System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7/Mac (OS 10.5 or newer), 2.0 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, 128 MB DirectX 8.1-compatible graphics card, DirectX 8.1-compatible sound card, DirectX 9.0c or better
Release date: August 31, 2010
All good stories must come to an end, even strange ones such as Sam and Max Season 3: The Devil’s Playhouse. So it is with the series’ final chapter, The City That Dares Not Sleep, a fast and funny wrapup that brings back favorite elements and characters from past adventures of the Freelance Police.
As we return to the story, Max is a giant, mutated behemoth that’s laying waste to Manhattan. Sam and his companions hit upon a bold plan to stop him: they try to enter Max’s body through his mouth and work their way up to his brain, where they believe they can reverse the process that has turned Max into a monster. But first, they have to find a way to entice Max to devour them, while avoiding the influence of the flaming, disembodied Max heads that are causing citizens to fall into a deep sleep.
Nuts and bolts-wise, nothing has really changed in the series since the beginning. The WASD character control is still less efficient than the point-and-click interfaces of most other adventure games, but if you’ve played the other episodes in the series, you’re probably used to it now. An adjustable hint system lets you decide how much puzzle-solving help you need, but City‘s puzzles are perhaps the least frustrating of the series, so most players probably won’t need much assistance.
City‘s pace is arguably the best of the previous episodes. You don’t linger in any situation nearly as long as you might have in other chapters of the series, thanks to a set of puzzles that are not nearly as head-bashingly tricky. But the biggest addition to the game is the inclusion of colorful characters from seasons past, including Sybil Pandemik (now 13-months pregnant with the child of Abraham Lincoln’s statue), and Mr. Featherly, a talking, bespectacled chicken with an actor’s temperament. Also returning are key characters from earlier in the series, and the trademark irreverent humor that helps make the episodes so much fun to play.
What we don’t have in City is the need to deal with the magic toys that have been the centerpiece of the season so far. Knowing how to use them has been vital to getting through the episodes, but since City is played out entirely in Sam’s point of view, this part of the overall plot has been abandoned. Also, as fast-paced as this episode is, there seems to be quite a bit more cutscenes here than have been in the previous games, especially near the end. And speaking of the end, if you normally hit the escape key when the credits roll, don’t.
Sam and Max Episode 5: The City That Dares Not Sleep is a fine, yet slightly less meaty, conclusion to an excellent series. Its simpler puzzles, new characters (at least, new to this season) and entertaining script help us forget about its sometimes-frustrating controls. It’s been a great trip this season; hopefully there’s more to come.