Sam & Max 203: Night of the Raving Dead Review

6 06 2008

Title!
Developer: Telltale Games
Platform: PC
Genre: SAM & MAX, WHAT PART OF THAT IS UNCLEAR?

Warning: I spoil all!

This game has zombies in it. Do I need to go on? I guess if you for some reason are not the zombie-obsessed type of person, more convincing is necessary. New York, and indeed the entire world is overrun by zombies. The zombies are by all accounts largely well behaved and aren’t really being too much of an inconvenience, but that doesn’t stop Sam and Max from feeling obligated to trying to stop them anyway. Unfortunately, firing bullets at them seems to have little to no effect, so they have to rely on the usual combination of puzzle-solving and wit to see them through.


Zombies!!!

Most of the regular characters have returned for 203, with the exception of Bosco who is pleasingly absent from this entry. Bosco is an okay charcter, but he sort of wore out his welcome in the first season where the writers never gave him anything to do other than put on his accent of the week and overcharge for vital item. Other returning characters are Cybil Pandemic, Stinky, the ever awesome Agent Superball and some minor characters from episode 102 show up again.

You may remember that I had beef with the puzzles in the previous episode, I am pleased to report that the puzzles in this episode are a lot better, and while some are relatively fiendish, it never delvolves into illogical nonsense. The limited number of items and locations in each episode means you should never get stuck for too long anyway, as you can always try everything with everying relatively quickly if needed.


Jurgen got back to stuttgart in time to see Kraftwerk

The investigation eventually (quickly) leads you to Stuttgart which is the source of the zombies. A euro-emo-vampire named Jurgen is creating a zombie army for reasons that could probably of been explained better. Jurgen has quite a prominent role in the episode, so it’s fortunate he’s such an amusing character with great voice acting. Most episodes only have the main baddie showing up at the end, so it’s good to have him around for most of the episode.

The new location in this episode is Jurgen’s castle exteriors and interior. They seem to be limiting themselves to 3 new screens per episode, which is perhaps a bit too little? The new areas look very good though, and could almost be described as atmospheric. This episode also features more Flint Paper than ever before, which is totally awesome for the following reason: Flint Paper is totally awesome. If that wasn’t clear, he’s Sam and Max’s psychotic PI neighbour who solves crimes using bullets and fists.


A gun in one hand, a brain in the other. Fully awesome.

There a lot of refferences to zombie culture, like Resident Evil, George Romero and his films (and John Romero who I’m glad isn’t too obscure a referrence to make yet). The zombies themselves are they type that like brains, which might turn off zombie purists, but it’s fine here because brains play an important role in some of the puzzles. The episode has one of the best twists yet in half way through, and if you are planning on playing it at this point, I strongly advise you not to look at this image, as it will spoil the suprise totally.

One of my favourite aspects of Season 2 has been what they have done with the driving sequences. In the first season they were incidental and poorly developed. In this season they have become full blown mini-games complete with easter eggs. In the first two episodes of season 2 the sequences involved Sam and Max are driving along a neverending road, and you are challenged to run over various things. In this one, the perspective has change to a sort of Paper boy like setup, and you can chuck SOL discs at zombies which works okay even if it is a horribly dated joke).


Is this the zombie of the good lincoln or the evil lincoln?

In these sequnces, if you play them long enough you’ll see some odd things that if shot or run over will unlock a decal for your car. You get these from running over zombie parties, shooting down blimbs or swinging pianos, etc. If you collect them all you get an entirely cosmetic car upgrade like a giant engine. The best thing is that the decals and upgrades are persistent between episodes which means that I obsessively collect them all. Not that it takes very long or anything, but it’s a nice touch.

Overall, this is a much better episode than 202 or even 201, but still not as good as 104 or 105. I talk in code! The next episode looks to be Bosco centric, which I’ll have to see how well works out.

Arbitrary Rating: 8 – Zombies





Sam & Max 202: Moai Better Blues Review

1 04 2008

 Title!
Developer: Telltale Games
Platform: PC
Genre: Adven…It’s Sam & Max, dammit!

Warning: This review is positively spoiler-stuffed.

Telltale games have done an excellent job being the only developers actually able to produce the much vaunted Episodic Content that everyone was blathering on about a while back. Episode 202 is the 8th episode they’ve managed to get out, and they are still as reliable as ever. Unfortunately, this probably the weakest of the ones I’ve played so far. The worst episode in the first season was episode three or 103 – ‘The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball’, which was mainly far shorter than the other episodes, and not really that funny or interesting.

Episode 201 was a great start to the season, and had Sam & Max going to the North Pole to deal with an out of control Santa. Rather than that reasonably solid premise albeit slightly borrowed premise, Episode 202 has you going to Easter island, to do a succession of unrelated tasks that might stop a volcano, or Bermuda triangles, or become a priest, or something.

Like most Sam & Max episodes, this one starts in your office. By this point in series, the majority of the actual objects in their office have been replaced by references to the earlier episodes. I was fine with this when it was limited to the items in their closet, such as Brady Culture’s afro, and Leonard Steakcharmer, but now it’s a totally insane pile of crap that I can barely remember where half of which came from.

Triangle
I hope you like triangles, because this episode is stuffed with them.

A scream from outside shows that Cybil is being chased around the street by a floating triangle thing, and the first part of the game involves working out how to stop it. This section is fine, and by the numbers. You wander around and talk to Stinky, Bosco, the usual. There’s nothing especially wrong or difficult about this section, infact the solution to the triangle puzzle is remarkably simple (It involves triangles).

After you’ve stopped it, you go through the triangle and wind up on Easter Island. It is populated by Ocean Chimps, Moai heads, and the baby versions of famous lost people, like Glenn Miller and Amelia Earhart. Now I’m all for having new characters in these games, infact I would say that the desperately need as many of them as possible, but seriously? 5 new characters who are all babies? It’s just disturbing.

Urgh
Oh good, babies.

Anyway, it’s in this section that the game really starts to break down. For the first time in the series, I got the feeling that I was fighting against obnoxious adventure-game logic that would make the Gabriel Knight developers choke on their biscotties. You want an example?

So….

There’s a baby version of Jimmy Hoffa guarding a cave that you wish to enter. Hoffa is thirsty, and you have to give him some water from the nearby fountain of youth in order to de-age him out of existence. The fountain of youth is full of piranhas that are preventing you from scooping up any water. There are some sentient Moai heads nearby who control the elements. There is a head that can control the wind, but is too depressed to demonstrate it’s power. There is another Moai head that is buried in the earth which controls thunder, and will produce a miniature thundercloud above it’s head when angered. There is also a series of Bermuda triangles that can be moved around the area by shooting colour coded poles.

Stupid bloody puzzle
That giant sandal shows up in your office in the next episode. Oh, the referenceness!

What do you do?

Naturally you adjust the triangles so that one is opposite the Moai head that will blow wind when happy, and the other is near the Fountain of Youth. You play a conch recording of baby Glenn Miller’s latest hit (inspired by your car horn), which will make the wind-controlling head start whistling. You then shoot the buried head so that it creates a thunder-cloud. The cloud is blown through one triangle, out the other and over the fountain of youth. The thunder cloud emits lightning that kills the piranhas. This allows you to safely collect the water, and de-age baby Jimmy Hoffa out of existence and enter the cave.

…huh.

Can’t I shoot the fish? Can’t I just shoot Hoffa? Why didn’t the fountain de-age the fish? Isn’t it awfully convenient that all these portals are all over the place? Why is any of this logical? It’s all too computer-gamey! Now I’ll be first to admit that complaining that a computer game is too computer-gamey is inherently dumb, but then SO IS THIS FUCKING PUZZLE. Yeah, I showed you!

On top of that, the writers seemed to of forgotten to write jokes, and a plot at this point. The game just sort of ends without much of a climax. Something about an evil fish? I dunno. The hint system which amounts to Max almost telling you the answers to the puzzles should get you through it, so you don’t have to keep alt-tabbing to a walkthrough, it’s just a shame that the puzzles aren’t logical enough to be worked out on their own.

Anyway, if you are playing through these episodes it’s not like you should just skip this one or anything. It’s also incredibly unlikely that you would start the series at this point, so this is a review for people who are going to play this game anyway, or not at all regardless of what I say. Oh well, at most it’ll only consume 3 hours of your time, and is still vaguelly amusing. The next episode is about zombies, and from what I have played of it is much much better. Zombies always makes thing better.

Arbitrary Rating: 6 – Babies