A pretty good time with Sam & Max
To give some insight on how I went about reviewing this game, I thought I would give a little back-story to my game playing. I’ve been playing adventure games for a long time. They’re pretty much my favorite genre (or were, until they were all but wiped off the planet in the late 90s). I’ve played through many different series, including Monkey Island, Space Quest, King’s Quest, Day of the Tentacle, and of course, Sam & Max: Freelance Police. I would like to think that I know the adventure genre very well.
When I heard that Sam & Max would be making their return in the form of episodic gaming, I was a little hesitant on purchasing them. How would episodic work in terms of inventory? Or story progression? What about characters and locations? Since I wasn’t quite sure the answers to these questions, it shouldn’t be a surprise then that I only recently bought and played through the series (or games? Should they be counted as a whole or separately? I’m not quite sure).
Let’s get down to the game. First, the graphics of the entire series were pretty good. None of the episodes stood out over the other episodes in terms of graphic superiority – so the flow from one game to the next didn’t get broken up by visuals. I thought they fit the world and characters – keeping a cartoon style throughout was enjoyable. Were they the best graphics? No. I’ve never understood the need to make every game 3D – rather than 2D - but I’m assuming that the reason was for the sake of completing the game on a quicker pace. In a perfect world, they would have gone back to the days of awesome, hand-drawn 2D art – the likes of monkey island special edition. But they didn’t, and that’s ok.
The story was interesting and it had me wanting to continue to see what happened to the end, but not in a real deep way. I understand that this is world of silliness – but some of the plot elements really didn’t make any sense. The jokes throughout the series were pretty good, and I found myself laughing out loud at quite a few dialog choices – but overall, I wouldn’t say it was a hilarious game. The characters were great throughout the game (who doesn’t love Hugh Bliss?), which is saying something since the cast was pretty small. This takes us to the part I didn’t like the most…
Repetition. In any adventure game, especially ones that are trying to be closer to the “old-school” style of game playing, there are some essentials that the player needs to know. “Is the object in front of me useful or just there for added dialog”? The old mantra was “If it’s not nailed down – take it”. You never know when you might need it. While this works great in every adventure game, the way this game is delivered can present problems to the player. For example: In episode 1 you may need a object and you saw it in your office – so you click on it and he says some dialog about it – but you can’t actually take it. This happens it episode 2 and 3. Then suddenly, in episode 4, you CAN take the object. But at this point – you’ve conditioned the player to think it’s not needed – because they’ve heard the same dialog over and over in several episodes. This might not be such a big deal if they had recorded different dialog for each episode or made different things clickable in different episodes – But often times it was the same dialog for the same object in multiple episodes.
They also did this with the story and characters. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since this was the first Sam and Max they had done and I’m sure they would do it differently – but they reused A LOT of things. Not just in characters and locations, but also the “flow” of the game. Each episode was very much – Do this, find these 3 things, buy the end game item from Bosco, beat the game. This was fun the first and second time – but it started to become a drag by the 3rd episode. The problem with this formula is that it might work in some instances if the locations and characters you’re talking to are different – but here it wasn’t the case. You ended up going to the same characters, in the same locations, and doing the same things over and over.
One of the best parts of an adventure game is seeing what’s next. You want to further the story and see what’s “over the hill”, or “through the locked door”… That sort of thing. This also helps with puzzle solving. When you’ve looked around a location and clicked on all the objects – you want to see what’s next – not to come back and click on all the objects again because something might be different this episode and one of the objects might be useful this time.
I’m not sure if I’m just used to the adventure game genre or if they made the game a little easier for new players – but I felt like the game was pretty easy. No solution was too terrible to figure out, especially when the formula for the episodes became apparent. I often didn’t like that the start of the episode would put you in a new location, only for you to have to get in your car and go back to the neighborhood to get an item to continue on at the new location.
So you’ve made it this far into the review and I’m sure you’re wondering “yeah, but did you like it!?” The answer? Yes I did. While the game doesn’t really hold its own against the classics – it’s great to see the genre coming back for new (and old) players alike. I’m not sure how keen I am about having a game like this be episodic in nature – but we’ll see how other games in the series fare.
Would I give this game(s) to a new player not familiar with the adventure game genre? I’m not sure – they might really like it or really hate it – it’s hard to tell. I enjoyed the season and I will most likely get season 2. Overall I give the season 3 stars.