|Developer:||Telltale|||||Release Date:||2006|||||Systems:||Windows, Xbox 360, Wii|
Today on Super Adventures I'll be having a go of Sam & Max: Season One, later retroactively relabelled Sam & Max: Save the World. Because I was asked to.
Save the World is the second of the Sam & Max games... or maybe games 2-7 depending on how you look at it, seeing as it's made up of 6 episodes, each released separately with their own executables. It's like a game entirely made up of standalone DLC. I'll be playing the first episode, Culture Shock, and I'm thinking that I might as well finish the thing if it's short. This means I'm going to end up SPOILING THE WHOLE FIRST EPISODE, puzzles and all, so don't actually read or glance at any part of this article.
Anyway, Save the World is/contains the second of the Sam & Max games released (after 1993's Hit the Road), but LucasArts had started work on an alternate sequel called Sam & Max: Freelance Police back in 2002. Production went well for 18 months or so, they'd gotten about two thirds through and everyone was happy, but then LucasArts was informed by an external marketing analysis group that adventure games were over and so they went and cancelled it. Couldn't be helped, the genre was dead and that was that.
A group of LucasArts developers who'd been working on Freelance Police decided that the best thing to do was to go off and start their own adventure game company called Telltale Games (not to be confused with Traveller's Tales, Tale of Tales or Tales of Game's). Actually their original plan was to buy the rights to Freelance Police itself and finish it off, but they couldn't make it happen. Fortunately for them LucasArts lost the rights to the crime fighting duo the following year and Telltale were able to get a damn Sam & Max game finished and released at last!
Save the World was a big enough success to get two sequel seasons so far, and Telltale are doing alright for themselves these days with games like The Walking Dead and A Wolf Among Us. I guess that means that one of the reasons adventure games weren't selling during the early 2000s is because LucasArts kept cancelling them all.
(Click on any screenshot to expand it to 1280x960 res.)
Right now though I'm sitting here with the intro on, shaking my head at this jazz theme music. I suppose it's technically fine in isolation... pretty good in fact and it does matches the tone well. But it sounds like a band trying to play the Sam & Max: Hit the Road theme from their fuzzy memories of the game on their old DOS rig and not quite recalling all the notes. It come off like a cheap sound-alike rather than a theme in its own right.
Here listen to 20 seconds of each with these handy YouTube links and see what you think:
Hit the Road theme
Save the World theme
I'm sure it was deliberate, I'm just not convinced it was a great idea.
Man the new voice actors sound so weird to me after playing Hit the Road. Well okay Max is fine, but Sam's really quiet and not all that hardboiled or detectivey at all. Sam's the dog in the fedora and Max is the rabbity thing in case you weren't aware. They fight crime.
I'm sorry the subtitles have gotten cut off by the way; the scene switches to a different angle before he finishes the line and I liked this shot better.
|Sam & Max: Hit the Road|
Man, video game graphics really did come a long way in 13 years... though you wouldn't know it from playing Save the World. The game didn't exactly look triple-A shiny even in 2006, as it was an episodic title made fast on a budget. They didn't skimp on the animation, but I guess shadows must have been a bit out of their price range.
Hit the Road was a mouse driven point and click adventure game, with Sam going where I clicked and interacting with what I clicked on. Save the World on the other hand... is exactly the same (on PC anyway), and thank fuck for that! Though now the game decides by itself whether Sam's going to 'look at', 'talk to', 'interact with' or 'pick up' the object I click on without even minimal verb selection from me.
So I'm going to have to start clicking on everything in here to see if I can make some Swiss cheese turn up.
The cardboard box inventory from Hit the Road is back, but this time it empties out across the bottom of the screen whenever I open it. I guess I won't be collecting all that much in these short disconnected episodes.
Oh by the way, here's some pointless trivia for you: the box on the filing cabinet is marked 03-03-04, which is the same date that Freelance Police's cancellation was announced. The date's written on a note on the desk too, so I guess it was on their mind at the time.
He has additional demands, so now I'm negotiating. Whoa I just realised that I'm choosing Sam's actual lines of dialogue this time, instead of picking from a list of icons like in Hit the Road. Not only Sam's lines, but Max's too!
Well they're not the actual lines, more like a hint at what they're going to come out with. For instance when I select "I'll torture your ears!" Max says:
If the writers had ended it there I'd have been happy, but the scene continues with the rat loudly yelling "Ow!" and an oblivious Sam asking where he went just so Max can make the tired old "I let him go" joke.
Anyway they've got the phone so now they can get our next job from the Commissioner. It turns out that there's been multiple reports of malfeasance in the neighborhood and we've got to get down to the corner store right away!
|Sam & Max: Hit the Road|
I'm supposed to be investigating Bosco's corner shop, but I feel like taking this for a ride first.
Hey I just noticed what’s written on that sign I knocked over. The corner of Straight and Narrow is where Bosco’s store is and I’m sure I would’ve noticed if we passed that. My immersion is ruined!
Alright fine, I'll go back and actually do this job I'm supposed to be doing. Right after I've checked out Sybil's 24-hour Psychotherapy shop.
Sadly I've lost the Max dialogue options now, so I can't really threaten fake-Sybil with violence to get the truth out of him. Though there is that gun in my inventory...
Peepers is actually a former child star from the 70s, part of a group called the Soda Poppers who had their own TV show, and real-Sybil theorises that he's been hypnotised to believe that he's her. Knocking him cold should clear the hypnotism, but all I've got on me is the gun, a bowling ball, a boxing glove and the spray paint, and he's too quick for them.
There's a million things to click on in here, but nothing seems to be helping, so I'm going back to the street.
There’s another one of those Soda Poppers over there called Specs doing a little malfeasance by spraying graffiti all over the street, but he’s just as swift as the last one. The way he yells “Caffeine rush” whenever he makes his escape makes me think I need to pull a Day of the Tentacle and get him decaf coffee or something. Nothing more plausible is springing to mind anyway. I’ll just have to leave him for now and check out what's up at Bosco’s.
The only thing I can take here is the cheese, but Bosco’s a paranoid lunatic and won’t let me buy it without multiple forms of ID and my grades from school, so I’ll just have to keep hold of it until I can figure out a way to smuggle it out. Yes I already have a closet full of cheese, but that’s no excuse to leave an item behind in an adventure game.
Oh right, I'm here to investigate malfeasance. I should go do that.
I also found some coffee here, but I can’t pick it up. In fact everything I can examine in this corner of the shop seems entirely unusable. Well, save for the bathroom door, which gives Max the idea to take a leak. Turns out that when Whizzer sees someone else enter the bathroom he has to go take a pit stop himself… leaving his crate unguarded!
The guy’s been going in and out with that crate, bringing in VHS tapes, so if I put my cheese in there while he’s gone he can smuggle it out for me! This is just like how I used to smuggle weapons around in Hitman: Blood Money...
An anti-shoplifting boxing glove came out of nowhere just as he was leaving the shop with the cheese! I had no idea that was going to happen, but I’m kinda glad it did. That’s one Soda Popper inadvertently K.O.’d, two to go. I didn’t get the cheese in the end, but I suppose it's already done enough crime fighting for one day.
Now I'm confused though. If I can't take the coffee (or anything else) how am I supposed to take down the caffeine addicted Specs?
Oh duh, I’ve been carrying around a can since I first walked out onto the street. And a bowling ball. This is all too easy.
There’s still the guy in the 24-Hour Psychotherapy shop who thinks he’s Sybil though and I really have zero idea how I’m going to knock him out. I'm down to just a gun, a boxing glove and spray paint, and he's still fast enough to dodge everything he sees coming.
Now comes the bit where I go everywhere and click everything to make sure there’s nothing I’ve missed. I’ve only got the one action I can do to anything, no list of verbs to go through, but there’s enough stuff lying around in the 4 rooms to make this take a while. Actually it’s Sam’s walking speed that’s going to make this take a while. Later seasons added the option to run around by double clicking, but Sam's determined to take his damn time in this one.
A WHOLE LOT OF CLICKING LATER.
Oh fuck it, I’ll just check a walkthrough.
A SHORT TRIP TO GAMEFAQS LATER.
I reckon I could’ve figured that part out, if I’d been a little more patient and chatted to Bosco a little more thoroughly. But I never would’ve worked out how to get $10,000 by myself.
I was apparently supposed to figure out that if we pull someone over for an offence we can get them to pay us a fine. They pay the whole $10,000 in fact, which makes absolutely no sense to me. I feel like a reference has gone flying over my head.
No one’s on the streets is actually doing anything wrong though, so I have to shoot out their tail-light myself. I don’t know whether it’s a good sign or a bad sign that doing that never even occurred to me. Generally an adventure game puzzle should seem obvious in hindsight though and this doesn't.
A VISIT TO BOSCO'S LATER.
With his wits restored Peppers was able to reveal the last place he remembers being before the hypnosis: Brady Culture’s Home for Former Child Stars. His brothers were then kind enough to give me the location.
Alas, the home only treats patients with “artificial personality disorder” so now Sam will have to fake an artificial disorder to trick Sybil into filling in the form I need to get through the door. You’d think that being a former child star would also be a prerequisite, but nope.
The surreal dreamscape starts off looking a whole lot like Sam and Max’s office, and it stays that way. Telltale spent a lot of time and effort on these five or six locations and they’re going to get their money’s worth out of them dammit!
After a bit of psychoanalysis I eventually got my hands the form full of lies required for entry into Brady Culture's Home for Former Child Stars, and sent them inside. But Brady Culture was waiting for them and Sam immediately got his dumb ass hypnotized!
I don't mind Telltale reusing the office for a dream sequence, the game was made on a budget and they could only use the rooms they had, but TWO near-identical surreal dream sequences just comes across as desperate.
Still at least I'm not walking a maze of blood while a baby cries in the distance, or chasing a dead kid around a smoky forest. This isn't the worst recurring dream sequence in video games.
Half the things in here are irrelevant, useless, and often funny too. Here I am trying to get Max’s head down from the ceiling and the game’s giving me a weird-ass dream interlude in a fish tank.
Wait... that's a water cooler! How did I only just get that joke now on my 50th visit to this office?
SOME PUZZLE SOLVING LATER.
I started off with "become" and "attack" and with a bit of trial and error I got "worship" as well. Maybe I'm just irritable because of this unreasonable summer heat, but I'm really tempted to just look this up right now.
Well that was my plan anyway, until I got shouted at. My friend's hanging around to watch me finish the game, and he's absolutely stunned that I can't figure out simple Looney Tunes logic. But I really can't!
Turns out that the answer is to tell them to 'worship me' and then after Brady goes on his rant about everything being about "me", I tell them to 'attack me'. I could've sworn I tried that combination already, but whatever. The episode is finally over and now Max gets to knock everyone back to sanity again. The end.
I'm just happy I never have to see those bloody Soda Poppers again. Oh hang on, I've just looked it up and it turns out that they show up in FOUR OTHER EPISODES!
Well, that's not actually so bad really. There's three seasons, so they only appear in a quarter of them, I can deal with that. Plus the next episode will have to take place somewhere else, as they can't just have me walking around the office and street again...
LATER, IN EPISODE 2 - SITUATION: COMEDY
|Sam & Max: Season One: Save the World: Episode 2: Situation: Comedy.|
You know what's weird though? Max was recast between episodes, so his lines were all rerecorded for the sake of consistency. They actually paid a different guy to say all the stuff I've already heard in the most similar way possible!
So what did I think of Sam & Max: Office Edition? Meh, it's alright.
It's lacking some of the energy and wit of the first game (and the comics, and the cartoon), and I feel like I spent half the two hour playtime slowly walking up and down that street. I realise I was playing with subtitles on and that might have hurt a few of the jokes, but they also really useful in helping me figure out what Sam was mumbling. The new actor they got for the character doesn't really seem miscast to me, he's just got his performance dialled way back for whatever reason.
The game feels incredibly limited, without enough locations or characters to even be considered a handful, and from the five minutes I've played of the next few episodes they like to retreading some of the same ground. It's forgiveable for sure considering that they came out only a month apart (and yet 7 years now we've been waiting on Half-Life: Episode Three), but that doesn't make them any less repetitive. They sure packed a lot of stuff to examine in those four main rooms though, with plenty of red herrings to drive me mad/come in useful in later episodes.
I think overall I liked the game, but I didn't exactly love every minute of it. Then again I got a bit sick of Sam & Max: Hit the Road when I replayed it last week, so I apparently don't appreciate true adventure game craftsmanship. I recently played Dark Seed as well though so I'm well aware of what a truly crap adventure game is like, and this isn't one of them. Telltale are still playing by LucasArts rules so it's impossible to get killed or make the game unwinnable, and even when I was hot, tired and frustrated it managed to get a smile out of me. So I declare it officially not-crap.