A great episode to start off a great season.
The game starts off differently than you might expect. Sam is sure that their pet fish is up to something, until it suddenly gets zapped by a laser - as does the wall, creating a hole to see Flint Paper. It turns out a robot is destroying their neighbourhood, and so Sam & Max go out of the office to go talk to him. After solving a quick puzzle the robot dies and the introductory credits start, which have been redesigned for the new season; there is also a small interactive bit in it which sees you shooting a couple of things.
The plot is just what you've come to expect from a Sam & Max game - crazy. Santa is sending inappropriate gifts to children and is holding all his elves at gunpoint, refusing to come out of his room quietly. The overall plot is really well thought out and features one really big twist, just as you think everything is over. Nothing is given away as to what the overall season plot is going to be, but there are enough things to keep you guessing.
At the start of the game when the robot was destroying the street, things got chucked around (including Sybil's) which gives the street a whole new look. Bosco's is now right next to the office, and Stinky's (the new diner) is now next to Bosco's. This new street design works really well, but hopefully things will be added to it as the season moves along, otherwise it'll "get old, fast".
In total the game is going to last you around four to five hours if you go around and explore everything and pick every dialogue option. This length is really solid and really worth your money. The difficulty of the game is spot on, which owes a bit of thanks to the new hint system. You can select five different levels of hints (ranging from none to frequent), in which Max will randomly chirp up with lines slyly suggesting what to do next. It's a good touch for people who don't know what to do.
Graphically there are no obvious improvements from last season, except the addition of widescreen support and some really nice animations, which really shine in the cut scenes. You'll be amazed at how smoothly everything runs and the attention to detail on the character's facial and body expressions.
The voice acting is just what you've come to expect from Telltale. All the new characters (Santa, Flint Paper and Stinky to name a few) are well casted and fit their design perfectly. Even speech from all the regulars seems to be better than usual. The only minor downside on the voices is the quality of the recordings, only noticeable on the dominant 's' sounds in some words - but this is only very minor.
Along with this issue, there is also a problem with the driving sequence. When you are driving along the street, with objects such as Tortue-Me-Elmers and other stuff flying at the screen, there is a drop in frame rate on even the high specification systems. It is only a small drop and doesn't make the driving and harder or less enjoyable because of it, but it is small enough to notice.
As this is a Christmas game there is lots of Christmas music which has been beautifully crafted. It'll have you standing around in locations not doing anything while you just listen to the music - should there be a soundtrack for this season, you really need to snap it up.
There are loads of little touches that just wrap this game up and put a nice bow on it. The COPs settings changer at the start, the mini-games and the easter eggs just to name a few. This is a down-right amazing episode of Sam & Max and is sure to leave you drooling in anticipation for what Telltale have up their sleeve for episode two.