Gaming Today Impressions of Sam and Max Season Two

sammaxseason24-1.jpgSam and Max Season Two
Developer: TellTale Games
Publisher: TellTale Games, GameTap
Price: $34.95 (free for GameTap subscribers)
Platform: PC
Category: Adventure
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Release Date: April 11, 2008

I actually wrote up my impressions of the first two episodes of Sam and Max Season Two when the games first started coming out regularly again. Eventually though, I realized that there were only so many ways I could say “if you liked the previous games, you’ll like this one.” So I decided to wait until the full second season was out and give it a full rundown then. The fifth and final episode in Sam and Max Season Two was released last week to a hungry audience, so how does the second season stack up to the first? Well, er, if you liked the previous Sam and Max games, you’ll definitely like these.

sammaxseason22-1.jpgThere’s a reason TellTale Games has had other developers pointing to Sam and Max as an example of how episodic gaming can work. They’ve actually managed to make the series successful using the formula of shorter games released more frequently. Playing a season of Sam and Max games is like playing a TV mini-series. Each episode can be completed in around two or three hours, and the whole twisted series of seemingly random events does eventually come together at the end.

For Season Two though, the basic gameplay has been shaken up just a little to break up some of the pointing and clicking tedium. For one thing, Sam can now run, so you won’t spend as much time just watching him slowly plod along to his next destination. There are also a handful of simple mini-games thrown in at different points. They usually take only a few minutes to complete, but they do serve to speed up the pace of the games for awhile.

One of the most welcome additions to the new season though has to be the hint system. For years, if you got stuck in an adventure game, you either spent the next hour or so clicking wildly on everything you could find in the game, or you had to shut down the game entirely and resort to an online walkthrough. This is really one of the main issues people cite when they proclaim that point-and-click adventure games are “boring.” Thankfully, TellTale has implemented a hint system that doesn’t bring you out of the game experience. Basically, if the game detects you’re spending too much time trying out dead ends, Max will chime with a little nudge in the right direction. Usually this might just mean he says, “I’m bored. Let’s go somewhere else” to indicate that you can’t do anything in a particular area, or “I wonder what this person is up to,” to say where you should probably head to next. For the really hardcore adventure gamers though, who snub their nose at the prospect of being given help, the game also allows you to make the hints less frequent or switch them off entirely.

sammaxseason21-1.jpgAside from all this, not much has changed from Season One, and that’s a very good thing. The writing has stayed true to form, offering some genuine laugh out loud moments and a plot that is bizarre without being convoluted. A few new characters are now joining the already-eccentric cast, such as Stinky, the diner owner, and Flint Paper, a private eye from the original comics. As usual, each episode will have you visiting a strange location, including Santa’s workshop, a vampire-run castle, and Hell, among others. You’ll also visit some altered versions of previous locales, but I don’t want to give too much away.

These days, it seems like Sam and Max practically is the point-and-click adventure gaming market, and with good reason. TellTale has managed to craft an episodic game series with interesting characters and hilarious situations, and where each episode keeps the player entertained from start to finish. Basically, if you like strange humor and have the patience to enjoy a point-and-click adventure game, then you owe it to yourself to give Sam and Max a shot. And yes, if you liked Season One, you will most assuredly like Season Two. Right now, I’m already looking forward to whatever Season Three will bring.

You can check out Sam and Max Season Two through GameTap or via the TellTale website.

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