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Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space

Written by Sam Lawrence | Tuesday, 01 December 2009 08:00

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Good ol' lovable max having a bath....

Point-and-click adventure games are a funny genre to place on a console. Without a mouse pointing and clicking it doesn’t make sense; that brings up a question, should we call them twiddle and press for consoles? Or Waggle and press for the Wii. Really what other genre is named liked Point and Click? Using this convention on some popular genres gives you Look and Shoot, Run and Jump, Talk to elf and if we listened to Michael Atkinson Shoot Prostitute and Rape people. Is it just that the other genres take themselves too seriously?

It seems to me that Point and Click Adventure games fail to take themselves seriously, at least the best ones don’t. They are about complex puzzle solving and fantastic humour. Luckily Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space, the sequel to Sam and Max Save the World, does both very well. But for what is normally a PC franchise - how well does it work on a console? Well, surprisingly, it's really quite good.

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"Ahhhhh!!"

Sam and Max, the freelance police, have not become a house hold name over the last few years. Originally the characters had their own a comic book that was turned into a game series by LucasArts in 1992. These games originated on the PC in episodes and then as a complete season. Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space is also known as Sam and Max Season 2 on the PC. This is due to the low popularity of point and click games, while it seems the times are reversing with more and more of them popping up, I wouldn’t say there are enough of them to call it a popular genre just yet.

Episodic content is the name of the game here, but not in the traditional way. You buy the game once and it contains all 5 episodes of “gaming’s first sitcom” as it refers to itself.  Even though all the episodes are unlocked from the start I would recommend that you play them in order since there is a progressive storyline. With only a few minor exceptions, where the jokes fall flat and they stretch to line together plot points, the story works well and isn’t too intimidating to people who haven’t played past games. At times though it seems as if the plot was conceived after the writers had wrote most of their jokes but I'm not entirely sure that is a negative.

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Ha, silly robot has no idea he is about to become a hotel

I really need to say this, Sam and Max is easily the funniest game I personally have played. The characters are hilarious, even the minor characters in the plot are good for a good laugh. You play as Sam, the slightly sensible cop that seems to have a confused personality. But undoubtedly the best character of the game is Max, a sadistic rabbit who seems to have A.D.D. (technically he is a Lagomorph) that somehow became the president of the USA in the previous game. Nearly every time you initiate a conversation with Max there is something funny ready to come out of his massive mouth.

The list of supporting characters is also very strong as well. From Bosco who is the owner of “Bosco’s Inconvenience Store,” who is obsessed with T.H.E.M. and has all the typical conspiracy theorist traits. All the way to Flint Paper, Sam and Max’s next door neighbour who owns his own private investigator business. It seems that private investigators spend a lot of time beating up people for intelligence.

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"Sorry kids, Santa has had some troubles of late. So give me your Christmas money!"

The visuals almost let the rest of the game down, for what was a PC game that eventually was ported to the Xbox 360 and Wii it has fairly basic graphics that would look at home on the Wii but on the 360 looks a little behind the times. Luckily the cartoony art style still looks good and thanks to some smart art designs the areas are still interesting to explore. What is really strange is the game has some frame rate issues, it seems another second or two of loading would have helped because as soon as you load into an area the frame rate is terrible.

In terms of controls it’s exactly what you would imagine of a point and click game, you use the left analogue stick to hover the pointer over the object you want and press A to interact. It works but it would be better if Sam and the on screen pointer moved quicker. You can double click A in specific areas to make Sam run but the game still feels rather slow paced and limits how fast you can experiment around with solutions to the puzzles.

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Consider the "This Game Has Zombies Box" ticked

So I have talked about everything else except the puzzles… Oh, the puzzles. Well. About the puzzles, they are hard; I mean really hard. Most of the solutions aren’t very logical to people who haven’t played a lot of point and click games, such as myself. With some puzzles covering 4 or 5 areas that at first don’t seem intertwined. Its also very confusing when you save halfway through a puzzle to remember what your theory for solving a puzzle was. They give a great sense of satisfaction when you complete them but I can see a lot of people getting completely frustrated with the game. For players new to the series be sure to go to the menu system and turn the hints to high, this never seems to get in the way. It’s as simple as Max talking about an object or place that should be of interest to you.

Overall though Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space is an extremely enjoyable story wrapped in frustrating puzzles that point and click adventure veterans will love. Others will want to hop onto game faq’s to get the solution and move the story forward. No matter how you complete the game doesn’t change the fact that it is hilarious. If only they had fixed some of the problems such as the frame rate and the slow moving character Tell Tale Games would have had one of the better xbox live games for download. At the price of 1200 Microsoft points the humour makes it worth the price.