If you're a fan of Homestar Runner and you downloaded the first episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People, Homestar Ruiner, you probably enjoyed it. It was hard not to notice a few minor flaws though; some solutions were a bit strange (you had to use certain items on stuff you’d never think to use them on), the game was quite short, and there wasn’t much replay value when you were done. This second episode has fixed some of the flaws, but ultimately, it’s more of the same.
As in Sam & Max, each episode in the series has no relation to the others aside from some minor references. This means that if, for some reason, this second episode sounds more intriguing to you, can you pick it up before the first and not have to worry about spoiling the plot of the previous game.
The storyline is typically zany. The King of Town has had it with Strong Bad, and has instituted a tax of one creamy ding cake per email answered. He has sent Strong Bad a reminder of this email. Unfortunately for Strong Bad, his Idiot Filter considered the message to be spam, leaving him blissfully unaware of this new ruling. The King of Town and the Poopsmith later pay Strong Bad a visit, putting a collar around his neck that will make his head explode if he leaves the house. If you’re a fan of the series then this ridiculous plot will no doubt sound perfectly sane!
After finding a way to remove the collar in a short introductory segment, Strong Bad wants to get revenge on the King of Town (who Strong Bad, from then on, only refers to as “The of Town”, as he plans to take over the throne himself). However, everybody else in Free Country USA also wants revenge – they’ve all started their own countries with their own politics. Strong Bad must find a way to please each leader, coercing them to ally with his own country: Strong Badia. They won’t allow Strong Bad passage through their lands in order to reach the King of Town’s Castle until he does! The game map has fittingly changed – it is now the map of a board game, with the names of each fictional country scribbled on it.
From here on the game is rather simple: each leader can generally be pleased with a single move, so it’s just a matter of figuring out which item to use where. Unlike some instances in the first episode, the items you use and the things you use them on generally make a lot of sense, meaning there’s no cursing and raging involved when you finally find that the one correct solution is the one you thought wouldn’t work.
Although the length of the game (About 2-3 hours) is the same as the first episode, there’s more to explore this time. While the Field, Strong Bad’s house and Marzipan’s house return, there are a number of additions and changes (such as being able to enter Strong Bad’s bedroom and bathroom) and a few completely new locales.
Certain other things from the first game return in some way or the other as well: there’s a new episode of do-it-yourself Teen Girl Squad to fiddle around with, a new “retro” game in the shape of Math Kickers: Featuring the Algebros (a Double Dragon homage, you can even find the missing manual pages to unlock combo moves), a photo booth (which has all clothes from episode 1, whether you collected them or not, plus more to find) to take pictures in, and a third mini-game, one that’s actually part of the story. You won’t find it until near the end, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you find out what it is, even if it is relatively simple.
Finally, the humour in this episode is once again top-notch. If you want to finally decipher Homsar’s strange language, or visit Bubs’ secret black market, then you will definitely enjoy what happens here.
All in all, Strong Badia the Free is more of the same. If you’re familiar with Telltale’s other episodic series, then you should have known that that was going to happen though! The game doesn’t substantially improve on the first so we can’t give it a higher rating, but if you enjoyed Homestar Ruiner then it’s safe to say that you will probably like this one just as much, if not slightly more. Those you left scratching yours heads in puzzlement first time around won’t be converted, however.