A plight familiar to any videogamer hits Strong Bad hard before the intro credits even start rolling: His Limozeen Hot Babelien Odyssey game (think Defender, with a thicker 8-bit cityscape) starts smoking in his Atari-styled “Fun Machine.” He’ll have to take the smoldering console to the only fully-licensed Videlectrician in town: Bubs. And while that’s a sometimes shady prospect -- we’ve already seen Bubs work everything from Pom Pom’s rave club bar to Bub C’s own black market -- it’s hard not to root for Strong Bad right off the bat. But if we’ve learned anything about this little masked troublemaker, it’s that he can take a common problem and turn it into something uncommonly difficult to get out of; but he at least does it while maintaining his uniquely-branded sense of often desperate and helpless humor.
The cost is prohibitive, however. And the only straightforward way Strong Bad can think of raising the money is by holding a battle of the bands competition. Which just goes to show how “straightforward” Strong Bad’s thinking can be.
By episode three, I’m now a textbook Pavlovian case, and I run Strong Bad straight upstairs in his house to check his email. Strong Bad’s email has served as the impetus for the previous two episodes, Homestar Ruiner and Strong Badia the Free; and episode three, Baddest of the Bands, holds true to form. A viewer that signed off as “No-Name Brand Band” is asking Strong Bad for some name suggestions to affix to his band because “all the good ones are taken.” Strong Bad responds like the bemused and confused Dear Abby that his role requires, stating that, yes, all the good band names are already taken, so it’s time to start coming up with futuristic band names, like “My Personal Jetpack,” “The Robot Rebellion,” or “Really, Really, REALLY tiny cell phone.”
In Baddest of the Bands, Strong Bad comes across the opportunity to spend a full day with his favorite band of all time, Limozeen. To do so, he takes a poster tacked onto Bubs’ “Conces5ion” stand, with the poster describing the contest as a design-an-album-cover type of contest. Fortunately, when Strong Bad was eight years old, he’d already drawn the most awesome cover he could ever devise, before or since. The album cover depicted a blonde in a bikini wielding a sword while crouching on top of a hot rod car with its wheels on fire as the blonde faces off against a menacing dinosaur. Masterful.
Strong Bad goes about the familiar landscape -- returning to the hand-drawn map from the first episode -- while finding story-centric items that set off a rock and roll riff in the soundtrack. Each episode thus far has pinged on a certain aspect of Strong Bad’s “style.” Indeed, the season’s theme song is an infectious little ditty (which was introduced in full-blown theater musical style during the debut episode, Homestar Ruiner) that serves as a warning to any and all that would dare to hinder Strong Bad’s style. That first episode established how out-of-the-way Strong Bad is willing to go in order to inconvenience others’ lives. The second episode, Strong Badia the Free, fully draws out Strong Bad’s territorial instincts. While this third episode, Baddest of the Bands, taps into the self-appointed rock star lifestyle that Strong Bad idolizes. He never lives up to any of his own ideals, but that’s of course where the laughs always saunter in.
This series is still every bit an entry level point-and-click adventure for those that get more enjoyment out of a comedic yarn than a MENSA-strength puzzle. The minor hiccups in form and flow from the first episode are fading from memory, and the game’s more-elaborate-than-the-webcomic storylines have struck a proper balance in content versus game length. And with a sneak peek at episode four taking on a buddy spy shtick, it doesn’t look like the season’s out of thematic backdrops by a long shot.
Baddest of the Bands takes on an ‘80s hair-band schlock as the sense of humor grows even slightly less predictable than its preceding episodes. Its take on reality TV-based competitions, however, isn’t the most timeless theme, but the chuckles don’t suffer from it.
Page 1 of 1