|System: PC, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Telltale Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Telltale Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 22, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
Sam & Max is never a series thats lacking for imagination. The Devils Playhouse has been interesting enough thus far, with the furry freelance police first taking down a space-gorilla in the seasons debut episode, followed by a proverbial trip into the past as the duos early-20th century forerunners Sameth and Maximus in episode 2.
That particular episode ended with a peculiar cliffhangerMax having his brain sawed out and stolenand the aptly-titled third installment, They Stole Maxs Brain!, picks up right where the previous one left off. As far as episode openers are concerned, They Stole Maxs Brain! is a stroke of brilliance; Sam is royally pissed at his lagomorphic pals sudden loss of grey matter, and he wants answers (or blood). Luckily, Sam remembers some pointers (as explained by series regular private eye Flint Paper) about interrogating witnesses, which he immediately begins with Chandler-esque aplomb. This fedora-and-jacket off, shirt-sleeves-rolled-up, unloosened tie Sam is a side never seen before, and for noir fans its a real treat.
Thus the first fourth of the episode is very prominently a hard-boiled homage, complete with a meandering jazzy score, voiceover, and late night drives taking Sam through various parts of the city. From a gameplay perspective, the new interrogation mechanic is a nice use of the dialogue tree, as Sam can threaten or coerce witnesses to confess whatever truths they may be hiding while giving the player a number of approaches with which to gain new information. Of course, it wouldnt be a noir homage without bleak, voiceover-style monologues about corruption, violence, and sin, which Telltales talented writers included among Sams dialogue options, much to all of his witnesses dismay.
However, past the opening segment of the episode, the interrogation mechanic is no longer used; once Sam finds out that Maxs brain has been brought to the Museum of Mostly Natural History, his relief is a catalyst for Telltale to jettison the noir trappings, with the episode proceeding as normal. If you havent been following this season of Sam & Max, this episode is spoiler-heavy, with several particulars of its plot being important both from a gameplay perspective as well as the unfolding story arcs present. That being said, youll still have access to Maxs psychic powers for most of the episode, and Sam isnt alone for much of it. They Stole Maxs Brain! is also set-up, more or less in a three or four act structure (although not explicitly saying so) and the changes made between acts are palpable.
The core gameplay, aside from Sams hard-boiled interrogative opener, however, is more or less the same throughout. Unlike episode two of the season, which refreshingly allowed you to play back the past events of Sameth and Maximus in whichever order you want (the current generation of freelance police discovered a series of old film reels in the underground resting place of the devils toy box), They Stole Maxs Brain! reverts back to similar straightforward puzzle mechanics of the seasons first episode. Maxs psychic powers allow him to once again teleport, use future vision or transform into various objects, but aside from some new combinations of these mechanics, any new abilities or toys of power are somewhat conspicuously absent.