After the gruesome events of 03-03-04, Sam doesn't have much more to do than try to shoot apples on his little buddy's head.

After the gruesome events of 03-03-04, Sam doesn't have much more to do than try to shoot apples on his little buddy's head.

Igor asked me to write a review of the second best Adventure Game I’ve ever played – Sam & Max: Season One (recently renamed to Sam & Max Save the World). And that’s just what I’ll do.

I initially discovered Sam & Max after being curious about all the references made in Monkey Island, I saw them mentioned on Easter Egg lists and things but I never really knew just what the hell it was. So when I came across a copy of Sam and Max: Hit the Road I took it and ran home with it. What immediately got me was the two protagonists’ unique personalities – especially that of Max. The next thing I loved was the theme tune (which was unfortunately butchered in Save The World).

So anyway – here I go on my first proper review.

When I pre-ordered Tales of Monkey Island I was given the choice of a free episode of any game, I decided it had to SBCG4AP or Sam and Max. I chose Sam and Max Episode one: Culture Shock – I didn’t really know what to expect other than Sam and Max in a 3D world, and in most cases 3D adventure games haven’t been all that great. But it was free, so what was there to worry about? Absolutely nothing it seems.

The jazz soundtrack hit me at first, so corny, so cheesy yet so effective – fits the feel of the game to a tee. And then – the opening cutscene.

As in Hit the Road, you can immediately see the bond between the two characters, which is just too unique to be compared to anything. And that’s just something special about the entire Sam and Max universe – everything is totally unique. I was a little worried that this new game would completely ruin everything I loved about Hit the Road. How wrong was I? Very wrong.

Unlike other new sequels (a la Escape from Monkey Island, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon), this new game, despite having a different feel to that nostalgic piece of awesome that is Hit the Road, kept everything like it was supposed to be. The humour, the characters… Telltale really did a good job on this.

Most new sequels don’t bother with this, because the expect the audience to just want something completely new and exciting. I think there’s a word for it – “Innovation”. But Telltale got the memo. Fans want something they can feel comfortable with, something that can be likened to the original game. Things like Curse of Monkey Island didn’t do this, Might and Magic 9 didn’t so this and don’t get me started on Broken Sword: The Angel of Death! Telltale did it right and they did it well. If more companies would follow this example, I think adventure games would probably be more popular – what larks for Tales of Monkey Island, I wonder…

Bosc- I mean, Bosco's Momma

Bosc- I mean, Bosco's Momma

But I digress. One thing we never saw in Hit the Road (and to my knowledge, the comics, although I’ve never really read them – I’ll be getting Surfin’ the Highway soon) was Bosco. He was only really mentioned, but I felt I knew him right away – because when you see him you know who he is. Yeah, that’s right – a nutcase. He’s obsessed with conspiracies and his personal security – take a look at B-TADS, his personal defence system. Over the course of the series we see Bosco in various disguises which have little effect.

Next up is a new character – Sybil Pandemik. While she’s a loon too, she has more sense than the rest of America it seems. Sybil is a “typical” American career woman, unable to settle down on a career she goes from being a tattoo artist to the Queen of Canada. Bizarre. Conveniently, her careers always manage to help Sam and Max in their tasks.

Other recurring characters are the former child star trio – The Soda Poppers. These guys were unpopular with fans because they always seemed to be in your face, like any of the washed up celebrities Sam and Max encounter, they were good for an initial appearance but soon just got old and tiring. The trio consists of the OCD “Specs”, the watchful “Peepers” and the small bladdered “Whizzer”. Each has an annoying catchphrase and distinctive trait. Specs is heavily OCD, obsessed with having nice pressed clothes and getting drawings right. Peepers has good eyesight (maybe not the most creative of ideas) and Whizzer needs to use “the facilities” every other second. Very annoying, but crucial to the plot.

And finally – there’s the mobster rat, Jimmy Two-teeth. A scheming… rat who starts off the series by stealing Sam and Max’s phone and delaying their chat with “The Commissioner” who is unseen, but always sends them a new case. Jimmy is a cute character, but is mostly pointless. Serving only a few purposes.

Each of these characters appear in every episode, and something is usually different about them. This kind of uniform setting is just right for the episodic format of the game. Many (ahem, Igor) would say that it can be repetitive, having the same locations and characters in every episode, I say it’s series. Does Ed, Edd and Eddy ever move out of the cul-de-sac? Does Eastenders ever move away from the Square? Sure on unique occasions it does, but that is it’s uniform and it’s what a series needs. Again, I think Telltale just had the right idea on this – I think if any other sudio had done it they might not have got it quite right and had Sam and Max going all over the place. It’s not an on-the-road adventure, so it doesn’t need to be completely mobile.

You gotta HAND it to them for keeping everything how it should be - they even brought in relics from Hit the Road

You gotta HAND it to them for keeping everything how it should be - they even brought in relics from Hit the Road

Anyway – back to the characters. Bosco always wears a new disguise – he thinks “they’re” onto him, and dressing up as a Russian or a Brit will help him stay “incognito” to “them” (of course, Episode 4 reveals that “they” really do exist). Sybil always gets a new career and the Soda Poppers are working on post-fame jobs, such as judging a talent contest or governing States.

It’s your typical cartoon, really – just with an evolving story, which I’ll go onto now… Starting with the second episode, it’s clear something is going on, someone has plans involving hypnotism, but who? Why? This was a major selling point for me, I don’t usually have a “I want to see what’s next” attitude, because nothing really gives me it, TV shows and movies don’t have that kind of effect on me. Sam and Max did. I needed to know who the Toy Mafia was, I needed to know what was happening on the Moon – so I kept buying episodes. This again made it completely unique to me. I’ve never gone crazy over something like that before. Now, I warn you – if you go buying episodes one by one, it can be pretty pricey – I had a $5 episode coupon, which unfortunately expired 2 days ago. I would suggest buying the season in one go, the price dropped recently to $19.95, I don’t know how long this lasts so get it quick.

So, what do I think overall? Incredible – absolutely incredible. This game is something special, and I look forward to playing to Season Two and I long for Season Three.

It’s not quite deserving of a perfect score, mostly because of those damn Soda Poppers. But overall, I highly recommend it. It’s really something. I would say though, that things might make a bit more sense if you play Hit the Road first, this game gives you more of an introduction to the characters. You may even want to try the Cartoon or the Book if you can’t find Hit the Road.

Enjoy, really. Enjoy.

Joe’s Score: 4 of 5 Starks

(pro-tip: Getting Season Two in a bundle with Surfin’ the Highway is actually cheaper than buying Season Two on it’s own – especially if you use F3T-SH9-R7Q)