Review: Sam and Max Season 3 Episode 1: The Penal Zone
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: April 15th, 2010
Price: $34.99 | £19.99 | €24.99
What I liked:
- Top notch voice acting and humor
- Head scratching puzzles
What I disliked:
- Framerate issues early on
- Some of the cameras got awkward
I’ve played a few Sam and Max games in my day. Adventure games are an acquired taste, you have to get used to a completely different concept of gameplay. If you’re feeling saucy and you’d like to try one, make it a Sam and Max title. It’s a crazy blend of bizarre humor and puzzle solving.
Starting out you find our heroes on an alien space ship trying to thwart the antics of a Space Ape named General Skun-Ka’Pe (Skunk-Ape as Sam calls him). In this bizarre scene, a brain floating in a jar instructs you on how to use Max’s new found psychic abilities, granted to him via “Toys of Power.” One is a viewfinder and the other is a child’s telephone. You select these abilities via an onscreen menu that resembles a see-and-say. After thwarting the bad guy, the game actually starts. Turns out that this scene was a future vision, and now you have to stop the general for real this time. An interesting twist to get the player going on their quest.
Gameplay wise, you can walk around (or run with circle) as Sam. By doing so this allows you to interact with NPC’s and other items in the environment. With a press of triangle, you can control Max via a first person view, allowing you to choose what toy of power you want. The future vision allows you to see a scene of an NPC or object in the near future, which gives you a hint or direction of where to go. This mechanic freshens up this series and adds a new, often comical, layer to the puzzle solving. The teleport ability lets you teleport to anyone who you have a phone number for. This too adds to puzzle solving. Speaking of puzzles, there are a few that will have you scratching your head, but they are never unfair and are always rewarding. Don’t bitch out and resort to a FAQ… if I can get through it you can get through it (-L_^].
The graphics are bright and colorful, and it seems as though Sam and Max are more animated than in previous outings. No gripes about them besides some framerate issues. The opening scene has a lot of crazy stuff going on and it happens to chug. I was worried, but after that scene, I didn’t encounter the problem again. On the plus side there are numerous different locales to check out and most are quite unique. One other thing to note, you’ll run into a few rooms where the camera gets a little wonky, but this is usually because the game just doesn’t want you to go there. Not really a huge deal.
The music is good and sets the overall fun mood to the game. When you’re talking sound though, it’s the voice acting that really shines here.This is voice acting at its best and funniest. Don’t quote me, as I’ll have to check my sources, but I swear Skunkape is voiced by
MegatronMojojojo. You find yourself wanting to talk to everybody and hear every option just so you don’t miss a joke. I had a great time with this game, and I think you will too. It’s a great start to the season.