By Dalai 5 Comments
Telltale is officially one of my favorite developers out there today for a number of reasons. For starters, they saved an entire genre of games all by themselves. Before Sam & Max, the adventure genre was as dead as Manny Calavera himself, but with the help of Sam & Max, Strong Bad, and Guybrush Threepwood, Telltale has brought it back from the grave. Second, they specialize in comedy. Games have been serious business for way too long and to see Telltale work on games packed with an astonishing amount of wit, humor, and slapstick makes me smile. But enough kissing Telltale's ass for now, let's get to The Devil's Playhouse.
Today marks the release of the first episode of Sam & Max Season 3 for PC and PS3 owners and boy has the series grown up since we last saw the talking animals. You can tell that these guys are not fooling around this time... they are living in the current generation. Here's what I picked up after nearly 4 hours of trying to put two things together.
Less Pointless Clicking
If there is one thing that hasn't changed, it's the trial-and-error style of adventure games. The previous Telltale Games I have played (Sam & Max series, Strong Bad) have been heavy on clicking on everything and trying to interact an object with... well, everything. For example, in the previous episodes, their office would be filled with tons and tons of stuff that kept accumulating throughout the season. We may see the addition of crap filling up a room this season, the current areas are lacking in stupid interactions. There are some, but with Max's new psychic powers there is a new way to interact with your surroundings. There are still things to check out and witty one-liners, but there's an extra layer of complexity.
A Prettier, Shinier Sam & Max
Telltale has some new tech and it shows. While it's not entirely necessary to add shadow effects and more detailed textures, it does signify Telltale moving up in the world. Now this isn't exactly running on the CryEngine, but you'll need something more recent to truly see the game at its most beautiful. It chugs along pretty well on my laptop equipped with a modest Nvidia 9600M, but it can't quite handle maxed settings in 1080p. Still, if it can run on an iPad, it can run on almost anything made in the past 5 years.
Probably the most significant change is controlling Max for the first time. You're sort of limited to this first-person view, unable to move yet able to look around freely. They throw in an abilitease (AND a late title card) so you do get an early feel of what Max can do. Teleportation, mind-reading, and seeing into the future are the powers I've experienced so far, but if the See 'n Say-like interface is correct, there is more Max will be able to do. Speaking of See 'n Say... there's one last thing.
Plenty of Sight Gags
Normally Sam & Max can succeed with funny dialogue alone, but they occasionally throw in some humorous imagery or slapstick as well. It seems they've added even more goofy touches to the interface and overall feel to the game. In the case of Max mode, you see what he sees... and it's not normal. Max has the mind of a small, deranged child and you can see random shit around while you switch to Max mode. He also uses toys that are the source of his powers. For example, Max is able to shapeshift in the prologue through the power of Silly Putty. It's silly, but also very well done.
I haven't quite finished it since I have the tendency to click on every available piece of dialogue (and the selection goes gray if you've exhausted that bit of dialogue... awesome) so even after 4 hours I'm still not done, but I'm closing in on the end and I can say The Penal Zone could be Telltale's best work yet. The funny script, the 4th wall breaking, the revamped visuals and gameplay, and even the intangibles like the pause screen and 80s Telltale logo in the beginning make The Penal Zone exceptional in nearly every way. It's tough to surpass the greatness of Abe Lincoln Must Die! in my book, but The Penal Zone is giving it a run for its money. If only Bosco was here to see it.