Reader Review: Sam & Max Season 3: The Penal Zone

Reader Review: Sam & Max Season 3: The Penal Zone

Do you have what it takes to get a review published right here on Kotaku? Steven does, as gratuitous acts of senseless violence are his forte.

Yes, that’s right, we’re now publishing reader reviews here on Kotaku. This is your chance to deliver sensible game purchasing advice to the rest of the Kotaku community.

And thanks to the very kind chaps at Madman Entertainment, purveyor of all kinds of cool, indie and esoteric film, the best reader review we publish each month will win a prize pack containing ten of the latest Madman DVD releases.

This review was submitted by Steven Bogos. If you’ve played Sam & Max Season 3, or just want to ask Steven more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Sam and Max Season 3, Episode 1: The Penal Zone (PC)

After a brief, Monkey Island-length hiatus, our favourite talking dog and hyperkinetic rabbity thing are back for a new season of sarcastic quips, witty references and horrible, horrible aim. The Sam and Max series is made by Telltale Games, and has proven to us despite criticism that episodic gaming can work and that there is most definitely a market for the once-thought-dead point-and-click adventure.


Engine Overload: The new season of Sam and Max has a brand new paint of coat. Fans of the first two seasons will immediately notice the graphics overhaul, adding enhanced visuals as well as features such as anti-aliasing and film grain. The game engine itself has also been reworked. You can now take direct control of Max to use his new psychic powers, as well as open up a case file to show the case details and known subjects. Inventory management and dialogue trees have also been enhanced.

Still Got It: The Penal Zone begins with an homage to one of my favourite cult movies of all time: Plan 9 from Outer Space. It then goes on to deliver an entire episode of its signature dark humour and pop culture references. While many thought the humour in some games in the second season fell flat (Night of the Raving Dead comes to mind), it seems the hiatus has done wonders for the Sam and Max writers, with very few stale jokes and plenty of knee-slappers.


Clunky: Movement has always been a problem for the Sam and Max series, and this game is no exception. Controlling Sam is still very clunky, and occasionally glitches out. It only gets worse when you switch to Max. The first person viewpoint means that you have to scroll, very slowly, up down left and right in order to find what you want to look at. You also cannot move while controlling Max, meaning there were often times that I’d have to switch back to Sam and reposition the little rabbit bastard.

No Bosco: *sadface*

Sam and Max Season 3, Episode 1: The Penal Zone, is a return to form for the freelance police. The reworked engine and fantastic writing are enough to keep any old-school adventure gamers pleased, as well as attract new ones to our fold. On top of that, anyone who buys Sam and Max Season 3 gets a set of Team Fortress 2 unlockable items, including the very weapons used by the dynamic duo themselves. Why are you still reading this review and not buying this game?

Reviewed by Steven Bogos

You can have your Reader Review published on Kotaku. Send your review to us at the usual address. Make sure it’s written in the same format as above and in under 500 words – yes, we’ve upped the word limit. We’ll publish the best ones we get and the best of the month will win a Madman DVD prize pack.


  • Plan 9 is one of your favorite films?! That’s a big call! Seriously though, having played Maniac Mansion and Zac McCracken on my humble C64, and being only allowed to watch my friend play the Monkey Island games on an Amiga, I completely missed the boat on the Sam and Max series.

    Would someone like me be better off going back to the originals, or are the Telltale games a better starting point?

    • Hmmm I dunno, should you get clunky, ugly remakes of people trying to impersonate something better (imo), or the thing that came before it which is being emulated (and better – imo). Hmmm…

      Get the original. Now!

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