|System: PS3, 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: Aug. 31, 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 Tony Capri
The latest saga of Sam & Max finally comes to a close, and after gumshoeing our way through the case, were ready for another season. The City That Dares Not Sleep is hard evidence that the point-and-click-adventure genre is still completely relevant and fun.
In this fifth installment of Sam & Max: The Devils Playhouse, the freelance police are on opposite sides of the law. Max has been transformed into a colossal monstrosity that is terrorizing the city, and Sam will need to figure out a way to save his buddy before the government takes over in an all-out assault. The tale is hilarious, irreverent, and chock full of class.
During my first hour with The City That Dares Not Sleep, I was reminded of the fringe comic-book series The Fish Police. Thats no great surprise, however, since Sam & Max got its start as a franchise with the same publisher, Fishwrap Productions. The dialogue is smart and dry, yet it seems obvious the writers dont at all take themselves too seriously. Theres a pseudo-psychedelic vibe to the game thats inviting without being nonsensical.
Folks whove played other chapters in The Devils Playhouse will likely have no problem jumping right on into the investigating process. Personally, I havent played a Sam & Max game since the old LucasArts releases, but the bread and butter of the series is still very much intact. You can opt to use a gamepad when playing on PC, but mouse control is probably the best way to kick back and enjoy the ride.
Youll play as Sam throughout most of the game, though you will eventually gain control over Max in his monster form. You can left click on characters or objects to interact with them, or hold down the left mouse button to move around environments freely; holding the right mouse button while moving allows you to run. The controls feel good, and everythings laid out for the player in a very straightforward fashion. My only (minor) complaint is that you are given no control over the camera. Its not a huge issue when playing as Sam, though it does make getting around the city as Max a clumsy process. The citys pretty small in relative terms, but theres no map system or clear landmarks, which makes finding points of interest somewhat tedious.
After years of point-and-click adventures, its difficult to imagine how Telltale Games could manage to create content for the genre that is fresh and entertaining. The basic mechanics on offer here arent all that different from the original games, but the puzzles are masterfully crafted and brimming with originality.
Most of what makes venturing through The City That Dares Not Sleep so engaging is the way in which the gameplay and humor are intertwined together to make for a single thread of adventure goodness. The hints youre given are just enough to point you in the right direction without spoiling the surprise. Youll be asked to think outside the box when it comes to solving problems, and aside from a single puzzle, I found the rest of the games little mysteries to be cleverly, and wholly, dependent upon logical deduction.
Though The City That Dares Not Sleep is merely a single episode of the latest season of Sam & Max, it feels like a complete game in and of itself. I had no trouble following the plot, in spite of having not played any of the previous episodes in the series. The opening of the game got me up to speed on the story and characters, and picking up on the gameplay was absolutely no trouble at all.