Thursday, December 28th, 2006...8:52 am

My holidays with Sam & Max: Episode 2

Jump to Comments

Sam & Max Season 1 Episode 2: Situation: Comedy
From Telltale Games (
Available now (, January 5 (Telltale download)

Has it really been a month or so already? On-schedule releases were few and far between back when I was an adventure game junkie (and I’m led to understand they’re even rarer nowadays), but Telltale’s kept the faith and released the second chapter of their episodic Sam & Max series right in time for the holidays.

So what’s new in Chapter 2? The settings are pretty similar – once again, the Other Dynamic Duo split their adventuring between the neighborhood around their office and one additional location, with a car chase mixed in for good measure. This time around, there’s less to do in the neighborhood and a lot more to do at Setting #2, in this case a local TV studio where the Oprah-inspired talk show host Myra Stump has held her audience and guests captive for the last three days with a ceaseless stream of monologues, special guests and giveaways. It’s up to Sam and Max to stop the evil-doings by landing themselves a guest spot on her show. To do that, they’ll have to (in no particular order) star in a sitcom, score a recording contract and have their sordid private life publicly revealed in a sizzling scandal (that last one’s not quite as exciting as it sounds, alas).

As with the first chapter, it’s a pretty good romp. The dialogue and voice acting, so important for the Sam & Max experience, continue to excel. The puzzles seemed a little easier this time around (or maybe I’m just getting back into the adventure gaming groove) and the gameplay a bit shorter (experienced gamers can probably clear this one in a couple of hours if they don’t try for all the conversation trees). It’s generally pretty clear what object you’ll need to use where in order to solve a given puzzle, although there are a couple of situational brainteasers that you may have to muddle through by trial and error. While I generally enjoy the latter kind if they’re good and complex (remember that babel fish mindbender in Infocom’s old Hitchhiker’s Guide game? …Anybody? So old…), it can be a little repetitive to hear the same exchanges over and over again until you figure out just the right thing to do or say at just the right time. For gamers who actively *want* to hear all the different dialogue paths, you’re going to have to sit through identical chatter many, many times. Fortunately, you can click to skip through a given voice line, but even so it can be a slow process.

How ’bout the characters? There’s a little bit of interaction with Bosco, a little bit with Sybil, a little bit with the Soda Poppers (yep, love ’em or hate ’em, they’re back) and some dealings with a handful of new characters, from a harried studio director to Myra Stump herself and a few others. What feels lacking are the truly deranged Sam & Max characters that you may have come to expect; even the resident telepathic, color-changing New Age self-help guru is more eccentric than outright unhinged.

In fact, that’s probably the biggest weakness of the new series so far. While everything is a little off-kilter, there’s nothing that’s really off-the-wall insane. No trips to the moon, the past, or alternate dimensions. No carnival freakshows or crazy roadside attractions. No puzzle solutions that make absolutely no sense on the surface, but result in hilarity when you finally figure them out. Yeah, the TV shows at the studio are a little weird, but it’s a gentle spoof kind of weird, with a bit of potty humor mixed in for good measure. Even Myra herself seems like a pretty normal talk show host, when all’s said and done. Mildly weird is fine for other games, but much of the fun of Sam & Max is in the utter random absurdism of where their adventures take them and what they do when they get there. Telltale has made a very good start with these first two episodes, but I hope things veer off more from the mundane soon.

Still good? Yup. Still fun? Oh yeah. Still worth the price? Definitely. It can get better (and hopefully will in future episodes), but you’re still getting great value for your dollar and your time. Go play!

Comments are closed.