Game 'Review' | Sam & Max Save The World
Season Summary: Sam is a level-headed but enthusiastic anthropomorphic dog who wears a blue suit and fedora. Max is best described as a "hyper-kinetic rabbity thing"; cunning, uninhibited and reveling in violence and mischief. Together, they must unravel a set of schemes revolving around hypnotising people.
Going back a bit here, to a game I started years ago and gave up on in under 20 minutes. So I’m going to admit right up front that for this particular Telltale series – before they nailed their formula with The Walking Dead – I used a guide to get through it. And I’m really glad I did.
First things first though, it’s an old game so obviously the graphics aren’t great by modern standards, although the art style works pretty well for the characters. The locations really don’t work though – there’s a clash with all the people that makes everywhere you go look like very little effort was put into it, even by the standards of 2006.
The audio side of things doesn’t really help here, with the music becoming irritating more often than not, while I also wasn’t a particular fan of Sam’s voice actor. I can’t really explain why and it’s probably just a personal thing that most won’t mind, but considering he gets most of the dialogue, that was yet another thing I had to put up with while slogging my way through this game.
And it really is a slog, not helped by a strange design choice of making a player sit through the opening scene and credits of each episode before allowing the player to do anything. This wouldn’t be so bad if the episodes didn’t load in the lowest possible resolution the first time you start them.
Unskippable cut-scenes and credits that can take a couple of minutes to get through each time are poor design on their own, but who approved each episode starting off with the game looking its worst? Not exactly the best way to begin, and I just started the game with the sound off and went away to do something else for a couple of minutes before coming back, changing the resolution and starting a new game so I could actually enjoy the start of each episode.
Even after the game has started and you’ve adjusted the resolution, the visual side of things continue to let you down with some strange camera behaviour. Every entrance/exit to a new location has a small (and – again – unskippable) cut-scene that always seem to be at strange, off-centre angles that don’t actually show the characters properly.
When you start moving around, things can become a problem then too, with the camera suddenly switching angles, or tilting/panning in strange ways that can often lead to you clicking on something that you had no intention of interacting with.
And clicking? Yes, it’s an old school point-and-click, where the controls work perfectly fine unless the bizarre camera behaviour screws things up. It really is strange that such a simple game with straightforward controls can be so badly sabotaged by odd camera movement.
Unfortunately, things don’t ever really get much better to make up for it, with every episode containing multiple ‘puzzles’ that don’t make much logical sense even when using a guide. I genuinely would suggest having a walk-through open when playing through, otherwise some sections will block you for ages because there’s no rational way to figure out how to proceed in places.
The limited number of locations in each episode really doesn’t help either, with poor puzzle design meaning you’ll be going back and forth over and over again on multiple occasions even if you know exactly what to do. If you don’t use a guide, you could be doing it a lot, lot more.
It really is the puzzle design that lets the game down, and I would’ve hated having to actually spend time trying to get through this figuring things out myself. Lazy? Yes, I’ll cop to that, but the episodes and their stories aren’t interesting enough to hold my attention when going through following a guide precisely and I genuinely would’ve just given up like I did before if I hadn’t used one.
It doesn’t help that another poor design decision seems to have been to save most of the humour for the non-essential and incidental dialogue rather than the central plot of each episode. There were a few occasions when I put the guide aside to explore some conversation options and they were always funnier than plot-critical dialogue.
Again, if you spend the time through this yourself and don’t use a guide, you’ll probably get a lot more humorous material, but the flip-side is that will really drag out each episode and they’re long enough as it is.
The second episode, “Situation: Comedy” is by far the worst for this and was immensely frustrating even doing exactly what was needed to progress because of the continuous back-tracking and nonsensical puzzles.
I will admit that things do get a little better for the final three episodes, with the fifth – “Reality 2.0” – being the standout of the entire season, but even they suffer from the same issues that plague the entire season, simply to a lesser degree. Even then, the final ‘scene’ of the game in “The Bright Side of the Moon” is a repetitive and annoying disaster that ends the season on a really low note.
Sam & Max Save the World is a chore to play through by today’s standards, although a lot of the problems with the game would have irritated and frustrated when the game was released just over a decade ago. Unless you have a lot of spare time to indulge investigating everything you can click in this game, use a guide and get it over with as quick as you can.