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Review #226

Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Awesome People Episode III: Baddest of the Bands
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 10/27/2008

Another month, another game featuring the cast of Homestar Runner. In August I reviewed Homestar Ruiner and in September, I reviewed Strongbadia the Free. I really enjoyed the first game and the second was a bit of a drop in quality. I was a little hesitant going into Episode 3 because of the decrease in quality and rise in bugs, but I loved the storyline. So did it turn out Strongbadia the Free was just a sophomore slump, or are the Homestar Runner games getting worse each month?

Let’s Review

1. Story

I laughed a lot at the plot and antics here. The story revolves around Strong Bad’s fun machine (think of it as an Atari 2600) finally dies and he needs to get it repaired so he goes to Bubs, the only real place of purchasing/fixing/trading/etc anything in the Homestar Runner universe. It turns out Strong bad is going to need a big ol’ sack of cash to pay for the repairs, so instead of getting a job, Strong bad comes up with a convoluted scheme to host a Baddest of the bands, get long past their prime rockstars as celebrity judges and then to win the whole thing. All to have his beloved video games back. There’s a moral in there somewhere I’m sure.

Although not as laugh out loud hilarious as the first episode, Baddest of the Bands has some great scenes ranging from the plight of the albino vegan bat, the insanity of Strong Bad, Homsar and The King of Town forming a death metal band complete with KOT eating a FLOCK of bleached buttered bats, and framing Limozeen (the celeb band) as people who would pour bleach into a lake and beat baby whales to death.

Because the game is only two hours long (I started at 7pm and was done at 9:30pm with the main game and extended play) , the plot is really streamlined and there’s no padding out of the plot or gameplay. This is great and it really helped make the humour come alive. The only downside to the story is that it’s really inaccessible to someone who isn’t familiar with the Homestar Runner characters. Going into this game blind is akin to going into Finnegan’s Wake without being somewhat familiar with Joyce’s intent – you can enjoy it, but you won’t get every nuance out of it.

Story Rating: 8/10

2. Graphics

Much like the second episode, this game feature graphics has lost the jaggies and haze around characters that were in Homestar Ruiner. You can also see a slight improvement over the second game with scenes like DOI (Strong Bad’s band) rocking out.

The game’s visuals are great for what they are – a perfect representation of the scenes and characters in a low budget flash cartoon. This makes the game vibrant and pretty, but nowhere near the level of visual quality we see from most Adventure games these days. Don’t get me wrong – any fan of Homestar Runner will love the graphics, but those that are new or not as fanatical about the series will probably be wondering why the game looks a generation or two behind.

Graphics Rating: 6/10

3. Sound

Once again the entire cast and crew (all two of them) for Homestar Runner are here to provide voices and noises for the game. In the last two games I gave sound a perfect score because the cast really threw themselves into their roles and treated the games like they were full fledged episodes from the series. Here though? There appears to be a noticeable lack of enthusiasm as Mr. Chapman is a bit wooden in some of his characters that are normally more energetic and enjoyable.

Even worse is the fact this episode has somehow managed to become EVEN BUGGIER then the last two, which is an impressive feat indeed. Several times through the course of a two hour game, the sound cut out on me completely. It was definitely an in game error and the sound came back when a scene was completed or if I moved to another part of the map. Still, if I didn’t turn subtitling on from the beginning of the game, I’d have missed some important story pieces and thus how to proceed in the game. This is not cool and I’m shocked at how these games are getting buggier with each episode instead of you know, CLEANER. Because of this audio bug, I do have to knock the score down a bit. The vocals, music and effects are still good, but I can’t imagine anyone NOT being frustrated by the sound cutting out on them like this.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Once again, we see a Telltale game that has severe control issues. Multiple times I would click my mouse to the right only to watch Strong bad run to the left. It was a nightmare getting out of Strong Mad’s room because Strong Bad would just not respond to my trying to leave. How on earth does one mess up the controls for a point and click game? Well, Telltale is 0 for 3 here with the Strong Bad series. Note that the controls are not so bad that the game is unplayable. They are just buggy and unresponsive at times. Fans of Homestar Runner will ignore this issue for the most part, while Adventure game veterans will no doubt be gnashing their teeth at the poor gameplay.

Other then these issues, Baddest of the Bands plays exactly like you would expect from an Adventure game. You click the mouse to move, to pick up objects, to interact with the environment, and to talk to people. This I all pretty cut and dry save for the bugs in the game. Each email they I opened I would right click because I could read them faster than Strong Bad would speak them and I wanted to get on with the game. When I did this however the game would hiccup and actually backtrack in the letter instead of move forward. Then it would hiccup and go to where it was supposed to. This is another new bug in the game and as emails to Strong Bad are the money maker for the series, this was a real disappointment.

As good as the story and puzzles were for Episode Three, I was severely disappointed with the glitches in the game and I know I’ve beaten this into the ground, but Telltale really needs to get off their duff and get some quality control into their titles before they launch. The game is playable, but it’s pretty damn to mess up the controls to a point and click title, yet Telltale still achieved the improbable.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 4/10

5. Replayability

The first two episodes had a nice amount of Replayability for an Adventure game. Baddest of the Bands? Not so much. The extended play offers nothing really of note and the previously optional side game of “Make Your Own Teen Girl Squad Comic” has been removed. All you can really do in the Extended Play is raise your high score by finding hidden items you might have missed in the main game like shot glasses and band posters (Much lamer prizes then in the previous two games) or raise your high score on the Limozeen video game for the fun machine, which is both the easiest and the most boring of the 2600 parodies so far.

Truth be told, once you beat the game, there’s no point in replaying this episode at all unless you really love the Defender parody or you want to dress up Strong Bad in costume pieces you have unlocked. The first two episodes offered some really fun post game content and dialog. Here, it’s just like other Adventure games, except shorter and cheaper.

Replayability Rating: 3/10

6. Balance

Adventure games are essentially thinking puzzle games where you must figure out the best solution to a puzzle. In Baddest of the Bands, things are much the same. These puzzles can be as simply as making graffiti with a stencil and aerosol cheese to running around Pom Pom’s club helping Homestar Runner complete his song so that he can become the lead singer of PomStar.
Now like most Adventure games, there are some pretty obscure puzzles solutions. I would have never immediately thought that the way to wreck Pomstar’s performance was to break the drive-in whale, then put a clothes hanger in it and turn the hanger until it freaks out Homestar Runner’s reception. Like I said weird. Others though are pretty straight forward, like designing an album cover.

Longtime fans of the genre will have no problem pushing through this game while people new to point and click titles will probably end up frustrated at times and do the old standby of “try every combination of objects possible” which amounts to little more than guess and checking your way through the game.

The game is a lot easier then the first one, but not quite as easy as the second. There’s a good balance and most gamers should be able to beat the game, if not collect every item and max out their high score.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

Since we’re now into the third episode of the game, things are starting to feel a little mundane at time. You have many of the same locations and characters so things can feel a bit dull there. You have all the same mini objectives like finding Strong Bad dress up pieces or hidden items throughout the game, which again starts to make all the games feel similar.

Thankfully though Telltale seems to realize this and there are several new locations brought on the by the Battle Royale of the Bands. This gives you some nifty new locations to look at and destroy, but it’s not enough to offset the same old, same old feeling one gets after playing three of three games in as many months.

The story is definitely a huge step up in terms of originality and weirdness, but the actual locations and playthrough are in dire need of a boost of originality. I’d say the story and puzzles balance out the bits that are getting monotonous.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictveness

In spite of the control issues and the game starting to feel a little TOO familiar, Baddest of the Bands is a lot of fun to go through. There are madcap antics. clever schemes and crazy capers. Because the game is so short, it’s very easy to play through the game in one night, or even one sitting! You just get roped into the adventure and keep telling yourself, “Just a few more minutes.” Then, BAM, you’re done with the game and have a smile on your face.

I feel that the short episodic nature of these games skews the addictiveness in the game’s favour, but there’s no denying you’ll get sucked into the game and play it from beginning to end, as long as your sense of humour is in tune with the game’s.

Addictiveness rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

From the previous two reviews:

Homestar Runner has a huge fan population. Sales will surely reflect that and fan boys with a less critical eye will rave about the game, ignoring the many obvious glitches in the game because, hey, you can play as Strong Bad!

Even with the glitches though, gamers will enjoy the game because of the ease of controls and the hilarious antics of these weird ass characters. This is probably going to be the best selling Adventure game of the year (if taken as a whole) when all is said and done, which says more about how gamers have chosen to be ignorant about the genre, then the quality of the game.

Although still somewhat inaccessible to the non-Homestar Runner fans, people who know and love the cartoon will have a lot of fun with this. Of course those people will have already purchased and beaten the game by now. You’d be amazed at how popular homestarrunner.com is. Even now with a declining slope in popularity, it’s still in the top 10,000 sites on the web. Pretty impressive.

Appeal Factor Rating: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

I’m a pretty big Homestar Runner fan. I have a Strong Bad T-shirt. I have a Trogdor window sticker in my Beetle. I have a The Cheat stuffed animal. With all that in mind, I have to admit, my enthusiasm for the series has been waning. I loved the first game, was disappointed in the second and the third had me enjoying the story but hating how buggy the game was compared to other Adventure Games. The game for November, Dangeresque 3 did nothing for me when I saw the trailer and for the first time, I’m not looking forward to a Strong Bad game. Ouch. I’m starting to worry that perhaps this should have been a one time game rather than five games monthly as it appears to be causing burnout on Telltale, gamers, and myself as a reviewer. This is a fun title, but the extras in Baddest of the Bands are the weakest so far, the Replayability is gone, and the bugs have increased. There’s a fun surreal wacky little tale in here, and the game’s certainly enjoyable, but the cracks are starting to show and it’s hard not to notice them.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5.5/10

The Scores
Story: 8/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 7/10
Control and Gameplay: 4/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 5.5/10
Total Score: 59.5/100
FINAL SCORE: 6.0 (ABOVE AVERAGE GAME)

Short Attention Span Summary

While Baddest of the Bands is a fun little Adventure game that anyone can beat in the course of an evening, the sound and gameplay bugs really detract from the overall experience. Homestar Runner fans will find the story and puzzles to be a step up from Strongbadia the Free, but they’ll also find more bugs, less interesting items to collect and a weaker post game setting. Neither game is as good as Homestar Ruiner however, so if you haven’t bought a “Season Pass,” I suggest downloading the first. At a price of $8.95, it’s well worth the cost for Homestar fans. Those new to the series might find this a bit pricey for a game that is shorter then a lot of movies put out these days.

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