Sam & Max: Episode 1
It's been a long time coming, but after almost 15 years Sam and Max, the venerable comedic detectives and torchbearers of the heyday of point-and-click adventure gaming, are back for more goofy hijinks. And though they've seen some changes, it's still the same quick-witted dog and pugnacious rabbit detective team we know and love.
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Holy Perforated Fumeheads, They're Back!
PROTIP: Even if Bosco is paranoid that the government is conspiring to take over his store, he offers plenty of help as long as you don't ask too many questions.
Like other classic adventure games, Sam and Max sells itself through story and delivery. Yes, there is puzzle-solving - a mainstay of almost any adventure game, and Sam and Max's are always obscurely solved but hilariously executed - but it all comes down to how our heroes' interact amongst each other and their environment, something previous game and this one do exceedingly well.
Almost everything in Culture Shock is interactive, either with the option to use the item or provide Sam the opportunity to throw around his always humorous and pithy comments. The same goes for NPCs, all of whom have excellent voice-acting. What this means is you'll often be compelled to click on everything and anything just to see what will happen or what extra dialogue you can squeeze out of the characters.
You're Lookin' Good Sam
One of the biggest changes with the return of Sam and Max is their snazzy new look, facilitated by a slick and clean 3D-engine. Characters and their environs all look incredibly comfortable in the 3rd dimension, easily maintaining the feel of the prior Sam & Max game without having to stay behind the technological curve. Motions are fluid, for the most part, and our protagonists in particular come to life more than ever in Culture Shock. The sound, too, really adds to the experience of a game like this, and voice-acting, as previously noted, is very good while the jazz-infused soundtrack complements the P.I. motif well.
Back Up The Peony-Powered Rastafarian Horse!
ProTip: Peepers here is a tough one to deal with, but something like a little tear gas might give you the upper-hand.
The other large change, albeit unwelcome by some, is the game's delivery. As the "Episode 1" part of the title implies, this is only one in a string of episodes to come from Telltale Games, with another to follow each month. Some might find this off-putting and would rather have all their new Sam & Max escapade at once, but ignore such nay-sayers. Television shows aren't released as a whole, but episodically, and games, certain ones at least, can also fit this mold. Sam & Max, as they cover different cases, is an excellent vehicle for such a format. And while Culture Shock should likely only take a few hours to complete, it's pricing is at an easy to digest $8.95 or $34.95 for the entire season, which will comprise of a total of 6 episodes over the span of the next 7 months.
At such an enticing price, having to subscribe to the episodic format is a small concession for such great content found in Sam & Max. It could even be said that Sam & Max is the first game to legitimize the episodic content model. For the serially impatient, Culture Shock's shortness and the wait for the next monthly installment may be a problem. Otherwise, Sam & Max's return is a welcome one, and hopefully a sign of further hilarity and crime-solving fun from this wise-cracking duo.
PROTIP: Driving on the sidewalk helps you avoid traffic, but parking meters have a tendency to slow you down.