strongbadaka Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (SBCG4AP) – Episode 4: Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective – REVIEW

One thing is certain – cheap, gritty, home-made creations by groups of enthusiastic friends (or one-person teams) are slowly taking over the world. More and more often they manage to reach every little corner of Earth even before success starts to pour real money into them (thank you, internet and authors of widely available creation tools). Perhaps this fascinating process is nowhere more prominent than in the world of animation. Even anime has now emerged with its representative in jerkily animated cut-outs – a certain Eagle Talon. Meanwhile, in my own exotic country an uglier than night South Park‘s distant cousin Włatcy Móch already roams cinemas and computer game stores. And amidst it all there is the already venerable Strong Bad

Strong Bad, or to be exact Homestar Runner, is a super-popular web-spread or web-based cartoon franchise created by brothers Mike and Matt Chapman in 2001. It was also picked by Telltale Games for a series of episodic adventure games in 2008. And for this new medium the avantgardish, naïve art(?), flash-based cartoon about an ensemble of freaky, colorful, cheesy children-book-like characters has been mutated into 3D to an even weirder effect. It easily catches the eye that’s for sure.

If one had to explain the Strong Bad character, personality wise he is something of an overbearing male adolescent, he has a gruff voice of an uber-macho, and looks like a midget with a wrestler’s mask for a face that includes a moving rectangle as a mouth. Another important aspect of Strong Bad‘s persona is that he often receives emails from both his fictional, as well as real world, fans which often becomes a catalyst for whole new plots and ideas in the series. In general, it’s a comedy of sorts with a type of humor not so easily described in one sentence, besides of its obvious fondness for references to old-school pop culture.

SBCG4AP Episode 4 which is aptly named Dangeresque 3 is, in short, an adventure game representation of a a Strong Bad cartoon re-telling a Strong Bad-made (directed by Strong Bad) amateur movie production (bloopers and all) – the third episode of an action cop drama TV series in the vein of the 70s and 80s (Miami Vice and so on). Overall, what we have here is a dialogue intensive, occasionally quite funny, often very silly 2,5 hour interactive story with some very easy inventory type puzzles thrown in. I’d say the standout part of the entire show is the obligatory car chase which is exciting and creative in a way that reminds me a lot of Full Throttle climactic “action” adventure scenes involving a truck and a train plain plane.

What I didn’t like so much about Strong Bad is that the game screams of reused visual assets, even to me who didn’t play any other episodes. In consequence, like a cheaply made sitcom SBCG4AP conjures a saddening sense of a world that is forever limited to a small neighborhood where you always bump on the same lonely landmarks, like for instance “the lonely stick”. On the bright side, the tunes stay very cool throughout the whole.

So let’s dissect the plot for a change. The deeper topics that occasionally pop up, like rediscovering one’s dad or saving rain-forests, are there just to be made fun of, popular cliches that they are. What should the player hang on to then? No moral dilemmas or philosophical questions thrown at you in this fictional account. Escapist entertainment it clearly ain’t either. And if there is any satire in there it is very playful and light. Thus the game is completely free of both any cheap pretension as well as any kind of more risky storytelling or more complex atmosphere. There is only the lighthearted humor and crazy style.

Nevertheless, if you take a long, deep look at the game either from the angle of the original cartoon,  or it being a Telltale‘s adventure game, or it telling about the production of DangeresqueStrong Bad‘s pet movie project, one theme is clearly prevalent and thoroughly explored here – the creation of stories when you have not much time, not much manpower and simple, cheap resources.  Yet, here is also the point where the meta-reflection kicks and the player says to himself: “Why do I spend my time on this kind of sketchy piece of meta-fiction if I could have much more fun creating my own?” Why indeed? There’s so many freeware and easy to use game engines out there and other useful software. Even if you can’t match Matt Chapman‘s incredible voice acting range your game still has very good chances to become a worthy adversary to Strong Bad or even beat him mercilessly in wild imagination and fun factor. Too work demanding? Well, you can always just take out your action figures from the basement again and still have a Dangeresque like, but much much more personal and exciting storytelling experience. Would it be more embarrassing than spending time playing SBCG4AP? It really shouldn’t.

So in my opinion Strong Bad is a pretty nice and frustration-less time-killer, but I would only recommend it if you don’t have enough energy to have fun doing anything more demanding, even for playing with action figures. It’s a bit of a shame that the very talented former LucasArts designers and writers at Telltale and the author of the sublime Nick Bounty (see here) are not creating something more ambitious, but better this than working for someone else I suppose.

My Score: 3/5 starks