Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: Episode 2 - Strong Badia the Free Review
Developer: Telltale Games and Videlectrix
Platform: PC and Wii
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: 1.5 GHz Processor, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB 3D video card, DirectX 9, internet connection, Windows XP or Vista
Strong Bad just wants to rudely answer e-mails, play totally awesome video games and watch television. But the King of Town has introduced a new tax that requires an offering of food for every e-mail sent or received. Applied retroactively. Including a tax on the e-mail notifying citizens of the tax. As a serious serial e-mailer who violated the King of Town's tax, Strong Bad is now under arrest and confined to his home. First, Strong Bad needs to get out into the wider world; then, he can form his own nation where e-mail can be free!
In Strong Bad's second outing, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People goes from being an interactive episode of Homestar Runner in an adventure game format (Homestar Ruiner) to a straightforward adventure game featuring characters from Homestar Runner. If that's not clear, the first episode was like watching typical Homestar Runner content, interspersed with a few adventure game puzzles. This new episode is entertaining, but the focus is on really simple adventure game puzzles rather than content. Strong Bad does insult Strong Sad a lot, and Marzipan is irritating, but they're just there to drop clues on how to find the next item Strong Bad needs to use to progress.
Perhaps the distinction seems overly subtle, but it's the best way of describing why Strong Badia the Free just couldn't hold my attention the same way Homestar Ruiner did. There are lots of new locations, a clever premise and even great cut-scenes in a retro-film-reel style as Strong Bad progresses through the game. But despite all the new content, including locations, a new map and new mini-games, Strong Badia the Free probably won't satisfy adventure gamers with its series of simple puzzles they could complete in their sleep, nor Homestar Runner fans with its lack of new, fun content.
None of the puzzles are remotely difficult, and one relies too much on objects hidden in the landscape. So one of the most important elements in Strong Badia the Free (while there are clues as to the items' locations) is the metal-detector equivalent of old-school pixel hunting. At least the collectibles in this game are different. And when it comes to Strong Bad, setting fire to a few things is so much better than collecting widgets.
A big draw in the first Strong Bad episode was the mini-games. Strong Bad's video game Math Kickers Featuring the AlgeBros is more entertaining as a joke than punching snakes (I loved the polynomial boss fight and hand-to-hand arithmetic), but it's not a lasting diversion. And this episode's version of teen girl squad isn't as solid or funny as the last episode (though the location is amusing).
The biggest problem with Strong Badia the Free is a board game that is critical to the action. I admire the fact that the developers created a basic board game and programmed a simple AI response, but the strategy is so simple that the game isn't interesting – you just match Homestar Runner characters. Simple wouldn't be bad, except that the animations and sounds make an exceptionally simple and short game take a long time to play out. At the moment when Strong Badia the Free should have best held my attention, I found myself doing chores around the computer while the board game turns played themselves out.
As an episode, Strong Badia the Free isn't bad, and it's as good a purchase for $9 on the PC or $10 on the Wii as you'll find, but I'd recommend waiting to see if the third episode is as good as the first. If so, plunk down $35 to purchase the whole season.