|System: PS3 (PSN), PC||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: May 18, 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 Kyle B. Stiff
Sam & Max's second episode is a remarkable improvement over the first. We have new areas to explore, a completely new cast of characters, new Toys of Power, and even a completely new era: the days of Sam and Max's treasure-hunting, grave-robbing grandparents Sameth and Maximus.
The unique way the episode is set up is the most interesting part. Present-day Sam and Max discover four reels of film and a projector; the four reels of film are a record of their grandparents, and each reel presents a different time during their journey to raid the ancient Tomb of Sammun-Mak. The reels can be played in any order, and one can be switched before another ends, which means that you can jump around in time as you control Sameth and Maximus. This ability to jump from reel to reel isn't just for show: it's necessary to discover information in one reel and then use it in another.
For instance, while playing through one of the early reels, Sameth and Maximus have to give a group of malicious elves an idea for a new toy before the elves will part with something that the duo needs. Strangely enough, you need to encounter the elves elsewhere, in a reel that records events that happen later, in order to "find out" what the toy idea was that the duo gave to the elves earlier. You can then go back to the original reel and give the idea to the elves. It's a clever gameplay mechanic, and funny as well; this aspect of the comedy is played up in other parts, in which Sameth and Maximus will discuss the events from previous reels but, unwilling to give the player any easy puzzle-spoilers, they will often feign a sudden loss of memory.
By far the best aspect of this unique time-hopping gameplay mechanic is that "the wall", the sudden inability to move forward because you just can't solve that one frustrating puzzle which inevitably crops up in any puzzle-based game, never really shows up in this episode. If you ever get stumped in one area, you can always hop to another point on the timeline, solve a few of the easier puzzles, and then by the time you return to the area that had you stumped before, it's more than likely you will already have thought of a solution or, if not a solution, then at least some fresh ideas to try out.
I remember getting stuck in the first episode because - and this is a small spoiler for episode one - birds don't really eat cells phones, but apparently I needed a bird to eat a cell phone in order to progress. Go figure. The only way I made it past that part was to try every inventory item in the area where I knew the game wanted me to be. Fortunately, this frustrating situation never cropped up for me in the second episode. The puzzles might be outlandish and absurd, but they always make some sort of sense within the world that the game presents. In later episodes, when we return to the modern-day versions of Sam and Max, I really, really hope that one of the new Toys of Power is going to be some kind of time-hopping apparatus; I'm not looking forward to "the wall" of frustration that goes hand-in-hand with linear gameplay.
The usual Sam & Max comedy is still there; many gamers love this sort of humor, but personally, it's not my thing. It's a sort of family-friendly brand of sarcasm that is superior to anything you'll find on network television, but still does very little to move the art of comedy forward. While the second episode does have some parts that even this diehard misanthrope found amusing, I wouldn't go so far as to say the humor of this series is growing on me. One highlight includes using a magical ventriloquism doll to throw Maximus' voice into other characters, and thus humiliate them by making them seem to say something embarrassing. And even though I didn't like ninety-nine percent of this episode's jokes, the voice acting is very well done.
The graphics are on par with the first game: it's a 3D cartoon world that is not particularly memorable, but is still engaging and more than adequate for a puzzle-driven, downloadable game. In this episode, the "skin" has been changed so that everything has a sort of Indiana Jones aesthetic. I particularly liked that Maximus wears clothes; Max, the psychotic bunny from the first episode, usually bored me to tears with his drab appearance and dead, black-eyed, thousand-yard stare.
In short, if you found the first episode even remotely fun, then the second episode will definitely prove to be worthwhile. But if the idea of cartoon humor and puzzle-based gameplay scared you away from the first episode, then again, buyer beware.
Kyle B. Stiff
CCC Freelance Writer