kensterfox's Sam & Max: Season One (PC) review

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A Classic Returns to Form

Steve Purcell's Sam & Max: Freelance Police franchise has taken many forms: first as an independent comic series, then as a LucasArts adventure game, and then as a Saturday morning cartoon show. When LucasArts announced the cancellation of the second Sam & Max adventure game in 2003, the myriad fans of the series despaired, fearing we had seen the last of Sam & Max.

Enter Telltale Games with a new creative team, a new format (episodic content), and new depth for the series... literally, since this new game was to be in 3-D. As a fan of the original game (Sam & Max Hit the Road), my expectations for the game were high, perhaps higher than was reasonable - however, I also expected somewhat to be disappointed.

I expected the game to be funny, first and foremost, with not only the zany, implausible logic puzzles comic adventure games of the genre are prone to (see: Monkey Island), but verbal humor ranging from the base and tawdry to the pseudophilosophical and witty. I expected the puzzles to be challenging, but the logic to be coherent. I expected that, at least, the characters of Sam and Max would be interesting.

I got way more than I ever could have hoped for.

If your favorite character from Friends was Chandler, or your favorite Python was Eric Idle, this game has got a vault filled to bursting's worth of humor for you. The dialogue is always interesting, and you'll never want to just look for the most efficient way through a conversation - the game makes you want to explore every single conversation option, every single time. Not only are Sam and Max interesting, but the recurring characters are funny and have a certain amount of depth... you won't grow tired of seeing them.

Many adventure games can absolutely fall apart because of their puzzles, either by making them too easy or too hard. If you are bound and determined to finish the game without a walkthrough, expect to have about one point of frustration per episode (Out of the six episodes, I completed one without help), but even in these instances, the logic is sound and coherent, and you don't feel cheated when you figure out the solution.

If there is one complaint about this game, it is that it is too short. Each episode provides about 1.5-2.5 hours of gameplay, and this series cries out for a complete 20 hour experience. The silver lining around this cloud is that Season 2 is ready to begin this fall - still, had there been more content, this game would easily have earned a perfect score in my book. This genre is not for everyone, and hasn't seen a worthy comic entry since 2000, maybe even 1997, but this game is easily the most recommendable game the series has ever seen.

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