You may already know Strong Bad from his regular appearances answering emails and doling out not-so-useful advice on Homestarrunner.com. Now he's the star of a five episode comedy series, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People.
There's something wrong or complicated about the Strong Bad contract?
I'm not being rude here, or pretending to know something that i'm not ready to talk about.
But it caught my attention, since it's a game that i want, but never lower the price. Even in...
The trap of lazy and obtuse puzzle design is one that many developers fall into. Indulge me, if you will, and I will tell you a story.
Long ago, in a land far, far away, I read Hamlet by Shakespeare. When I finished it late at night, I had the strange idea to look it up on steam. Lo and behold, a game existed that was based off of the infamous play for a very reasonable five bucks. It appeared to be a point-and-click adventure game, but that didn't matter to me. It was too odd, too coincidental, for me to pass up. It downloaded quickly, and I began an hour journey of puzzles with no clear answers, walkthroughs, and a very loose interpetation of Hamlet. This is what I have come to expect from point-and-click adventure games. Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People changes the formula to be less... awful. The puzzles in this make sense. I know, that's crazy.
Alright, not all of them make sense, but most of them do. I can imagine it being hard to make puzzles that are difficult and coherent, but when it is the norm rather than the exception to have stupidly specific puzzle solutions in games, we've done something wrong. Point-and-click adventure games are notorious for having these sorts of puzzles, and that's because they miss something fundamental in making a puzzle: simplicity. Not simplicity in the answer or in the visual design (although that can help), but simplicity in the tools you are given. Think back to your favorite puzzle game. For a lot of you, it's probably Portal. Portal's central mechanic is deceptively simple; you shoot two portals, and walking into one brings you out of the other. But with that simple central mechanic comes the possibilty of twisting it into new shapes using physics and other, smaller tools and obstacles. Spacechem and Infinifactory are also great puzzle games, and their premise is simple as well. "Make specific things with these tools," the game says to the player, but the creators stretch and mould what it is the player needs to make. This most important of concepts is never used in point-and-click adventure games, but it is in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive people.
There are some strangely specific puzzles, but most of them are pretty well done. Part of it is that there is no item combination. In most adventure games, the player is forced to combine everything in their inventory to find the solution to a problem, but Strong Bad eliminates that by removing that facet of gameplay. You just have stuff, and you can use it all with your environment. Many things only work in specific places, but those place also make sense. In Episode 2, for example, ypu get a lighter. Throughout the rest of the episode you can use that lighter on burnable objects. Makes sense, right? I'm glad to finally see a really good adventure game, but it is a Telltale game, and this is what they do best.
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People is fun and challengining, and I very much recommend it.