And so we finally come to the end of this episodic experiment across both the PC and Nintendo Wii, as the final episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People has arrived. 8-Bit Is Enough is Telltale Games' last foray into the land of Free Town USA, and they've gone for broke. This episode not only collects the last few missing Homestar Runner references, but also goes all-out on a satire of the videogame world at large. As much of a nostalgia trip as it is a culmination of all things Strong Bad, 8-Bit Is Enough is a worthy conclusion to a highly unusual episodic game series.
Following on directly from Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective, an ill-aimed jump by Strong Bad breaks his Trogdor arcade cabinet, which promptly grows legs and a beefy arm and goes on a rampage across town. The solution to this problem is surprisingly simple, although predictably Strong Bad finds a way to mess it up and in doing so destroys the barrier between reality and the videogame world. With the two worlds merged, Strong Bad has to find a way to separate the two and destroy the rampant dragon Trogdor once and for all. It's as silly a story as any of the previous games, but it does allow for a vast array of references to the golden age of videogames - the Eighties.
Telltale use the game's unique premise to put some interesting spins on the tried-and-true adventure gameplay, by splitting the game up into different sections based on Strong Bad's collection of games, mostly developed by the fictional videogame company Videlectrix (whose proud motto is that they "use computers to make games"). Of course, one of the games is Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, which takes place in the usual locations of Free Town USA, although they have been altered somewhat due to the reality collapsing taking place. There's Gel-Arshie's Fruitboarder, an obvious stab at hastily constructed licenced videogames featuring the ceaselessly creepy mascot Marshie, as well as a 3-D recreation of Peasant's Quest, a popular old-style graphical adventure game which can be played for free on the Homestar Runner website. Both the Megaman series and Japanese games and anime at large get a ribbing with Stinkoman, and of course your final challenge is to defeat Trogdor at his own game...
While the game is still primarily a point-and-click adventure, to its credit it does manage to make every videogame section feel very different. In one section, Strong Bad's house becomes haunted by educational historical figures, and in an sequence very reminscent of Luigi's Mansion he must use his 'light musket' peripheral to clear a path. While Strong Bad still has an inventory, the majority of items he picks up aren't items at all but characters who join his party. While they can still be used like items, it requires a little bit of inventive thinking to know what combinations of characters to use to solve any given situation. For instance, a certain character can help elucidate the solution to the copy protection on one of the games, in a hilarious hark-back to the ridiculous measures publishers would go to (and arguably still do) to prevent games from being pirated.
The developers also clearly had fun with the presentation of 8-Bit Is Enough, with the graphical style of several eras of gaming represented throughout the episode. From the 8-Bit stylings of Stinkoman and Peasant's Quest, to the Quake-era graphics of a part of the game we won't dare to spoil, the graphics awesomely reproduce their targets, with a tongue-in-cheek flair that's consistent throughout. It should go without saying by this stage that the voice talent is once again brilliant, but the true star this time around is the musical stylings of the different videogame sections, perfectly evoking the retro mood with simple 8-bit chords.
8-Bit Is Enough should be a no-brainer for any fan of Homestar Runner, with its inclusion of Trogdor, Stinkoman, Peasant's Quest and even Marshie. But, like Dangeresque 3 before it, other gamers won't feel left out either, with the vast array of videogame references ranging from Donkey Kong to Portal. It's not a long game, clocking in at around the 3-4 hour mark, nor is it going to convert people who think the 'S' in Strong Bad is for 'Sucks', but for the uninitiated it's the best example of the series as you're likely to get. It's as weird and as funny as we've come to expect in this series, and if this is the last we see of Strong Bad and his pals, then we can remember fondly they went out with a burninate rather than a chair-scoot.