Name: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 4: Dangeresque 3
Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Wii, PC (Reviewed on Wii)
I don’t want to jinx anything, but it looks like Telltale might have finally hit its stride with the fourth installment of their Strong Bad series. After three substandard excursions, the most recent episode, Dangeresque 3, is easily the best of the bunch. It’s also the first one that I walked away from impressed, and the first one I was able to complete in one sitting, both of which are vital to point-and-click adventure games. To catch you up on the backstory, Telltale recommends watching these two episodes. While viewing them isn't exactly mandatory, it does keep some of the jokes from falling flat. I mean, sure, 2K Games didn't ask gamers to read Atlas Shrugged before playing BioShock, but these are two-minute shorts - and worth watching before playing.
As the title implies, the game takes place, in a way, outside of the canon of the Strong Bad universe. Instead, the episode begins with a screening party for Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective (which is, in fact, in 3D, as advertised in the videos). Each part in the movie is played by a character from the series, and it's fun trying to figure out who the "Mad Scientist" or "Informant" will be before they arrive.
The events in the game take place inside of the movie, where Strongba--, erm, Dangeresque, must solve puzzles to foil dastardly plots, all the while fighting against his former partner, “Dangeresque Too”, who has gone rogue. The story is consistently humorous, filled with low-budget special effects and editing tricks, like rewinds to show boomerangs returning to characters hands, camera tilted sideways to climb buildings, etc; which are used as storytelling elements. I hope Telltale goes back to this type of storytelling in future episodes, because it definitely sets it apart from other games in the genre.
The puzzles are greatly improved over the past episodes’, which did little to flex the mind. Unlike in Baddest of the Bands, your inventory is stripped of unnecessary objects. Most of the time, Dangeresque carries his Nun-Chuck Gun and a few other essentials, and it isn’t until the end of the game that your supply menu becomes remotely filled. Even then, it's usually obvious which item is used where, so situations involving randomly clicking a rock on different parts of a room don’t pop up too much.
There were very few times where becoming stuck was an issue, and the puzzles never had strange or ambiguous solutions – they were generally intuitive and intelligent. Telltale seem to have also scaled back on the collectibles, which actually got in the way of gameplay in past episodes.
Is it too soon to ask for Dangeresque 4? This most recent episode has restored much of my faith in the license, one that I felt was strangely being wasted by misdirected game design. Whatever issues Telltale faced early on seem to have been addressed, and the polish of this episode shines through the past few missteps. The teaser for the next episode, 8-Bit is Enough, looks to be even better, and thanks to the success of Dangeresque 3 I’m eagerly awaiting it.