Point and click adventure. Funny yet not daunting.
You don't need to be a fan of the older adventure games to play and enjoy Sam & Max. However, you do need a bit of patience in order to enjoy playing these episodes. The puzzles are usually clever without being overly secretive or convoluted. Yet, some people are easily frustrated and rather unforgiving about controls. This might be more problematic with the XBLA version; I didn’t have any problems on the PC.
It is a classic point and click adventure game. You click to move, and click to interact with objects and characters in the environment. Talking to characters is done through a dialogue tree, but it is voice acted after you make your choices.
So, if you're a bit impatient you can read it faster and skip ahead if you want to. You need to have certain items and make the right dialogue choices to progress through the story. I would recommend playing these episodes in order, so it feels more cohesive in the telling of the story.
The voice acting is well done, the stand out performances being Max and Sam. Part of the reason Max is my favourite, partially has to do with 'what it is' that he's saying. Max is overly violent, odd and seemingly a bit unhinged for a rabbit-like thing. Sam is the straight character to counterbalance Max's insanity. You will want to hear the other dialogue choices even the ones that you know won't be useful for progression. Clicking on stuff in the background, even if it doesn't look useful, can lead to some interesting one-liners.
The art for the game is done in a way that it feels like it's taking place in a cartoon show. The average length of any given episode is about two hours long and there are six episodes in the first season. This series includes such topics as child stars, hypnotism, game shows, the mafia, Abe Lincoln, virtual reality and the moon. You might get stuck and feel the need to look at a walk-through about once per episode. I had a bit more trouble with Episode 2: Situation: Comedy than the other episodes.
I find the length of each episode to be about right. It doesn't overstay its welcome and it never feels overwhelming or too demanding. This first season has a good sense of humour with good comedic timing, interesting and quirky character responses. I had no experience with anything Sam & Max related before playing these games. I think it's well worth the price asked.
If you’re not convinced, Telltale's website has demos for each episode in season 1 and episode 4 is available for free for the PC.