BUY SEASON 1 FROM TELLTALE: CLICK HERE!
BUY SEASON 2 FROM TELLTALE: CLICK HERE!
DEVELOPER: Telltale Games
PUBLISHER: Telltale Games, Gametap
The second season of the much-loved episodic series has now returned on
a strange disc-based format called DVD, that was apparently in use
in the years before digital download.
People who’ve already purhased and loved these five episodes have the option
to get a dvd for free, but for those of you who missed out, this is the
preferred way to check it out. Not only will you get a disc full of
the best adventure games around, you’ll also get more extra features than your poor little heart can stand. Come with me as we take a look back at the history behind this series, and for reasons why you should pick up both dvds!
Sam and Max started
out back in the 80s as a comic book born from writer/artist Steve
Purcell’s twisted sense of humor (and his brother’s drawings). Besides a trade paperback collecting the various comics and a kid-friendly Saturday morning cartoon series, there was a game based on it called Sam and Max Hit the Road. It is
still regarded as one of the best adventure games ever made, one of Lucasarts’ fantastic older titles. Yes, kids, Lucasarts used to make original games! Amazing, I know.
A sequel to the game was
rumored for years and years and eventually work began on a new title
(entitled simply Sam and Max: Freelance Police)
before Lucasarts pussied out and canned it, citing “market place
realities” as the reason behind their incredibly stupid decision.
Perhaps they wanted to devote more time towards trying to perfect that Hoth level.
A year later the license rights went back to creator Steve Purcell, who
went to Telltale Games to begin work on an episodic game. It made a helluva
lot of sense, as the company boasted a team comprised of some
ex-Lucasarts staff (who left after the company’s cancellation of Sam and Max) and an already-successful episodic gaming series in another comic book property, Bone.
The first season was released (mostly) monthly through GameTap. Fans realized
right away that the lovable scamps were back and (dare I say it?)
better than ever, even more darkly humorous and faithful to the
original comics. Telltale Games proved Lucasarts wrong- there was
a market for adventure games. It was an incredible success, making
GameTap well worth the low price and soon getting picked up for a second season.
Adventure games were back in full force, with a talking dog and hyperkinetic rabbity thing at the forefront.
THE PLAY AND PRESENTATION
True to the old-school feel of these games, no gameplay changes
have really been made. Sure, the graphics and production values are a lot higher, but the games work much the same way as the
original did. You click on places to walk there, click on characters
or items to interact, and have an inventory that contains items to use on the environment.
That’s pretty much it. The fun here comes in not only solving puzzles, but the clever script, fantastic voice acting, and
comic situations. These Freelance Police sure get into a lot of crazy situations.
Rarely have you played a game that is funny enough to make you laugh out loud, but this one does it. Not only are the two leads’ quirky, sociopathic sense of humor endearing (and a little scary), there’s clever references to everything from The Twilight Zone to Macbeth. It’s the best kind of humor, intelligent and socially conscious with more than a hint of irreverence. It’s familiar to anyone who’s a fan of the comic and works great in a game format.
This season re-established the freelance police and introduced a whole new cast of characters in their neighborhood. Each of the 6 episodes was part of a larger story involving a Scientology-like cult that was taking over the world through hypnosis, and every episode built on the other. While it’s technically possible to play any episode of the season and get into it, you’d miss out on so much stuff. Every new episode added stories and items from the previous one, making you really feel for the first time that you were traveling with these characters and living out their adventures.
It was damn near perfect, and anything that ends with our new President Max personally punching out every person in
the world can’t be all that bad. An incredible season with only a few minor missteps, mostly stemming from a couple of episodes that relied too much on the same old locations and characters.
As great as season one was, the second time around shows that the developers listened to a lot of
criticism. They made things a little faster by
allowing Sam to run with a double click, and even streamlined the
neighborhood around their offices thanks to a giant robot’s handiwork
(who conveniently relocates a building, giving us less screens we have
to walk across to talk to people).
The game also become much more cinematic in its cutscenes and trailers, as
the crew realized that they could play around with the style
to keep things fresh. More locations were used, as well as some
that were only hinted at in Season 1, like local Inconvenience Store owner Bosco’s horrific bathroom. They even added more minigames to change things up,
and put a hint system in place where other characters can give you as
little or as much help as you’d like. It’s a good way to keep things
from getting stagnant as you search in vain for the one thing you’ve
overlooked as you go back and forth to every possible location… a
problem with many adventure games.
Much like the first season, there was one episode that was a bit of a
disappointment (Moai Better Blues) but even the weakest Sam and Max
episode is better than any adventure game around. They more than made up for it with episodes that featured disco-dancing zombies and a Euro-Trash vampire, a gun-wielding Santa Claus, and time travel.
All of this culminated with What’s New, Beelzebub?, where it was revealed that Hell was a corporate office. That may not be a surprise to most cubicle dwellers, but wait till you see who’s in charge of the place…
(Hint: It’s not this guy.)
A fantastic season that shows that our favorite heroes haven’t gotten stale yet. This is only the beginning for Sam and Max!
Adventure games don’t really have much replay value, that much is true.
You might pick them up again a few years later to relive the experience
after the puzzles have gotten hazier in your memory, especially with
the greats like Grim Fandango and the Secret of Monkey Island titles. Sam and Max is no exception. You won’t feel the need to go back to these for a while, but you definitely will one day.
But the greatest thing about these season dvds is that you can pop them
in a regular dvd player to watch a slew of extras, just hours and hours
of stuff. Not only do you have cutscenes from every episode (averaging
about a half hour per) but you’ve got commentaries by the designers,
production crew, and sound guys. That adds up to hours and hours of
videos to sit through, and it doesn’t hurt that most every person
speaking on the commentaries is hysterical.
The sound guys aren’t on the season two commentaries, unfortunately.
Another thing missing from that disc is the shorts, which is the biggest
shame. Telltale released 18 short films between episodes of
the first season, and they really are some of the funniest bits you’ll
find. They all use locations from the game but are completely original,
and it’s sad that more weren’t made for the second season.
To make up for it, they’ve included a copy of their holiday special- Sam and Max Save Christmas,
that’s basically the complete story of Ice Station Santa. It’s great,
although sort of defeats the purpose of having the cutscenes from the
episode included as well.
Both seasons also have trailers, concept art, soundtrack selections in
mp3 form, and wallpapers. And bloopers. Oh, the bloopers. They took
blown lines from the voice actors and animated them, and they’re truly
hysterical… especially Max, as the actor who plays him manages to
flub lines in quite an entertaining (and expletive-laden) way. You
can’t blame him, really, as the dialogue in these games is wordy and
truly all over the place.
These are some stacked dvds, and hell, they’d be worth owning even if
the games weren’t included. The cutscenes are a great way to relive
some of the funnier moments of the games without playing through it all
again, or to show off to a friend. The commentaries really are a
unique look behind the creation of a videogame, one that makes you
appreciate how much work went into every aspect. Forget those mindless
masturbatory interviews that are included on the “special editions” of
some games, we need more quality work like this. This is something more
games should include.
Sam and Max is
the best thing to happen to PC gaming in years, and has single-handedly
shown that episodic gaming can work, and work well. You’d have to be stupid or insane to not
to check it out for yourself.
If you’re a console-only gamer for some reason, don’t forget that the Wii version of Season 1 is hitting sometime soon. With Strong Bad for Wii Ware, Wallace and Gromit (which was just announced last weekend at Comic Con) and a third season of Sam and Max in the works, it looks like Telltale is going to continue being the one saving grace for adventure gaming fans.
It’s hard to pick a favorite from these two discs, but if I had to, I’d
say that the second season’s games were better, while the extras for
the first season are superior, which evens them out. There was so much care put into these discs that it’ll make you appreciate the game even more.
10 out of 10