Sam and Max, the wise-cracking dog and rabbit crime fighting duo, make their XBLA debut in Telltale Games’ Sam and Max Save the World. Originally released on the PC in 2006-2007, the game is a point and click adventure, consisting of the first season of Sam and Max. Over the course of six episodes, players will debate a re-animated Abraham Lincoln, outwit the nefarious Toy Mafia, and battle the internet for the fate of humanity.
Each episode starts with a phone call from the perpetually unseen commissioner and ends with an evil villain to foil. While the setup is identical in each episode, how the villain is dispatched as well as the process to reach that point is never the same. One of the game’s strongest elements is its variety. Puzzles in Sam and Max range in type and difficulty, from the simple, find a slice of cheese for a rat kind, to the obscure, induce vomiting to find a deed to sell to the queen with appropriated government funds variety. No puzzle is difficult enough to numb the mind, and players can even ask Max for hints in later episodes if they get stuck, which keeps the game accessible and fun.
Between puzzles, Desoto car chase mini games give players the ability to pull over citizens on trumped up charges such as a ‘hideously broken taillight’. Other chase sequences include corralling a fleeing former child actor, a gang of shaved rats, or even honest Abe Lincoln himself. A simple, easy to master control scheme keeps in step with the accessibility. Like its PC counterpart, controls are point and click. The left stick is a makeshift mouse, and A acts as the mouse click. Anyone can pick up and play the game.
Sam and Max features sharp, cartoony visuals that simultaneously stay faithful to creator Steve Purcell’s vision while adding an original whimsical flavor. The casino in The Mole, The Mob, and The Meatball and the hyper-stylized VR world of Reality 2.0 are particularly impressive. Character animations are well done, although minor lip-sync and facial animation issues have persisted from the PC version.
As visually impressive as Sam and Max is, the writing truly shines. Each episode is equal parts compelling and hilarious with enough irony, pop culture references, and laugh out loud funny lines to cause even the sternest gamer to crack a smile. Whether accusing former child stars of taking part in a faux alien conspiracy or confronting a giveaway crazed talk show host with an Oprah complex, it’s impossible not to laugh.
The game’s strong and outlandish characters supplement its clever writing. Among the more memorable ones are Sybil, a serial occupation changer, Hugh Bliss, a color obsessed self help guru, a troupe of singing secret service agents, and the founding members of COPS, the Computer Obsolescence Prevention Society. Hundreds of lines with spot-on voice acting deliver the writing. Sadly, neither Bill Farmer nor Nick Jameson reprise their respective roles as Sam and Max Their replacements are capable, albeit different.
The dynamic, location-based soundtrack is equally well done. Music at the White House is appropriately patriotic, for example. The soundtrack frequently changes based upon on-screen events, such as initiating attack mode in Reality 2.0 or entering the war room in Abe Lincoln Must Die. Fans of the PC classic Sam and Max Hit the Road will also notice snippets of the old theme song interspersed in parts of the soundtrack.
Only one significant flaw mars Sam and Max. Each episode can be completed within 2 to 3 hours and offers no replayability. This could have been corrected with unlockables, like the Sam and Max shorts from Telltale’s website, or a handful of action based achievements. Instead, each episode can be completed in a single session. If nothing else, players may wish there was more to do or some reason to come back to a particular episode. This is as much a testament as to the quality of game play as it is a complaint. Each episode is so engrossing that you won’t want it to end.
That aside, this game has something for everyone. Sam and Max fans of yesteryear will appreciate subtle nods to the comics and Sam and Max Hit the Road while adventure gamers will enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor of a sarcastic crime fighting dog and rabbit duo. At $20, you would do well to pick this one up.
Sam and Max Save The World is one of the best adventure games to be released on XBLA, striking a near perfect blend of puzzles, story and humor. Leave your inhibitions at the door, and give this Xbox 360 port of Sam and Max: Season One a chance – you will not be disappointed.