It is done! Sam & Max have returned after 13 years of absence (whereof two years Sam & Max were just a Lucasarts announcement). After Sam & Max Hit The Road Telltale Games brings them back with a lot of marketing (and exclusive contracts with GameTap), comic strips, a new distribution method and fully 3D! The big Dog and his somehow lunatic Rabbit have returned under a new star but with all the old humour we loved back then. Let me sum it up for you…
Steve Purcell’s Sam & Max, the Freelance Police, are still in business. And while Sam is playing Wilhelm Tell with Max whilst he is balancing on a ball they are waiting for all those criminals that need to learn a lesson. A hard, scary and brutal lesson if so has Maxs way. Suddenly the telephone rings but it is nowhere to be found because their very own house rat has stolen it and demands cheese, Swiss cheese. Meanwhile our (anti-)heroes are negotiating with a rat something odd is making its way through the city. Former child stars of the Soda Poppers are spreading out and act weird, very weird: Vandalism, impersonation and unwanted deliveries! Something is wrong and Sam & Max have to solve this riddle… but a much bigger evil is growing behind.
“Culture Shock”, the first Episode in a six Episode series comes with a slight better Bone Graphics engine from Telltale itself. The graphics are not really bad or state-of-the-art but fit to the Sam & Max style. The complete 3D style is based on a colourful environment with winding buildings and interior. A lot is done with just colouring and shading but there are also lots of fine textures. Everything illuminates the whole scenario and leaves a great mark. Overall the designer were inspired by the old “Hit the Road” game. Even some specials and trivias have been transported into the new 3D environment. Every Sam & Max fan will feel itself home immediately. The graphics are no new Unreal but it is exactly the style Sam & Max needed. It reminds me of Grim Fandango, the best Adventure ever in my opinion.
Sam & Max is an oldskool Point’n’Click adventure where you control Sam (No Max this time, sorry!). Nothing more, nothing less. Everything is handled by the cursor. The interface is intuitive and most likely you will only need your left mouse button. The inventory is a little box (couldn’t think of that, could we ^^) in the corner and your gun is your best friend. You will never have to scroll through your inventory because of plenty of items. Inventory puzzles are present but only as much as needed. The whole scenario plays around their office. You play along the street, a psychologist and a corner shop. All places are small but filled with interesting stuff Sam & Max have to comment on. If you do not want to solve the big mystery you can even ride your car and catch some delinquents. A funny action sequence like Full Throttle! combined with some of the funniest lines of the game. Overall a very classy Adventure which warps you back in the nineties and a time where Lucasarts made good Adventures.
Most important for you probably is the humour. One word should be enough: Hilarious! There are so many funny lines you will piss yourself laughing. All those old references, continuous asking actions and the notes by a damn crazy Rabbit that wants to punish everyone will keep you laughing until you gasp for breath. Not only the conversations but the whole environment is filled with allusions to the old Sam & Max and much more. Some example:
Sam Take that you lawbreaking dairy products!
Max Sam, No! The cheese was innocent!
Sam Innocent!? I think not.
Every sentence if filled with analogies, word jokes and much more fun by those two damn cranks. Not only them but every character has some nice gags you will run into. But the bests are with Max of course ^^. Overall Culture Shock is much about talinkg. Some minor talking riddles but bascially just the jokes, the wits, the fun comes through those dialogues. Subjective I think that this Episode has more lines and jokes most fulltime games have. Just great!
In my opinion Sam & Max is the first “real” Adventure since Monkey Island 3. It’s not only about puzzles. No mechanic riddles. Not just inventory items to combine. No “Go get me this and you’ll get that!”. Do not get me wrong it has everything an Adventure needs but does not limit itself to that. All Adventures untill this day were copies of memories developers had from the time they played Indiana Jones and Monkey Island. With Sam & Max you feel that these guys made those Adventures back then (Telltale was founded by old Lucasarts developers).
If you have to criticise anything than it would be the playtime. About 3 hours is not much but enough compared to the price. With 5 more Episodes to come I cannot stand the wait. All I can say is “BUY IT DAMN IT!” It is worth every penny and if it would cost 100$. If you love Adventures then you will marry Sam & Max: Culture Shock! Otherwise Max will give you a Shock Treatment!
Source of Picture http://www.mobygames.com/, InGame Screenshots taken by myself.