Thursday, March 13th, 2008...7:14 am

My Second Season with Sam & Max, Part 1

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Sam & Max Season 2 Episode 4: Chariots of the Dogs
From Telltale Games (
Available now

Okay, I admit it — I’ve been a lousy reviewer this season. It’s not Telltale’s fault! The Sam & Max Season 2 episodes have been good! But between traveling for work and Toy Fair and basic procrastination, I keep missing my chance to review the new chapters until it’s too late.

Well, not this time, bucko.

We’ve had a pretty good season up to now. There’s been more variety of locations and storylines, a few new characters, and lots of good gags. Just like last season, there’s generally been one puzzle per episode that’s stumped me for hours until I’ve finally slapped my forehead and said, “DUH.”
Okay, I’ve needed to ask Max for help a couple of times, too. Yes, this old-school adventure gamer is ashamed. But I also appreciate this season’s clever new hint system, which lets you set the frequency at which your loveable lagomorph companion offers vague chatter to gently steer you in the correct direction without outright hitting you over the head with it. And I especially like that the default setting for this hint system is “off” so that I can continue to feel good about myself and my awesome puzzle-solving skillz.

So hey, new episode! Flying saucers! Time travel! Faces from the past, present and future!

I had my doubts about this one. Flint Paper makes a fun occasional one-panel character in the comics, but he’s never really had a significant role, and I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this chapter’s “Hey, we’re totally partnered on a case with Flint!” setup.

Well, doubts gone, because he’s only in the intro. Sorry, Flint fans. The rest of the chapter is pure dog and rabbit madcappery. And it all starts when our derring-duo gets kidnapped by aliens — OR DO THEY?

It sure looks like it. And there’s a man-headed cow over in the corner there. That’s pretty weird. And what’s the deal with that elevator, anyway?

So begins Sam & Max: Season 2: Episode 4: Chariots of the Dogs.

You know all of those little rituals of the series that you’ve gotten so used to? Well, kiss a bunch of ’em goodbye this time. There’s no Sybil. No Abe. There’s no driving game with requisite challenge from the C.O.P.S. You can’t check your closet to find out what trophy you collected after the last zombie-tastic episode’s credits rolled. You can’t even — and let me emphasize how much this fact haunted me while playing the game — check the messages on your office answering machine. AND YET YOU CAN SEE THAT LITTLE LIGHT BLINKING, JUST OUT OF REACH. AAARGH.

But the once-ubiquitous, then tragically-less-ubiquitous musical number is finally back. Huzzah!

These episodes are always good, but this one was great. Fun situations, enjoyable puzzles, and, dare I suggest it, some of the snappiest patter so far. Also the line “Are you a bad enough President to rescue the dude?” which… well, if you get the joke, you know who you are.

So what is it with this season and all of these portals through time and space, anyway? A running theme, or too much Orange Box-playing going on over at Telltale?

Mysteries will be solved! Questions will be answered! Saliva will be collected!

Oh yeah. Highly recommended.

(But I’m pretty sure jukeboxes in 1980 didn’t have CDs, guys.)

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