Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release date: Available Now
Earlier this month at E3, developer Telltale Games announced that Guybrush Threepwood and the denizens of Monkey Island have joined the developer’s growing stable of character-driven episodic adventure games. Fans of the old LucasArts adventures can now check another buried treasure off their wish lists and set their hopes high for a potential Full Throttle or Grim Fandango reunion. Of course, it was Telltale’s expert handling of the beloved Sam & Max series (originally released on the PC two years ago) that paved the way for the return trip to Monkey Island. PC gamers and Wii wagglers have had their chance to reacquaint themselves with the canine gumshoe Sam and his psychotic little buddy Max, and now Xbox players finally get to enjoy their hijinks in the recent release of Season 1 of Sam & Max Save the World.
Sam & Max Save the World includes the entire first season of their new adventures. The pair have since starred in a second season, available via PC download. Season 1 is made up of six episodes, each of which lasts approximately three to four hours. While each mini-adventure features its own stand-alone plot, some characters and jokes do make reappearances throughout subsequent installments.
Sam and Max stays true to its adventure roots, with players guiding the heroes through pre-rendered environments and using their ever-increasing inventory to solve a series of puzzles and advance the plot. Although the individual stories stand on their own, there is an overriding theme of mind-control that ties the entire enterprise together, allowing the writers the opportunity to build upon jokes through the six-episode arc and provide the perfect entrance point for earlier characters to reappear from time to time. While you could conceivably play through each episode in any particular order, the experience is more rewarding if you start with the first episode and work your way through to the last.
I’m a big fan of old-school adventures, so it’s been a real thrill to see the genre resurrected through the magic of digital game distribution. A service such as Xbox Live is a natural fit for Sam & Max Save the World. That said, it’s evident that these games were originally designed with PC gamers in mind, unlike the recently released Wallace & Gromit series; the control interface is clearly designed around a mouse and keyboard combo. It’s not a deal breaker, but having to move a hand icon around the screen to highlight objects and initiate character movement can grow a little cumbersome. The slower pace of the gameplay mitigates any real concern, though, as you really have all the time in the world to soak in Telltale’s lovingly crafted environments and find every joke they’ve stashed in these virtual sets. But I can see the control scheme frustrating some console-centric users who are used to having complete mastery of their characters.
With all six episodes from Season 1 offered here, adventure game fans who have not played through the series are getting a tremendous bargain at $20. The games should take around 20 total hours to finish, which is just right for a point-and-click adventure. 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 that insane solution. 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 Save the World might not reach the lofty heights that Sam & Max Hit the Road achieved, by Episode 6 you really feel the designers gaining traction. This was their first series out of the gate, and their subsequent work in the Strong Bad and Wallace & Gromit universes have helped Telltale hone their craft, making me look forward to the XBLA release of Sam & Max Season 2, as well as whatever franchises they choose to resurrect in the future.
Our Score :