reviewed on PC
An Internet Phenomenon
The Brothers Chaps’ Homestar Runner cartoon has been entertaining Internet-goers for over eight years now. The site garnered something of a cult following over the years, and has been successful enough to make the shift to other mediums. Cue Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, an episodic adventure game by the creators of Sam & Max. The first episode, Homestar Ruiner, went up for download on PC and WiiWare last Monday, but while it captures the quirky charm of the show, it fails to do much else.
If you are familiar with the Homestar Runner cartoons, all the characters and locales should be instantly recognizable. You play as the extremely cool and attractive Strong Bad, who is challenged via email to ‘beat the snot’ out of his nemesis, Homestar Runner. Strong Bad’s plan to humiliate Homestar involves beating him in the Free Country USA Tri-annual Race to the End of the Race. While Strong Bad does succeed, the plan backfires when the disgraced Homestar decides to crash on his couch.
Homestar Ruiner sticks remarkably close to the source material – something fans of the cartoon will definitely appreciate. The characters have the same personalities we have come to love or loathe, in the King of Town’s case. Some of the show’s running gags make appearances, and the opening number is one of the best in the series’ history. It all feels like it could, and probably should have appeared as a cartoon on the site.
Raising the "Awesomeness Meter?"
Because when it comes to the actual game, Homestar Ruiner inexplicably starts to slip up. Think of a point-and-click adventure game (much like Telltale’s own Sam & Max), only stripped down more than you would think possible. More often than not, Homestar Ruiner amounts to little more than walking to a specific location and activating a scripted story sequence. The few puzzles in the game have ridiculously simple solutions, which usually are spelled out for you beforehand. It’s a completely menial experience, and a very poor vehicle to move the story along.
Another problem comes with the value. Homestar Ruiner will set you back 1000 Wii points, or $8.95 if you opt for the PC version, and run about two and a half hours. As is usual with this kind of game, there is no real reason to play through it again after you have beaten it. There are other little distractions such as achievements, a Snake Boxer arcade game, and Teen Girl Squad comics – but none are really worth your time.
The achievements are all earned by searching for random objects such as costumes and pages of a game manual, and don’t end up doing anything worthwhile. Snake Boxer, an Atari 2600-style arcade game, is too shallow to keep you playing after a couple of rounds. And while I was excited at the prospect of devising my own deaths for the Teen Girl Squad, the limited number of options killed the experience rather quickly.
The fairly crude look of the Homestar Runner cartoon has been accurately recreated here, and while the game isn’t a technical stunner the art direction is definitely endearing. With the exception of Homestar Runner and Strong Sad, the characters have all made the jump to 3D quite well. The sound design is predictably awesome – Matt Chapman’s voice work is spot-on, the 8-bit melodies fit the universe perfectly. And I still can’t get over the musical introduction.
However, it does definitely feel as if Telltale rushed the final product, as graphical glitches are far too numerous and Strong Bad only moves where you want him to about 50% of the time. We could definitely have waited an extra week to let Telltale put the finishing polish on the title; it feels strangely unfinished as is.
Tune In Next Time?
With its surreal sense of humour and hilarious, quirky characters, the Homestar Runner universe should be perfect for an adventure game adaptation. Unfortunately, Telltale’s decision to strip the experience down as much as possible makes the game only recommendable to established fans of the cartoon.
Homestar Ruiner is hardly a game, and the point-and-clickery only serves as a barrier between the player and some genuinely funny moments. It is a shame that this episode was so disappointing, as the series has tremendous potential. If Telltale can make the gameplay half as good as the humour, it will be a winner.
No Pros and Cons at this time