Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the point and click adventure was king of the game genres. They revolutionised the way in which interactive stories could be told at a time when graphical and processing capabilities were limited by modern day standards. Rather than focusing on physical challenges, the point and click adventure focused on exploration and puzzle solving tasks. While games such as Myst and the Zork series were distinctly sombre affairs, other games like the Monkey Island series and Sam and Max Hit the Road were much more humorous. Sam and Max was my particular favourite, what’s not to love about a detective duo made up of a sensible, stoic dog and a hyperactive, psychotic rabbit? Fans hoped for more from the duo but for various reasons, this wasn’t to be until Telltale Games picked up the license and ran with it ably demonstrated by Sam and Max Season One and now Season Two: Beyond Time and Space.
As the season term suggests, rather than simply being one big adventure, Beyond Time and Space comprises of five episodic segments. With each episode taking a few hours to complete, it’s a nice way of making the game feel like value for money. It also makes the Season feel like a more rounded product than if the games had been sold separately as some episodes are better than others. The stories range from Sam and Max saving Christmas in Ice Station Santa to rescuing Bosco the shopkeeper’s soul in What’s New Beelzebub. Each story is fairly self contained albeit with the odd overlap and many settings and characters being re-used.
Telltale Games have done a great job with each of the episodes being very enjoyable experiences. My particular favourite storyline was Ice Station Santa’s where Santa becomes possessed and it’s down to Sam and Max to save Christmas. Any game where you have to collect up action figures based on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has to be given some credit. Throughout the episodes, Sam and Max’s one liners continually made me crack a smile and the barrage of pop culture references were extremely welcome. Max may be a completely insane rabbit who would kill everyone just for the hell of it, but he manages to still be immensely likeable. The same can be said of the ever deadpan but darkly sarcastic Sam. The supporting cast also provides some laughs, such as Sybil the, ever desperate for love, office worker and my favourite: the garage computers. These computers comprise of an abandoned arcade machine, some form of 1980s home computer and a punch hole machine, all with their own, unique (and odd personalities).
The only real let down for the stories was the third instalment Night of the Raving Dead. The story felt much weaker than others and less enjoyable. Some of the puzzles also felt quite illogical at times which was a tad disappointing. Despite these shortcomings the other episodes were very enjoyable with the majority of puzzles making plenty of sense. Be warned though: some puzzles do provoke a feeling of ‘Doh!’ when you finally figure out just how simple it really is after spending 30 minutes or more pondering what to do next!
Besides the puzzles and typical point and click action, a few minigames make an appearance to break things up a bit. I have to admit that I did find some of them a little gimmicky. Brief games that involve driving over bagpipes or shooting zombies just felt a little bit like they were padding out the length of the game. That’s not to say that they weren’t quite fun for a few minutes but they did feel a little pointless when more puzzles could have been added in their place. Purists of the point and click genre may be particularly peeved by their inclusion.
It’s great to see a much loved franchise such as Sam and Max succeed so well on a different system, and a new audience. A lot of gaming feels so serious and glum that to play a game which genuinely made me laugh out loud was a great surprise. At 1600 points it may seem like a slightly expensive choice to make on the Xbox Live Marketplace, especially when bearing in mind it is single player only. However I’d say it’s worth every penny if you enjoy witty dialogue and using the old grey matter from time to time. Personally I’m crossing my fingers tightly for a Season Three!
Hi-Score – Consistently funny dialogue and storylines, Sam and Max exude charm
Lo-Score – Minigames can begin to grate after a while, no replayability
Score – 8 out of 10