Sam & Max Save The World is a point-and-click adventure game originally developed by Telltale Games in 2006 and has now been remastered by Skunkape Games. The game sees our dynamic duo facing off against their zaniest adventure yet (or at least that week given how weird their adventures can get). It is a tale of mobsters, government conspiracy, washed-up child stars, and teddy bears! Can Sam and Max do as the title says and Save The World? Or will they simply get stuck on the set of Midnight Cowboys for the rest of their days? That is down to you!
However, is the game any good? Is this a remaster of a masterful reinvention of the point-and-click formula? Or is it a game that should be left in the past where it belongs? Read on to find out!
STORY – SAVE THE WORLD AND THAT
Sam & Max Save The World sees the dynamic duo investigating a series of increasingly strange cases, each of which is connected to each other via an overarching plot thread which is teased over the course of the game’s six episodes. With each episode getting increasingly outlandish as it goes along; starting out investigating a case involving washed-up former child stars and then later moves on to a teddy bear-themed mafia gang, and later into virtual reality!
It’s a madcap adventure and no denying it. To go into details on just how bizarre the story gets would spoil a lot of the fun. It is honestly refreshing to play a game that is just this strange and yet its quirkiness feels perfectly in step with everything else in the title and never undercuts or overpowers it.
This is all aided by a drum-tight script that is frequently hilarious and performed perfectly by the game’s voice cast. It is honestly hard to really describe just how well-written Sam & Max Save The World is. Even from a mechanical level it is so well-paced and structured that it’s like it is like witnessing a well-engineered machine in full motion.
IT’LL BE ALL WRITE ON THE NIGHT
However, there are times that the game feels a little too witty and overwritten; frequently it feels like it is trying too hard to be funny. Almost every line of dialogue from our heroes is a witticism. And sadly whilst this machinegun delivery is well performed the content is can be hit and miss.
Some lines of dialogue are undeniably funny. Laugh out loud, and instantly quotable. Some sequences are some of the funniest I have seen in a videogame in a long time (At least since UnderHero). But there are others which just fall a little flat. Part of this is because Sam and Max seem to be constantly trying to one-up each other with who can be the quirkiest. Which can make some sequences feel a tad elongated just so they can prattle on about one thing or another. With next to none of it having much to do with the task at hand. And it can at points just feel genuinely irritating. And whilst they can be skipped there are times you daren’t just in case you miss a hint and have to sit through it all again.
I should state however that there are no jokes that really feel like an outright miss; there are none that had me groaning or rolling my eyes. And those that are on the lamer side are soon moved away from with a better joke coming soon after. And the writing does get far stronger further along into the game’s later episodes.
GAMEPLAY – CLICK AND TELL
Sam & Max Save The World is a point-and-click adventure game in the truest sense and tradition of the word. It is a game which at best offers a core gameplay loop which provides the player with a series of cryptic and yet not overly complex puzzles which are as funny as they are challenging. A core loop which provides a variety of gameplay mechanics for you to enjoy, each of which is developed enough to be enjoyable and never outplays another.
Click on an element in the background to get a bit of dialogue and possibly an item. Use an item you get or a bit of information you learn to solve a puzzle. It’s simple. It’s bankable. It does the job. In this version of the game, you can use WASD to move around and shift to sprint in addition to pointing and clicking. It’s not a revolution, but it makes navigating areas a little more streamlined.
Besides using items to solve puzzles there are dialogue puzzles which will see you having to select the correct responses in the right order. There are chase sections which see you both trying to capture baddies and escape them. And a variety of mini-games to help spice things up between them. It’s all well realised and there is an undeniable sense of satisfaction when you complete a puzzle on your first try.
METHOD TO THE MADNESS
It truly does feel like a great successor and faithful to the adventure games of old. However, it can at times be faithful in replicating one of the genre’s greatest issues. Convoluted puzzles and solutions.
Whilst it never gets as cryptic as the bad old days of adventure gaming in the 90s; where puzzles were blatantly made overly obtuse just so that people would call the official helpline. There are still times where newer fans might struggle to understand the internal logic of the game to be able to solve the puzzles. The logic behind some of the puzzle answers can be tenuous at best and tedious at worst. So much so that when you do solve a puzzle you can be left thinking “Wait, what? How?” rather than getting a smug sense of self-satisfaction from your clever mind solving a tricky puzzle.
RUBBER CHICKEN WITH A PULLY IN THE MIDDLE
Because of that, it is not uncommon when playing the game to find yourself just mindlessly trying every item on every clickable object in the room in the hope of trying to complete a puzzle. And if you can’t find it, then it’s off to backtrack to past areas to find the item or the line of dialogue you missed.
And frequently it is less a matter of not understanding what you need to complete the puzzle and more that you just can’t find it due to the item in question being lost in the background. Said background item can easily be something which in the previous episodes was just a source of a witty line and nothing more but now is suddenly significant!
However, those issues soon start to melt away as you soon realise that each episode, no matter how wacky, follows a very easy-to-follow formula and core gameplay loop.
BEEN THERE CLICKED THAT
Once you figure out the core loop to the game the game as a whole starts to feel increasingly formulaic. After a couple of episodes, you know that there are only a handful of locations, most of which have the solution to their puzzles within them. And those that don’t will be found in one of the other earlier locations. Each location needs to be visited at least twice to get the items or information you need from them. Whilst there is some variation, it never breaks the cycle to provide as much variety as it should.
However, this is just indicative of what the game is. It’s a collection of short episodic games. Games that were released months apart from one and other. At the time it was easier to overlook the repetition by simple virtue of not playing them all so close together. Playing them as a longer experience is where the issue starts to become more evident.
Still, with all that said Sam & Max Save The World is still a solid title whose puzzles offer a fun level of complexity. One that always remains fresh enough to be compelling and offers a new set of challenges with each episode. Even if there isn’t as much variety as I would like and some puzzles can be annoying.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND – JAZZY JAUNTS
One of the major selling points for this rerelease is seeing the game getting a visual upgrade; giving the title a visual update more in keeping with more modern releases. And the developers have done a remarkable job of giving the game the spit and polish that it needs to bring it up to contemporary standards. Sure, it isn’t a world-beating powerhouse of graphical might. But it frankly doesn’t need to be. It’s pleasant to behold. And the changes really do help to sell the game’s art style.
The game’s art style has a fresh and dynamic look to it. One where the world and its environments are practically characters in themselves. It has a distinct cartoony look to it which makes the game feel even more like you are playing a Saturday morning cartoon than other similar titles. This is apt given that Sam and Max did have their own short-lived cartoon series. And yes, I do know Sam & Max started out as a comic but shhh!
It is hard to go a few steps in this game without seeing some neat background joke or fun little detail which only adds in more humour to the game as well as informs the location’s tone perfectly.
LIKE A PUPPET ON A STRING
Whilst the game has received a nice lick of new digital paint there is still much to be desired from the game’s animations; they can be frequently rather stiff looking and there are moments where you can see the characters in a scene snap from one animation sequence to another. This was an issue with the other Tell-Tale Sam & Max games. And whilst this isn’t a deal breaker as far as the quality of the final product is concerned, it is rather disappointing that personalities that are as filled with life and character as we see in this title are stuck behind animation that doesn’t live up to the quality of the voice acting or the writing.
TAP THEM TOES
The game’s soundtrack is great. Quite honestly it is enjoyable to listen to. With jazzy, crime show-inspired tracks as well as some novelty songs dotted around here and then that feel almost Weird Al like in some portions of it. It is clean, it is neat, and it is enjoyable. It is honestly hard to find fault in any of it.
If I were to get nit-picky, I would say that I do wish there were more songs with lyrics in the game. These songs and musical numbers are frequently the better moments in Sam & Max Save The World. Again, I don’t wish to give anything away, but there is one sequence about midway through the game is genius. Mad, satirical genius.
Sam & Max Save The World was reviewed on PC with a game key provided by Skunkape Games.