The first episode in a series of point and click adventure games starring online sensation Strong Bad is only average bad. Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, Episode One: Homestar Ruiner is more Strong Sad than Strong Mad, which drives it into super lame-o weird Homestar’s land. The simply and cleverly titled Homestar Ruiner brought back some memories of sitting around my friends’ computers in high school and watching the Strong Bad emails and Homestar adventures. This was six years ago. Judging by the game, the material has not evolved since then, but the irony and absurdity has been turned up about five thousand and three hundredths of a quarter-turn notches since then.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Homestar Runner Universe (and what Soylent Green is made of) I will offer an unfairly brief and completely incomplete overview. Homestar Runner is the supposed star of the flash cartoons on the HomestarRunner website. Strong Bad is the antagonist to Homestar Runner’s protagonist. However, Homestar is infinitely more boring, and Strong Bad has become the main draw, evolving into an anti-hero with his own set of antagonists such as the King of Town. In this interpretation, he also has his perfect foil—Homestar Runner.
Episode One of Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People maintains the look and feel of the flash series. This is because most of the game takes place through overlong and purposely convoluted cut scenes which are, Strong Sadly, the game’s strength. The problem arises because the characters are already developed and currently static, like the current state of The Simpsons. There isn’t a way to explore or experience more of the universe through the game, making this accompaniment piece unnecessary to enjoy these characters. Still, that hasn’t stopped people from making games before.
Given this static nature, Homestar Ruiner is tailored perfectly to its audience—that is, all the people that enjoy the Strong Bad emails and his diversions from ruining Homestar Runner. It doesn’t try to be something it isn’t, and instead focuses on the strengths of the series in an easily accessible format. This brings us to the plot of the game, which is in the title and was also mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph. You control Strong Bad’s actions in this very basic point and click game as he tries to win the Race to the End of the Race and ruin Homestar in the process. That’s basically it. A common theme in the webisodes is Strong Bad’s ineptitude fueled by his delusions of grandeur, a similar theme to that of a more recent web hit, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog.
Usually web hits come, are consumed by tens of millions, are referenced or mocked by the slower traditional media outlets, and then vanish. Strong Bad is still going, well, strong. It’s still sharp as the poopsmith’s shovel and doesn’t feel dated thanks to the world that Mark and Mike Chapman have created. One pitfall this game is that it doesn’t let you explore the world completely. When playing, you also aren’t forced to view the Homestar world through a specific lens. Instead, it traps the viewer/player in a middleverse. It’s a place where it feels like you’re stuck watching yourself in a dream—that is, if you were Strong Bad (as some might wish) and the dream is Homestar Ruiner.
There are some nice features though, like a photo booth where you dress up Strong Bad and take pictures to email to your friends and co-workers. The payoff of having goofy pictures of Strong Bad wearing a wig and a mustache is minimal when compared to the cost of clicking through boxes and dirt. Your coworkers will be like, “Why am I looking at this again?” Then they’ll ask you for the third quarter predictions that you were supposed to come up with when you were playing Homestar Ruiner instead. This game, like all the other web hits, is something that is probably going to be enjoyed during the spare time at work. In today’s economy, yesterday’s productivity killers are going to be today’s comfortable job killers.
In this age of the web, if it’s not free, then either users will look for something else that is, or the users will make it free. The brothers Chapman can’t be faulted for wanting to make money off their splendid creation, because they put all their material on the web for free.
The source material is some of the most entertaining to be found on the internet when viewed in short segments. However, Homestar Ruiner simply doesn’t possess the quick hitting nature of its source and that is why overall, it is just an average experience.
Not playing the game doesn’t equate to missing out on the Homestar experience. The laughs to be had are stuck in between benign tasks that aren’t worth the time to click through. It’s easier to enjoy these laughs in a more familiar setting—sitting in front of the computer, watching on the HomestarRunner website.