Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sam and Max: Season 3 Review

           It was quite a while ago that I first laid my hands upon a retail copy of Sam and Max Season One on the cold, metal rack that was hidden within the depths of an unfamiliar Gamestop. I picked up the shiny cardboard case and wondered to myself how good the game could actually be. After all, I had never heard of this "Telltale" company or any of its games. Nevertheless, I was surprised at the checkout when a dog in a suit and a sociopathic-looking bunny convinced me to buy it.

Hey, look! It's a....a..Oh.. It's just a giant ape head spaceship.

          If they hadn't, I would have missed out on some amazing gaming experiences. While the  episodic format was strange and new to me, Telltale was treading on familiar ground with the classic adventure gaming content I had fallen in love with long ago. I was enticed by the games' unique characters and witty writing as well as its satisfying puzzles. After such a long wait, it's no surprise that I would be excited to get back to fighting crime with Sam and Max. After Season 2 turned out to be just as awesome, I was left wanting more. I wasn't sure if my standards would be too high before I finally played Season 3; if I somehow made the game worse by over-calculating the quality of the series. Rest assured, Sam and Max Season 3 definitely delivered. If it weren't for a few minor annoyances throughout the episodes, this season would be perfect.

All of the episodes take on a feel and look of their own.

            For the most part, the episodes run smoothly and solidly. However, I have encountered a few glitches. While they weren't game-breaking, one of them actually allowed me to skip an entire portion that involved requiring a certain amount of objects in order to progress. It's not rare to see minor graphical bugs about random locations in the game as well as in cut scenes, but I'm sure these will be fixed shortly or have been already. And while the graphics look fantastic in some locations, they can seem abnormally drab in others. For instance, many background buildings in the city have poor textures that are noticeable when glancing over. Another issue that I had with some of the episodes has to do with sound. While the actual voice-overs, recordings, and music sound fantastic, they are plagued by some sort of poor compression that is eerily present throughout and becomes very noticeable during "s" noises. This seems to be most present in the season's finale.  Also, sometimes during action packed cut scenes, it seems like sound files are missing for certain events, like they were just missing and the developers had forgotten to put them in. Though these issues can be annoying at times, it's almost impossible for them to take away from the experience as a whole.

All the style of  70's decor with hideous tentacles.

            Even if you've never played an adventure game before, you should have no trouble picking this one up. The team at Telltale has streamlined the dialogue menu this season, making for more aesthetically pleasing conversations. Instead of depicting what the main character will say with a block of text, dialogue options are usually indicated by a word or two. Even though I do miss the old style occasionally, this was a welcomed improvement. While seemingly the same (for good reason), the toggable help system works very well, especially for newcomers or even just for people who need a nudge in the right direction.

New Dialogue UI
"It's a bird! It's a plane! No...that's just a decorative ceiling tile."

            The puzzles themselves were pretty much on the easy/moderate side. If you're throwing around your keyboard or using your mouse as a nun chuck out of frustration while playing, you must be doing something wrong. I mean, I'll admit, I'm not the smartest guy around, but I rarely had trouble solving the puzzles. The only times I really ever had any trouble was when I was disregarding logical solutions for my own jimmy-rigged ideas. While you won't be flying through them, you'll be solving puzzles at a satisfying rate throughout this season's episodes.

* Waves Hand* "These aren't the toys you are looking for." 

            Out of the many great things in the series, it's not surprising that the story and its characters are the elements that stick out the most. In fact, one of the characters from previous Sam and Max seasons has particularly gotten me hooked, so much so that I felt noticeably disappointed that he didn't appear this season. Don't get me wrong, the supporting characters are great, but you just can't replace the awesomeness of Bosco. Anyway, along with Sam and Max and the many returning characters this season, you'll also see plethora of new and unique ones. While I wasn't laughing out loud, many of the characters' witty remarks had me grinning or cracking up. Besides the characters themselves, there's not much else I can say without spoiling some aspect of the story, but just know that it's just as good as both previous seasons. The entire season was well done all the way through except I couldn't help but feel the final episode could've had a stronger emotional impact overall.

Left 2 Die: Sam and Max

          Nonetheless, Sam and Max Season 3 is a title truly deserving of all the praise it receives. The few small issues I had are easy to overlook because of the game's fantastic presentation, story, and game mechanics. Telltale's dedication to bringing an amazing experience to the player is just as visible as ever. If you enjoy puzzles, humor, or even just fun games in general, Sam and Max is for you.

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