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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People - Season Pass (PSN)

There’s a bit of animosity in the gaming community associated with bringing flash properties to consoles and charging money, even if they get re-imagined. Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People: Season Pass tries to go against that (admittedly well-founded) attitude by simply being fine entertainment. 

The sound and presentation have been adjusted to appropriate levels and all the content is fresh, but for better or worse, the core experience might as well be hosted on the official site.

As the title suggests, this isn’t a single game, but a compilation of five individually released games on WiiWare and PC. Each game houses its own storyline, which plays out similarly to an episode of the online cartoons. Throughout the season, you’ll sabotage an athletic competition, build and conquer nations, become the “baddest of the bands”, star in a Z-list movie, and slay an 8-bit dragon. As exciting as some of that may sound, it all fits with the lax and humorous nature synonymous with the website.

Strong Bad’s five games are fairly by-the-book examples of point and click adventures. You progress the plot by conversing with characters, travelling back and forth to locations, solving puzzles, and utilising items in various ways. The PS3 release deviates a bit from the WiiWare and PC releases though, since there’s nothing to “click” with. Strong Bad himself is controlled more accurately with the analog stick and the rest of the functions are mapped to various buttons. If you’ve ever played a game in the genre, don’t expect much out of the norm.

A reoccurring problem is that the skip function is mapped to the same button as “quit” and “back”. Naturally, when replaying mini-games, your mind tells you to press the back button to undo something, but that renders your progress null and you’ll have to restart what you were doing from scratch. It’s also a bit perplexing that skipping through cutscenes or conversations requires you to constantly tap the button rather than just skip to the next scene.

Also included in each episode is at least one retro game spoof. They’re not exactly system sellers given the lack of depth, but they’re worth a few plays. If Strong Bad’s commentary annoys you, there’s thankfully an option to disable it in this version.

Rather than gameplay, your real source of entertainment in each title is Strong Bad’s unique blend of wordplay, sarcasm, wit, running gags, eccentric cultural references, and sheer absurdity. The titular luchador manages to make menial tasks such as clicking on a stool at least worth a smirk. If you’re not one for humour, you’ll want to avoid these games like the plague since comedy rears its head in every single aspect, even outside of the dialog.

It’s worth noting that the episodes are all self-contained. While there’s a little overlap between them, you’ll have no trouble jumping between stories at your own discretion. What will impact your experience, however, is your general knowledge of the Homestar Runner series. If you’ve never watched the cartoons before, it’s best that you give the website a thorough spin before buying. You’ll still get half the jokes, but it’s hardly a complete experience without establishing some of the characters and gags.

While each episode is relatively short, you’ll no doubt get your money’s worth from every instalment. Considering the five game collection will run you $15 USD and each one should take a minimum of three hours, that’s at least an hour of gameplay per dollar and a significantly better value than buying each game individually off WiiWare. If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy revisiting Free Country USA to play Strong Bad’s fun machine and listen to his brand of humour. Trophy addicts will also get plenty of satisfaction since each game has its own individual set to obtain. Best of all? Given the game’s story driven nature, almost all of your spent time will be genuinely engaging and entertaining, with minimal fluff.

One thing you’ll notice immediately is the presentation. Rather than present the characters in two dimensions, Telltale went for a sort of approach that mashes together the site’s style with primitive 3D. Fans won’t find it repulsive and newcomers should be pleased by its simplicity.

The audio is similarly inspired as it touts high quality sound effects, music, and character voices instead of the sometimes tin can quality of the flash site. The series creators have done well by providing new tracks and remixes of old ones to keep things new. The surprising addition of subtitles is a nice touch for some of the more eccentric characters, which still tends to be an issue outside of these games.

The worst that can be said of Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People is that it resembles a premium version of the flash website. Newcomers may or may not perceive that as a flaw, but these are absolute gems for any serious fan. If you just want a game to relax with while drinking some Cold Ones, you can’t do better than the greatest, cheapest version of the complete package. 

-Clark A

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Review: Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People - Season Pass (PSN)
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