Whatever could they want with a psychotic bunny's macarroni?!
The third episode of Sam & Max's season three can be considered one of the most straightforward games ever to come out of Telltale. That surely wouldn't be a good thing if They Stole Max's Brain! wasn't as well planned and executed as it is.
There isn't much to hide story-wise, the title kinda gives it away - Max's brain was stolen as soon as the duo's little movie trip from last episode was done with. Sam was conveniently absent for the closing part of the presentation as we can recall, and when he came back, he made the grisly discovery as soon as he laid eyes on Max's unzipped, empty noggin. His little furry buddy's brain was gone!
Like any gumshoe worth his salt, Sam goes out on a noir style rampage, hitting the pavement looking for answers. No details will be spoiled, rest assured, safe to say, his search takes him to very comical places and he finds plenty of returning characters to interrogate, along with a few notable new ones. Giant ex-cook-turned-guard cockroach? Check!
In one way or the other, you'll be using psychic powers again in this episode as with previous installments. Fan favorite rhinoplasty, the shape-shifting clay, makes a comeback as well as the teleporting telephone and the future goggles. Their implementation is hilarious and very well worth exploring to the fullest.
When I said this episode was pretty straight to the point, I wasn't kidding. The linearity is by far the most glaring thing you'll notice when play this after The Tomb of Sammun-Mak. Some sections don't even have save points, for instance, since your choices are extremely limited, especially during the starting segment.
On the other hand, the straightforward approach combined with some excellent design works well to improve the pace of this episode. Things move in a fast pace, making the jokes and gag fall into place at a great rhythm. Puzzles are also very smart and dynamic, never exactly giving you the answer but being logical and not at all too easy.
As always, the dialogue and voice work is top notch. I only had a problem with one of the new characters as soon as I met him but that went away after a few phrases, due to a thick accent. There's plenty of nods to old adventure games of the past, one line in particular includes two very beloved series and will most likely draw at least a chuckle out of you if you've been playing games for a while.
While I certainly cannot say They Stole Max's Brain! is a long ride, since it clocks in at around two hours, give or take, it's very well paced and enjoyable. The cliffhanger at the end of the episode gives way to what I can consider one of the more bizarre closers for a Sam & Max game... and that's saying a lot.