Over the past two years, Sam & Max has shown that short, humorous games can be commercially viable when released as a series of episodes. Continuing this trend, the webcomic Penny Arcade recently took their own characters and unique brand of humor to the downloadable game stage and met with a good degree of critical success. Now the characters from HomestarRunner.com have made their bid for episodic gaming glory with Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. There are a few laughs to be had in the first episode, Homestar Ruiner, but ultimately, the game falls flat. The open-ended point-and-click adventure play makes a poor vehicle for the site's quirky humor.
Homestar is on the phone with his agent. It's not a pleasant conversation.
As the game begins, Strong Bad treats us to a brief musical number, which he rolls right into a good ol'-fashioned e-mail session. Challenged to beat the snot out of Homestar Runner by a fan, Strong Bad heads off to the track to seek his quarry. Clicking your way through Strong Bad's house, you'll stumble across familiar gags, like the technochocolate rave light switch and a keg of melonade. There are many such artifacts throughout the game that reference particular video bits from the Web site. Developer Telltale Games really missed the boat here by not including an option to view the original content, and as such these references have little comedic clout.
You soon venture outside The House of Strong, and eventually travel to a number of familiar locations throughout Free Country, USA. In an amusing send-up of adventure game convention, you draw these many locations on your loose-leaf map, but are free to redraw and reposition them at any time. The game is mostly a matter of clicking your way around these various locations, talking to different characters, and using the items in your inventory whenever possible. While a few of these items produce mildly comical results, none of them are employed in particularly clever or interesting ways. In-game achievements and minigames (like the do-it-yourself Teen Girl Squad comics) round out the package a bit, and completionists will probably get a solid three to four hours of gameplay for their troubles.
Homestar Ruiner looks quite good, but ultimately this new format doesn't work out. The punchy comedic pacing that works so well in a series of video shorts does not hold up when stretched out over a few hours, and the few times you do chuckle will only punctuate the fact that such moments are few and far between. Though it is reasonably priced at $8.95, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People isn't recommendable. Folks looking to get a Homestar humor fix are better off visiting the Web site than going on this subpar adventure.