Strong Bad 5: 8-bit is Enough

 

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Telltale Games

Released:  December 2008

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista, 1.5GHz Processor,  256MB (512MB recommended) RAM, 32MB 3D-accelerated video card (64MB recommended) Video card, DirectX 9

Additional Screenshots

 

 

by flotsam

 

If you had to be attractive to play the previous four episodes, you need to be really attractive to play this one. 8-bit simply wonít cut it, whatever the title might say. High res to the max with extended memory management might just suffice, but be prepared to throw in a power-up or two.

Tron might have pioneered the whole ďsucked into a video gameĒ scenario, but Strong Bad and his homestar homies take it to a whole new level. When the Trogdor video game goes poof because of nothing that Strong Bad did, some freaky world meld brought on by too many rads from the metal detector leads to Trogdor running rampant in the real world, and Strong Bad on a quest to restore the balance between whatís real and what isnít. In the best traditions of questing, pixelly companions and ďuse pie with catĒ will help and sometimes hinder the goings-on.

Episode 5 is without a doubt the highpoint of the Strong Bad series. It will likely appeal to those who enjoyed any or all of the first four episodes, but its particular audience is those of us who profess to be adventure game addicts. Whatís more, if you remember being excited by EGA and daughterboards, be prepared to giggle your way through a worthy homage to the adventure game genre.

The Strong Bad world will be familiar to many. For those who havenít had the pleasure, itís a bizarre cartoon environment, populated by oddly drawn characters with equally odd personas. Strong Bad is numero uno, resplendent in Mexican wrestling mask and boxing gloves. Brash as ever, he packs as big a wallop with his cutting remarks as he does with his fists.

"Laugh loud"

Humour, more than anything in games, is a matter of personal taste. What I find funny, you may well find lame. But calling it as I see it, this game is funny, and much of the humour is aimed at you, the player. That is, it does an excellent job of dissecting and poking fun at various aspects of adventure game playing and those who participate. Itís clever and itís witty.

It isnít just adventure games. Those with a fondness for the GameBoomersí Dark Side will find much to amuse them as well. Ye olde worlde of Peasantís Quest will conjure up an RPG memory or three, and Stinkomanís platform challenge to obtain the Sword of Trogdor will have side-scrolling aficionados recollecting all manner of jumping and leaping. And when you eventually get to Trogdorís lair, the first person HUD (heads-up display) leading to the boss battle is a fitting finale.

It really is a hoot.

The game revolves around Strong Bad, but Trogdor is a worthy adversary and helps carry the load. Many other familiar characters are present Ė Homestar, Marzipan, Bubs and Coach Z to name just a few Ė but the supporting cast includes a variety of occupants from the various video game worlds into which Strong Bad is transported. I had taken ten companions questing with me by the time I reached the end, each with his own little something to add to the mix. A Trogdor sword might sound all good and sufficient when it comes to vanquishing Trogdors, but woe betide he or she who neglects the special talents of Space Circus Bear or Gel Arshie. And who knows when you might meet an evil algebraic equation that defies all your best efforts, but which cannot compete with the fiendishly mathematical AlgeBros.

For fans of the stick, it too is present. Ditto the blue whale. And Limozeen make a brief partying reappearance as well. Teen Girl Squad though were not featured.

Strongbadia is as colourful as ever, even on fire, and itís a third person point and click sort of place. You get to go a few more places this time, serenaded by suitably jaunty midi snippets and accompanied by a sound palette that works well.

"Hit dragon"

Puzzling consists predominantly of using the correct item in the correct way -- once you have found it of course. There are some mild actiony sequences, which are terribly forgiving and seem to stop fighting back after a few attempts. So donít panic when you have to clear Strong Badís house of the ghosts of America past, or bash and belt your way to Trogdorís lair. Just have at it, and all will reasonably quickly turn out well, one way or the other.

Some puzzles are not so simply constructed, and lateral thinking is involved in some of the situational conundrums. Putting the alleged princess in peril so that she can be rescued is a case in point, and acquiring said peril was particularly well designed.

As with earlier games, the hint system works extremely well. Crank it up or turn it down as you like, but spend too long seeming to be stuck, and a comment or observation may well provide an insight as to what to do next. On the two occasions I was scratching my head, it provided the necessary prod to move on.

Again, there are plenty of things to find just for the sake of it, and things to do simply to add to your final level of Awesomeness (in keeping with the video homage, I finished on Flight Stimulator 2009).

Extended play is unlocked once Trogdor is vanquished, which enables you to find the rest of the items not yet accounted for. I had 8 out of 13 collectibles still to find, 4 ghosts awaiting their freedom, and had only burninated 6 out of 7 peasants. You also get to play as a few other characters, including as Trogdor in a peasant fire fight to the death (for the peasants anyway).

There was a lot less random metal detecting and item revealing antics in this game though, which I liked, and the treasure hunting aspects did seem to be much more in the background. This was probably due to the strength of the story, which in the end is the jewel in this game. However, telling much more would risk spoiling it too much; the one-liners and observational game-based humour deserve to be discovered unannounced.

Which is not to say the Strong Bad wisecrack is missing, or that there arenít other aspects to chortle about. Some popular culture gets an airing, and the snakes this time are not on a plane.

It didnít take me long, about four glitch-free hours or so, but 8-Bit is Enough packed far more than 64KBs of fun into its address space. I canít imagine any adventure gamer having other than a mighty fine time.

A

Strong Badís Cool Game for Attractive People Ė Episode 5: 8-bit is Enough (PC version) can be purchased via download at Telltale Games.

P.S. If you like the look of the video games within the episode, you can play many of them at the Homestar Runner website.

December 2008

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