Quote of the Moment

"Beep Industries currently has no openings. This is a good thing. Any number of career paths are better than game development. Lots of jobs are more lucrative and far less work. We hear marketing and animal husbandry are filled with potential."

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Video Game Review: Sam & Max: Season 1

Having recently finished playing through the last episode of the season, it's time to take a few moments and review the aggregate first season of Sam & Max.

A little background before I get started, I first encountered Sam & Max in the back of the LucasArts Company Store catalogs that used to be packed in with games purchased in the pre-internet dominant days of the early and mid-nineties. Not too long after that, I found that our local library had a copy of the Sam & Max graphic novel. I was hooked. That book became pretty dog-eared over the years, and I'm pretty sure a lot of the readers were my brothers and me.

A couple of years later I got my first computer, and acquired a copy of Sam & Max: Hit the Road. Arguably the pinnacle of the LucasArts SCUMM engine games, Hit the Road was an instant classic with lines I still quote to this day. If you ever walk into a room and someone says "You're back! And you're bigger than a breadbox. Three breadboxes even!" then you're in the presence of a Sam and Max fan.

Thus it was with great joy that I learned that LucasArts was going to resurrect the six-foot dog and three-foot rabbitty-thing for a new adventure, and great sorrow when I learned that they'd canceled it. Telltale Games announcement that they had picked up the license, and would be publishing new Sam & Max games in an episodic format was met with cautious optimism. Hey, it was new Sam & Max, and they were working with the original creator, but episodic? I wasn't convinced.

I'm convinced now. Each of the six episodes, taken alone, play out as short 2-3 hour games. Some are a bit better than others (Episodes 4 and 6 are my favorites), but each can stand alone. However, much like a good TV drama (Firefly, SG-1, ER) where individual episodes stand out on their own merits, but full seasons weave more complex plots and over-arching stories that cary from episode to episode, so it is with Sam & Max. The first three episodes serve to establish an overall conspiracy and introduce the cast of characters. Things take a dramatic turn in the fourth episode though, and the remaining two are madcap jaunts through ever-growing weirdness before reaching a conclusion of truly global proportions.

For those who aren't familiar with the previous incarnations of Dog and Bunny, here's the ADD summary: Sam is a six-foot dog, and the nominal voice of reason for the duo. Max is a three-foot rabbitty-thing and the voice of insanity and mindless violence. They're private detectives, and freelance police. Each episode opens with a call from the commissioner, providing them with some new case to look into. In each episode they also have encounters with Bosco, the owner/operator of the local Inconvenience store, and Sybil, the job-hopping careerist down the street.

The first episode revolves around a plot to take over the world hatched by the washed up stars of a '70s children's TV show. Of course, they must be stopped, but this is only the grease-tipped tail of the massive rat called Conspiracy.

The games are available now on Gametap or from Telltale Games' website. If you fondly remember the original game, or just want to try a great new adventure game, give these a shot.

For an additional taste of weirdness, check out http://www.maxforpresident.org/

Genre: Adventure Game
System: PC
Rated: T (Ages 13 and up)
Appropriate for Ages: Probably ten and older, although at that age, they may not get some of the more obscure or esoteric humor.
System Requirements: If you've bought a new computer in the past three years, you should be fine.