Telltale Games brings back Sam & Max in the form of an episodic adventure and the result is a game that will appeal to diehard adventure game fans, as well as convince some newcomers.
Sam & Max: Hit the Road was one of the best and most unique Lucas Arts-developed titles and one of the most beloved point-and-click adventure games ever made. Granted, the same thing could be said about pretty much any Lucas Arts adventure title, but there was still something special about Sam & Max. The jazz-infused soundtrack, the colorful graphics, the improved user interface and the adult-oriented humor made the game distinctive in a every sense. Telltale Games saw promise in the franchise and they decided to bring it back in the form of an episodic adventure and the result is a game that will appeal to diehard adventure game fans, as well as convince some newcomers.
Sam & Max: Save the World follows anthropomorphic dog Sam and his psychopath rabbit friend Max, a couple of freelance police officers who solve some wacky cases when they aren’t goofing around in their messy office. Most of the times, you’re controlling Sam as you look for clues or solve puzzles and while you do that, Max is jumping around or making weird noises. The humor is one of the strongest points here and this game has silly moment after silly moment, including former child stars with bladder control problems and a conspiracy that involves VHS tapes that hypnotize people. Also, there are shaved rats and that’s always a plus in my book.
The problems with this first season crop up as soon as you start playing though. Most puzzles are well designed, but what you’re supposed to do isn’t always clear, so you’ll find yourself clicking on random items to progress. For older players, this might make them remember of classic adventure games, but newcomers will get frustrated at times. Using a walktrough can be a problem since you’ll know exactly what to do, so you’ll miss some of the random lines of dialogue which is definitely part of the charm of these games. If you’re new to the genre, some puzzles will definitely be solved by trial-and-error or sheer luck.
Sam & Max Hit the Road was a two-dimensional point and click adventure game, but it looked terrific nonetheless. For this new entry in the series, Telltale Games created a three-dimensional engine that does a great job of introducing this classic franchise to a new generation of players. Most characters look good enough, but the environments seem plain and lack detail. Also the lip-syncing is really bad and I ran into several technical issues. During one puzzle, for instance, an important character was there, but it was invisible, so I had to click on everything in the room until I found her. Also, episode five crashes on newer hardware, so I had to figure out a way to fix it which involved editing file properties.
Unfortunately, the issues don’t stop there. The game re-uses a lot of assets from previous episodes, so you’ll revisit the same environments again and again which is never fun. Finally, for every item that Sam explores, Max has something silly to say and while the rabbit can certainly be funny from time to time, the humor sometimes feels forced.
In the end, Sam & Max: Save the World is off to a great start, but some technical problems, reused assets, convoluted puzzles that don’t make a lot of sense and humor that falls flat from time to time, prevent it from being truly amazing. Fans of the point-and-click adventure genre should dive right in and intrigued younger players should also check out Sam & Max: Save the World. They might be surprised.