Sam and Max Episode 202 opens with a giant red Bermuda triangle chasing after a major supporting character. The triangle seems ominous as it promises to suck up Sibyl, which he is attracted to due to the resemblance of her name to symbol, if Sam and Max don’t do something. After some quick investigation it turns out that the only thing that stops a Bermuda triangle is a red octagon, also known as a stop sign. This is the logic that is used in the first five minutes of the game, quick, amusingly witty, and not easily forgotten. Although everything is not roses about Sam and Max’s newest adventure that also has dated graphics and truly obscure answers to several of the last puzzles, this game still makes a strong showing.
Before Sam and Max made their way back to the modern gaming they were stuck in a single adventure title from ’93, and when the game was released again in 2006 it seems like the graphics managed to get stuck halfway between those two dates. While at no time does this ever seem to get in the way of the amazingly paced humor it also isn’t very good.
The only other downfall of Episode 202 is that it is very short. While the game is being published as episodic content it could be a little longer. It is hard to put a finger on just how long it could take to play through the entire length of the game, as with a walkthrough it could probably be done without breaking the half an hour mark but if the player is new to the entire adventure game style of play it could easily take as long as four hours.
The length of the game isn’t helped by the fact that there are only two main areas to explore, each with only one or two small rooms that lead off of them. While each place has over a dozen things that can be interacted with, and at least the first two interactions bring up different dialog, the whole world ends up feeling empty without more areas to explore.
Where Sam and Max do in fact shine is in clever conversations and the insane banter between other people inside of their bizarre world that refuse to admit how odd it is that any of this is happening, and have no issue conversing with a freelance detective dog and his rabbit sidekick. From an old, angry arcade machine that runs an auto-pimp shop to a restaurant owner that doesn’t think it is odd that everyone knows that she killed the old owner and strangely don’t seem to care. Everything in the world comes off as being well thought out and wonderfully scripted.
When all of this becomes a problem is when it mixes up with the graphics, which can’t seem to keep pace with the entertaining voice acting. Almost never in the game do the lips of any character seem to match what they are saying (which I have been told is being fixed). This does seem to detract from the skillfully delivered voice acting talents, all of whom feel like they were ripped from a Saturday morning cartoon which manages to add to the atmosphere of zany antics that continually happen throughout the game. Happily, all dialogs can be simply skipped with a push of the right mouse button, as when dialog is repeated it can occasionally lead to a two minute conversation about nothing.
Interestingly enough the entire game can be played from start to finish without ever picking up the keyboard. Only the mouse is ever used, and if dialog is never skipped, than only the left button is ever touched, and the entire interface consists of pointing at things to have Max interact with. When there is something to be said about an object Max throws out some cleverly devised comment. If the object can be picked up it is added to the player’s inventory. Only once is an item that doesn’t seem to be used on anything picked up, and only towards the very end of the two hour experience is the sideways logic of the world really pushed on the gamer.
Considering that the entire first, and now part of the second, season of Sam and Max can be played on Gametap for the low price of a one month subscription it is possibly one of the best values for games out there right now. Since Sam and Max debuted on the service it has been consistent on hitting the release dates set for the episodic releases of once every month. Since the game is continually in development, all user comments and complaints can be addressed within a season.
Interestingly enough fan suggestions were strong enough that Telltale games finally started selling the games episode per episode on their website, as well as the option to buy entire seasons. The entire process seems designed around fan reaction as the current season can be pre-ordered from the site with the ability to download the game as it comes out, after the 24 hour head start Gametap has.
Sam and Max may have dated graphics, wonky lip-syncs, and a play style that hasn’t been seen in almost a decade but the game consistently becomes more than the sum of its parts. From the unset of the game every alley, room, and Tiki bar is covered liberally with humor and in-jokes (what other game would go out of its way to reference D.B. Cooper and Jimmy Hoffa) and doesn’t let up until the end. With the next release within a month this season looks like one that shouldn’t be missed.