Saturday, September 20, 2008

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People - Episode 2: Strong Badia the Free
Video game review by Sombrero Grande

Hot on the heels of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People - Episode 1 comes Episode 2: Strong Badia the Free. This time around, when the King of Town implements an uncharacteristically oppressive, retroactive e-mail tax, Strong Bad is placed under house arrest. Once you as the player figure out how to enable him to escape, the boxing-glove-wearing, Mexican-wrestler-masked anti-hero declares his own land, Strong Badia, a sovereign nation. His impassioned, Patton-like speech inspires all the other residents of Free Country, U.S.A.--unfortunately it inspires all of them to create their own sovereign nations instead of joining Strong Badia. So now you must help Strong Bad figure out how to win all the leaders of these newly-founded countries over to his side in the battle against the King of Town.

If you've already read my review of Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner (and you should), I detail the basics about the characters and gameplay in this PC and WiiWare series there. Not a whole lot is fundamentally different in Episode 2 as the point-and-click-style of gameplay is the same as what it was in the first installment. The game still has a profoundly intuitive menu system and loads of humor. There are still a few instances of jerky animation, though the animation in Episode 2 seemed more fluid on the whole than in Episode 1.

There are still little side games that are amusing within the larger game as well. You can still check Strong Bad's e-mails with comedic results and create your own Teen Girl Squad comics (though in Episode 2 you'll do it in an unlikely place in the game). Instead of Snake Boxer 5 there's now and old-school-style game Strong Bad can play called Math Kickers which is just as confusing as it is hilarious. Strong Bad can still use his "Heavy Metal" Detector to find treasure items scattered about, though in Strong Badia the Free the items he uncovers play a more vital role in the game than they did in Homestar Ruiner.

While Episode 2 has many similarities to Episode 1, I have to admit that I enjoyed this second outing even more than the previous. Finding ways to usurp power from the leaders of the other "countries" in the game just feels more fitting with Strong Bad's style than his actions in Episode 1, and more fun to do as well. I found myself laughing out loud more often playing Strong Badia the Free and the sense of pacing didn't feel nearly as slowed down, perhaps due to the nature of the new story and the actions Strong Bad takes within it.

If you're not already a fan of Homestar Runner cartoons, Episode 2 of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People will not make a lot of sense, however. While you could pretty much get away with not being too familiar with all of Strong Bad's adventures while playing Episode 1, Episode 2 makes a lot more sense and is more fun if you actually know the significance of things like the indie-tronic remix of "The Geddup Noise" song and why glow sticks indicate "light switch raves." Watching a vast majority of the cartoons at HomestarRunner.com is highly recommended for the uninitiated before playing Strong Badia the Free, much moreso than with Homestar Ruiner.

However, knowledge of the happenings in the first game are not required for playing Episode 2. There are a few passing references to some of the events and situations that occurred in Episode 1, but not a one that I've encountered had any sort of significant impact on the story. So, if you haven't played Episode 1 yet, or if you haven't finished it yet, don't worry; Strong Badia the Free is a perfectly fine starting point for the series, or even as a standalone game.

If you played and enjoyed Homestar Ruiner, or didn't but are still a big Homestar Runner or Strong Bad fan, Strong Badia the Free is highly recommended. The game is currently available on WiiWare (and may be downloaded onto your Wii console from the Wii Shop Channel in the system menu for 1000 Wii Points) and on PC for $8.95 at Telltale Games (though you can also reserve the full "season bundle" there for $34.95 as well).

While the PC and WiiWare versions of the game are nearly identical in every way, there are a few minor differences: On PC, the game will “remember” which costume items you unlocked in Episode 1, and these will be displayed in the photo booth in Episode 2. On WiiWare, all costume items from Episode 1 will be unlocked in Episode 2, regardless of whether you played the first episode. On WiiWare, Math Kickers is controlled by turning the Wii remote sideways; on PC, the mini-game is keyboard controlled. On WiiWare, Strong Bad can send e-mails and pictures taken using the in-game camera to Wii friends using his trusty Lappy 486 computer. The ability to send e-mails is not available on the PC (but you are still able to take pictures).


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