Sam & Max : The Devil’s Playhouse!

Well fuck me, this is a good game! After the first two seasons of new Sam&Max games by the infamous Telltale Games developer were a little sub-par, I’m more than happy to report that the most recent episode really is worth your money: Funny character dialogue, polished graphics (compared to the previous installments) and hilarious riddles make for one hell of a good entertainment bit; Since it’s another one of those episodic games, the portion is long enough to get you interested and longing for more, but not too long, giving room for a short and funny story arc.

The story goes like this: A giant space ape takes his giant ape-shaped spaceship and takes it to earth, supposedly to “come in peace”.  Sam & Max, the Freelance police, are of course aware of this and suspect the space ape (conveniently named “Skun’Ka’Pe”, the pun is obvious) to be on the lookout for some sort of power source, of course leading to the destruction of the universe. Oddly enough the game does not start there, rather taking a different approach and telling the ending of the story straight away: You’re immediately starting off aboard the spaceship, already being imprisoned in a cell. For some reason, Max appears to have various psychic powers which allow you not only to escape, but also to defeat the dreaded ape shortly afterwards. It’s only after you completed this “flash forward”, so to speak, that you first see the opening credits roll and the story arc taking it’s first step. The game does this in a rather hilarious way, though: Since Max needs to have gotten his psychic powers from somewhere, this needs to be explained first. And wouldn’t you know, the first thing that happens is Max finding some weird toy object that infuses him with the powers in a matter of seconds, with Sam only being able to comment “Well, I guess Max has psychic powers now”. Deux Ex Machina, you’re welcome here.

Max’s Powers seem to be the main focus of this episode, then, as most of the clues as to how to advance are only available through Max’s “Future-O-Vision” powers. Since they’re very easy to control, this makes for a very entertaining sidetrack that sometimes lets you see hilarious outcomes of certain situations even before they actually happen, leaving you wondering how you’re going to make this particular situation appear. But the psychich powers don’t stop there. Max can teleport himself close to anybody he knows the telephone number of, can read minds via the use of magic cards and can even transform himself into various inanimate objects, giving you a new edge at puzzle solving: Not only is it sufficient to grab everything you can, but you’re also supposed to observe and use your surroundings to their fullest.

Case in point, look at this:

Bloody brilliant.

As far as general gameplay goes, it’s pretty simple. You point, you click, you rub stuff against each other in the desperate attempt of combining another critically useful item and ultimately succeed in your mission: It’s a point and click game. Most of the time you’re controlling Sam, the big dog. You’re only taking control of Max when using his abilities, drastically simplifying the controls when compared to earlier episodes that sometimes even allowed you to switch freely. Controls are easy, each mouse button has one and only one use, everything can be controlled perfectly by the mouse alone, so it’s pretty basic. I like that, makes it look easy and makes you look in control.

Sounds (and by that I mean voices) are hilarious and well fitting, at least for the english version. I did not test the other languages but would assume that they are of matching quality. Point and Click games usually are on par, if not superior, in german, as there’s more possiblilites of metaphors. Meanwhile, background sountrack and general sounds (click sounds etc.) are fitting to the game theme.

Visuals, then; It’s not easy to comment on this, as it’s always difficult to like this sort of visuals. Point and Clicks just don’t work as well in 3D as they would in 2D. Every now and then along comes a Game that proves us wrong on this, like Ceville or Grim Fandango did, and the Sam & Max Episodes are also of that fine breed. While most of the animations are a bit frisky and some textures can be low-res, the overall setting is brilliant and the graphics are detailed enough for you to spot what you’re supposed to do.

Overall, a brilliant game. Well worth the bucks over Steam right now (33. €, if I’m not mistaken), considering there’s still a lot left to come.

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2 Comments on “Sam & Max : The Devil’s Playhouse!”

  1. shadow0knight Says:

    A very good review, although some of your images look like they’re cut in half.

    • lamecast Says:

      Yeah, that was a result of them being in widescreen format and somehow messing up on compiling.

      Clicking on them does show the full image, however inconvenient that may seem :-/

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