Part sit-com videogame and part point-and-click adventure, Sam & Max Save the World is actually the first six episodes that were released on the PC over the last couple of years all rolled up into one big downloadable package. All of the episodes are available to play from the start, although hopefully most players will attempt to tackle them in order as the story does evolve throughout the six episodes and does come to a conclusion at the end.
Fans of the original Sam & Max will know that it was one of the funniest games ever released. But comedy is a tough thing to judge, as opinions differ so much from person to person. I for instance think Eddie Izzard is hilarious, Stephen Fry is stupidly funny without even really trying to be and Bill Bailey is just brilliant, whereas Alan Carr is just that irritating guy on the TV that makes me want to throw something very hard at his head. ‘Oh look, I’m gay, have a silly camp voice and make jokes about my teeth and penis psoriasis, aren’t I funnnnnnny’. No.
But then there are people out there that think he is funny. Obviously these people should be locked up for their own (and for the general public’s) safety, but they do exist. And therefore I’m sure that there must be people out there that find the first episode of Sam and Max Save the World funny.
I didn’t. Not a chuckle. Not one, in the three hours it took me to finish the episode. Gone was the humour of the age-old PC classic and instead replaced by the Alan Carr of videogames. But then something happened, sometime during the first half of the second episode; I chuckled. I didn’t burst out laughing, I wasn’t reaching for the sellotape to stick my sides back together, but I still chuckled. Not because Sam or Max had said anything funny (they were pretty much just regurgitating the same quips they were using in the first episode) but another one of the cast members, Hugh Bliss, managed to get a chuckle out of me.
By the end of the second episode a grin had even started to grace my face; no mean feat considering that by this time I was now in agony having only just put my back out due to an oil leak on my car. And that’s pretty much how Sam & Max progresses, getting better and funnier with each episode. It’s as though TellTale was finding its feet in the first couple of episodes before coming close to their potential as they progressed. To be fair it never reaches (or even gets close to) the comedic heights of the three aforementioned favourite comedians of mine, but it’s miles away from Alan Carr. Perhaps a Lee Evans; still funny but not as funny as he used to be.
‘Are you Sam or Max?’ ‘I’m Dec actually and that’s Ant’
Although far better suited to a mouse control system, surprisingly the point and click control scheme doesn’t work too badly on a controller and is much better, and more accurate, than the abysmal Wallace and Gromit control scheme.
For anyone that’s played a point-and-click adventure game before, it’s familiar territory. Clicking on items, collecting them, speaking to other characters and then using an item on another item/character in order to solve a puzzle is as satisfying as it’s ever been, or as mind-numbingly boring as it’s ever been, depending on your preference.
Actually that last bit might not be true, as Sam & Max suffers less from the outlandish solutions to puzzles that plagued old-school games of this ilk and which used to irk players well before the internet had been conceived and downloadable guides were available. There are a few times when you’ll sit and think that you’d never have worked out the solution to a puzzle had you not just started trying to give everything to everybody, but they’re few and far between. At times even (especially episode two) it can actually be a little too easy on the brain. Mostly though the difficulty is pitched just right so as to give seasoned adventurers a challenge, but not enough to send newcomers crying and running for the safety of a first-person shooter to make them feel manly again.
At 1600 points it is one of the most expensive titles available on the XBLA, but at slightly less than 300 points per episode, and weighing in at an impressive 15-18 gaming hours, Sam & Max certainly offers value for money. It’s also vastly superior to the first episode of Wallace and Gromit (also from TellTale) in every way and at a much more reasonable price point per episode.
It can be a little rough around the edges (some of the voice-over work stutters and cuts during scenes, and the framerate is atrocious at times, resembling a minimum-spec PC being forced to run a high-spec game on full detail settings) and it can be more embarrassing than funny at others, but there’s more than enough here for those hankering after a new point-and-click adventure game. Although not strictly ‘new’, as some of the episodes have been out on the PC for two years now. But that’s splitting hairs. Or rabbits. Get it? Hairs? Rabbits…no? I’ll be over there with Alan Carr in the unfunny corner then.