After a four month hiatus, the seminal gun toting dog and rabbit duo return to Xbox Live Arcade in Telltale Games’ Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space. Originally released on the PC, this five episode point-and-click collection lets you do everything from match wits with a demonically possessed Santa Claus to discover the secrets of the Bermuda triangle. With hilarious dialogue, colorful graphics, a host of clever puzzles, and over 20 hours of gameplay, the latest entry in the Sam and Max adventure saga does not disappoint.
Unlike the first season, players are immediately thrust into the action with Beyond Time and Space. Memorable introductory sequences include the appearance of the Maimtron 9000, an alien abduction, and Sam and Max’s descent into Hell, LLC. Throughout the episodes, the puzzles that you encounter are unique and unconventional, all requiring a keen attention to detail. Puzzle types include item placement/replacement, combination, observation, and in a surprising twist, lyrical completion. Difficulty varies from puzzle to puzzle, but a built-in auditory hint system keeps things from getting too tough. Additionally, a series of ‘augmented reality’ Desoto mini games are offered to spice things up a bit, generally requiring the player to run over or shoot a specific item.
To go along with the strong puzzle variety, Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space also includes colorful, imaginative visuals that push the Telltale engine to its fullest. The graphics are appropriately cartoony, and the environments–ranging from the North Pole to an Alien Spaceship–feature sharp details. Sights like pastel clouds circling ominously about the sky and dark castles brooding hauntingly in the darkness are common, and the facial animations have thankfully been improved this time around, with none of the lip-syncing issues that plagued the first season.
Like any good adventure title, the writing here is top-notch. Laugh worthy lines abound, with a strong mixture of tongue-in-cheek humor, irony, and pop culture references. Whether contending with a robot who only speaks in song lyrics or pondering the answers to life’s big questions with a trio of time traveling mariachis, even the most miserly gamer will crack a smile. Characters are equally enjoyable, with old favorites like Bosco, Sybil, and the Soda Poppers returning alongside newcomers like Timmy Two Teeth, Stinky, and even Satan. The voice acting is superb across the board, and the jazzy, dynamic soundtrack is equally well done.
Gamers will be hard pressed to find fault with this season of Sam and Max. Each chapter is a bit longer this time around, with achievement challenges offering plenty of replay potential. The only real problem that I had with it was that some of the puzzles were a bit too obscure, requiring random guesswork over logic. But aside from that, Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space is a fantastic, funny adventure with sharp visuals and five complete, action-packed episodes. Bring on season three!