Here at Kotaku, we're expanding our Reader Reviews. Didn't get the memo? That's ok - you can review anything now. Know of an underrated retro game? Favourite title been drastically patched? Special event in an MMO? We want to hear about it! Steven kicks off our revamped regular with a look at Sam & Max: Season 3.
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This review was submitted by Steven Bogos. If you’ve played Season 3 of Sam & Max, or just want to ask Steven more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Reader Retrospective: Sam and Max: The Devil's Playhouse
With the release of The City That Dares Not Sleep¸ the third season of Telltale’s Sam and Max revival comes to a close. Sam and Max, along with other Telltale franchises such as Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People and Tales of Monkey Island have championed the episodic gaming format and unlike a certain other developer, it has been a phenomenal success, with each season’s episodes coming out within a month of each other. The Devil’s Playhouse has made numerous advancements to the Sam and Max formula. Let’s have a look back at the season to see what has worked and what hasn’t
Flavour of the Month: The greatest improvement that Season 3 makes over 1 and 2 is that every episode feels very different. Whereas Season 1 and 2 basically followed the same formula (Start at Office, find some clues, get something from Bosco/Stinky/Sybil, go to new area) Season 3 drastically changes things up. As well as re-using very few locations between episodes, each one has a unique feature to it – such as playing as Sam and Max’s great grandparents in the 1800’s for episode 2, or journeying to the centre of a gigantic mutated Max monster in episode 5.
Fresh Meat: While many will agree that the writing took a hit in the latter half of Season 2 (The lacklustre ‘Night of the Raving Dead’ is commonly agreed to be the least funny of the Sam and Max games, despite having a scenario ripe for comedy), Season 3 keeps up its A-game for the entire season. It may have something to do with the aforementioned uniqueness of each episode keeping things fresh, but Sam and his supporting cast always manage to have just the right amount of witty banter at just the right time.
Engine woes: The simplicity of the engine holds this game back. There are times when it feels like the game is honestly trying to do something really cool – such as when you control the gigantic mutated Max monster as he stomps through New York City - but within the limitations of the engine it feels forced and tired. It’s an upgrade from Season 1 and 2, but a complete overhaul is in order if they are to do a season 4.
Ease of use: My last gripe is something that a lot of you might not agree with me on. The puzzles were way too easy. While this does succeed in eliminating all of those frantic ‘I GIVE UP!’ moments, where you wish you could reach into the game and whack Sam right across his furry little head, it also drastically shortens the length of the games. At no point in this season did I feel I had to resort to gamefaqs.com, and as such, none of the puzzles felt particularly challenging.
The Devil’s Playhouse is the Freelance Police at their finest. My petty gripes over its easiness and engine limitations are nothing compared to the writing and characters that the magicians at Telltale put out. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ve probably already played every episode. Newcomers can start with Season 3 quite easily; it doesn’t punish you for not having played the first two seasons and has its own fairly self-contained story arc.
Reviewed by: Steven Bogos
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