Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release date: Available now
Adventure gamers who thought their treasures were lost to the ether of time owe Telltale Games a heaping helping of praise. During the last six years or so, the developer has resurrected many beloved properties that vexed our membranes way back in the mid-1990s, with rock stars such as Guybrush Threepwood and, of course, Sam & Max, earning their own continuing series of adventures. As Telltale opens the curtain on Sam & Max’s latest adventure (Season 3 just kicked off this week with Episode 1: The Penal Zone), they’ve also packaged the entire second season, Beyond Time and Space, for release on the Wii, a platform that, because of its unique control scheme, seems to welcome these point-and-click adventures with a little more grace than the other console powerhouses.
Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space includes the entire second season of the crime-solving canine and rabbit duo’s adventures. As in the first season, Season 2 is made up of a series of loosely connected episodes (five this time out) that work well as stand-alone adventures, but they really reward you with some decent payoffs to jokes that build through the whole season. Each episode, played in classic point-and-click format, takes about three to four hours to complete, which is about right for the format.
While the first season featured an overarching mind-control plot, Sam and Max’s sophomore season simply layers in new and more outlandish scenarios to explore, with the end of each episode leading directly to the beginning of the next. Starting with a battle for Santa’s soul at the North Pole, players make their way to Easter Island to help a trio of sentient Moai statues before finally coming face-to-face with Beelzebub, who oversees a level of Hell that looks suspiciously like the American “Office” space.
The adventure genre’s renaissance has been a boon for fans like me; it gives me countless hours to give the trigger finger a rest and engage the brain. While I originally played through the second season when it was released on the Xbox Live service, I feel it’s a better fit on the Wii, a console whose unique control scheme allows for a closer match to the mouse-and-keyboard configurations employed on the PC. Navigating Telltale’s comically crafted environments is a joy, and you’ll find yourself scouring the corners for every little gag that has been spackled onto these virtual sets.
While Season 2 has been available for purchase on PC and XBLA for a couple of years, Wii owners benefit with a nice bargain price. Twenty bucks nets you close to 20 hours of entertainment, assuming you don’t break down and scour the net for clues. Like most adventure games, some of the puzzles adhere to traditional game designer logic (why would you go to the corner store and buy Swiss cheese when you can just shoot holes in cheddar?), but careful attention to your environment and the spoken dialogue usually provides the tips needed to ferret out the insane solutions. And you’ll want to talk to each character numerous times, because they often have something hilarious to say. It’s the witty repartee and humorous situations that are the real appeal of this series.
While Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space might not reach the lofty heights that Sam & Max Hit the Road achieved, Telltale is turning this franchise into a character of their own design, and their confidence seems to grow with each new installment. Much as I find myself hooked on serialized television such as “Lost,” I now eagerly await each new installment of the Sam and Max series, and with Season 3 hitting right now, newcomers to the franchise have a wealth of riches to discover. Here’s hoping this series earns continued renewal.