Sam and Max Season One: Some Reflections

Matt Barton's picture

You may have noticed (hopefully with some sadness!) that I haven't been posting as much as I usually do here on Armchair Arcade. Part of the reason is that I've been overloaded with school work (this is finals week), but the true reason is that I've become a GameTapaholic. Don't get me wrong--the system is not without its faults, and is not available in Europe. However, it's far too easy to get sucked into games like Baldur's Gate again and end up losing days and even weeks of productivity. It's really hard to believe how much is available! Nevertheless, while there are plenty of classic games to keep you busy, we can't ignore the Sam & Max series. As far as I know, these are only available on GameTap, and well worth the price of admission.

I doubt that anyone here at Armchair Arcade is unfamiliar with the 1993 classic LucasArts masterpiece, Sam & Max Hit the Road. The game introduced a zany new style of point-and-click that looks and feels like a cartoon. The titular characters are bizarre yet familiar; Sam the dog reminds me of Friday from the old Dragnet TV series, whereas Max the rabbit is a violent sociopath--and somehow it works. The writing is terrific, and laughs, wit, and irony abound. Nevertheless, despite the game's polish and popularity, fans languished for a decade waiting for a sequel. Time and time again, rumors would surface of a new Sam & Max title, but they always turned out to be vapor. So, when GameTap announced an entire new "season" of Sam & Max, many were skeptical. How would these games work as installments? How would the new games compare to the old?
Sam & Mac Episode 5: Retrogamers will adore "Reality 2.0" and the COPS.Sam & Mac Episode 5: Retrogamers will adore "Reality 2.0" and the COPS.
After playing all six games of the new series, I'm pleased to report that the new games are even better than the original. Although I've heard some (including Bill) complain about the lack of next-gen graphics and the like in the new games, I'm more than pleased with the look and feel of these games. The gags are clever, the puzzles are just difficult enough to be challenging, and the situations are brilliant. Furthermore, the interface is much more intuitive and simplified than the original game (especially the dialog system). It truly is hard not to like Sam & Max. Furthermore, the "episodic structure" works well, since you don't need to invest weeks to complete a game. Indeed, I've been able to finish most of them in a single evening. I know I don't have as much time anymore to really invest weeks in finishing a game; these briefer installments are much better.

Although all six episodes are worth playing, perhaps the best is #5: Reality 2.0. The reason I recommend this episode is that it is the "geekiest" of the lot, with plenty of insider jokes about classic consoles and computers. There's even a unit that looks suspiciously like an old PONG console! This episode also features a segment played like an old-school text adventure. It's highly creative and loads of fun for anyone who likes retrogaming! I was nearly falling out of my chair with laughter, and the "COPS" theme song is hilarious ("Everything that boots is beautiful!") This was my favorite of the season, though I loved the rest of the games, too.

Naturally, all of the episodes "recycle" certain content, though always with a spin to keep things fresh. Characters are introduced and return in later episodes, such as Sybil, Bosco, Hugh Bliss, and a classically trained actor who happens to be a chicken. These characters evolve during the season, so that it really is necessary to play them in the right order to get the most pleasure out of the series. For instance, Sybil has a new job each episode, Bosco has a new phobia or invention, etc. Although some people have complained about reusing so much content (such as scenery and locations), I think it's necessary to add some coherence to the episodes. Plus, it's always fun to anticipate how the content and characters will be reused; there's almost always some twist or joke involved. For instance, the gum ball machine outside Bosco's is always full of some new type of gum shaped objects, and the "sludgie" machine inside always has a new, utterly repugnant flavor. Besides that, you'll quickly start to like the "supporting cast" as much as Sam and Max!

I'm already excited about the next season and can't wait to play. My advice to anyone here who enjoyed the first Sam & Max game is to get a trial subscription to GameTap and try out Sam & Max. Even if you don't play any of the other games, it's worth the paltry fee (soon to be free!) to play the first season.
Virtual Bosco: These games are crammed with humor that'll tickle any nerd or geek to the point of tears.Virtual Bosco: These games are crammed with humor that'll tickle any nerd or geek to the point of tears.
I'm hoping that other GAG developers may join TellTale and start producing episodes (hint hint, Her Interactive!) I could easily imagine a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series available here. On a side note, I finally got the Myst URU Live working on my Mac, so I will hopefully get the chance to explore that game more in the near future (FINALLY, a game that works on the Mac!). As you know, the first Uru was a really embarrassingly bad game, mostly because it was intended to be played live with other people. The version on GameTap offers exactly that, so I'm looking forward to playing this game as it was intended to be played.

Comments

Michael McCourt
Offline
Joined: 01/17/2007
Baldur's Gate?

Yeah, I hear that, Matt! Ever since your platinum age opus I've been drawn back into the Baldur's Gate Saga and neglecting my chronogaming on several continuums. See, I've played Baldur's Gate before, but I never got very far in BGII, so, of course, to play BGII, I must re-complete BGI so that I can have the character of my choice to port over to BGII, which is what I'm really looking forward to playing. So, yeah, I feel and understand your pain.

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