family friendly as well as appealing to all sorts of people. The game starts with our wrestling mask and boxing glove wearing hero receiving an e-mail from a fan encouraging him to lay the smack down on his armless nemesis, Homestar Runner. However, Homestar is too caught up in preparing for the Free Country USA Tri-Annual Race to the End of the Race to be beaten down, and Strong Bad thus gets sidetracked.
While seemingly random, this is essentially the crux of the game’s humor. From using a metal detector to find pieces of a “Teen Girl Squad” comic (which are so totally not metallic) to playing a rousing game of Snake Boxer 5 (which is far better than the ill-fated Snake Boxer 4) to putting “Jela-Ton” into a pool to stop a log from rolling, the game takes a lot of crazy randomness and makes it funny with clever wordplay and humorous animations.
The gameplay itself is that of a point-and-click adventure – a genre that is scarce today, but was made famous for games like “Monkey Island” and “The Longest Journey”. Players use either the mouse or the Wii Remote to guide Strong Bad around the game world, as well as to interact with objects and characters. This style of gameplay makes it easy to sit back in your office chair or couch and relax, casually enjoying the adventure.
While not conversing with various characters or picking up every object that’s not bolted down (of course you want to grab the hedge clippers. Who knows when you’ll see a hedge that needs clipping?), you can distract yourself with making “Teen Girl Squad comics”, taking photographs to send to your friends, or hunting down secret items.
The game is short – running at only a few hours unless you really take your time – but cheap at around the $10 mark. Being the start of an episodic series, “Homestar Ruiner” is a fantastic foundation for a game if you’re a fan of the original web series, and such people should definitely download the PC demo, if nothing else. For non-fans, the choice is far tougher, and it may actually be best to skip the game entirely.