Sam & Max: A Breath of Fresh Air

I had purchased Sam & Max Season One back in 2008 when it was featured as a weekend deal on Steam, though I wasn’t really that interested in playing it then. I was, at the time, a junkie for cheap video games. In fact, I enjoyed buying video games more than I actually liked playing them. I couldn’t help myself, every time I saw a deal on Steam, I bought it, not even caring what it was. All that ended when I purchased the game Mount and Blade, tried it, and realized that I hated it. From then on I was more conservative about the video games that I purchased.

As I was saying, I had six games from the Sam & Max series sitting in my account, and I don’t know that I ever intended to play them. I never played the original Sam & Max game from the 90s, and to be perfectly honest, I really don’t like comedy in video games. I mean, some tongue in cheek humor is okay, but I had heard that Sam & Max was basically laugh out loud comedy. That’s part of the reason I had the games for almost two years before sitting down to play them.
Who knew a wisecracking bunny (Max) and anthropomorphic dog (Sam) could be so funny?

As the title of this post suggests, I found the games to be a breath of fresh air. I actually installed Sam & Max 101: Culture Shock several months ago, with the intent of at least trying it out, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I fired it up. I was laughing out loud right away. There I was, introduced to two absolutely hilarious furry animals. I found Sam to have the dry and self-centered sense of humor that some would think of as ignorance, but the keen observer would recognize as cognizant wit. And then there was Max, I didn’t even know what to make of Max the first time I heard him speak. All I did know was that I couldn’t stop laughing at the wisecracks that he was making. Yes, I was very surprised, and I’m not ashamed of the fact that I was laughing more loudly than I would during any sitcom.

For those that don’t know, these recent Sam & Max games are being developed by Tell Tale Games and released in an episodic manner. That means that instead of developing and releasing one game, the game is produced as a season, the first season has six episodes. The episodes are released monthly, and when you buy a “subscription” you get each game as it is released. Of course, purchasing past seasons gets you the games right away. Certainly this is an interesting way of publishing games, and quite frankly, it works for Sam & Max.

Sam & Max is an adventure series, so the games mostly focus on plot and puzzle solving. Each episode from season one was about three hours long, more or less depending on how long it takes the player to figure out the various puzzles and challenges. None of the puzzles were ridiculously difficult, but some were more obvious than others. These are not the type of game where you give up, and follow a walk-through to complete. No, they actually make sense, despite the comic world where a dog and a bunny interact with humans, as if there was nothing unusual about it.

I played an episode a day for six days, and I was laughing all the way to the end. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite as funny near the end, and it was starting to feel a bit tedious, but I think that was more because I was playing them all at once, I think a month apart would be a very good spacing to play each episode. It wasn’t all funny, however. I hated the character Bosco almost right away, he was funny the first time that Sam and Max interacted with him, but the character got old fast, and was more annoying than anything by the final episode. But hey, nothing’s perfect.

This is the type of game that you can play with your significant other, one person takes the controls, but both discuss possible solutions to the puzzles.

The narrative of the game had all the nonsense that you might expect in a world with anthropomorphic animals. Half way through Max actually becomes the president of the united states. Each episode is an individual story unto itself, but the whole season cumulates as a persistent world, meaning that the events of previous episodes are often referred to, or even part of, later episodes, with the final episode revealing what was behind all the mayhem previously encountered.

I was pleasantly surprised by this game, and I look forward to playing seasons two and three, and any future seasons. If you like video games and you like to laugh, give it a try. Sam & Max 104: Abe Lincoln Must Die is free, so there is no reason not to try it, you might find yourself in a world of laughter.