Sam & Max sees you taking control of a magical cursor, which manipulates the control of Sam, a police hound, and Max, a crazed psychotic rabbit. Guiding the two sidekicks over six episodes of side splitting crime fighting (and causing) adventures, you solve a range of puzzles in the strangest and most random methods imaginable.
Developed by Telltale games, famed for episodic adventure game developed, Sam & Max is their heirloom title which they have been releasing gradually on the PC for the last few years. Due to the late arrival to the Xbox 360, the entire series has been bundled into a single package for the cheap price of 1600 – and yes, this is a cheap price considering the entire series (all six episodes) could easily be sold at retail.
Graphically the game will not blow you away, but once again the game dodges the bullet of graphical comparison being an ‘arcade’ title; which in comparison to the other games available on XBL Sam & Max looks quite fantastic. However, after a single episode you will quickly see a recurring theme… recurrence! Model, textures and audio too is copy and pasted through each episode, with a handful of familiar faces and environments being the centre of all episodes. This has clearly been a design requirement, in order to get each episode out with a month’s development in mind – however this is not seen on XBL having all episodes ready in one go.
Unfortunately presentation is not the only aspect of Sam & Max to feature the copy and paste key, as large chunks of each episodes gameplay feels very similar to one another. Each puzzle typically revolves around discovering a dastardly plot, visiting the convenience store, discovering you need money to buy the one item he sells, getting said money, buying item, and using item to defeat dastardly plot. Whilst the format and setting of each dastardly plot is different, the requirement to go through the same ‘I need to buy a _____’ item waters down the puzzle solving feel of an adventure game, as needing to buy a ‘computer virus’ slightly hints that you are going to infect a computer, with a virus.
For all the achievement fans, you will be happy to know that each achievement is very obtainable, typically coming by just completing the game (or by sidetracking very slightly). The only downside is the amount of time it will take to earn 200/200 as for an arcade game, Sam & Max is loooong. On the upside however, Sam & Max is loooong! You are easily getting your monies worth, something which I am sure no gamer will argue against.
For fans of adventure gaming, episodic content and murderous-rabbit-without-a-conscience adventures, Sam & Max is right up your street and unfortunately one of the few such titles available. Hopefully with Telltale taking steps to bring adventure gaming to console gamers, and Monkey Island following closely behind, adventure fans such as myself will eventually be spoilt for choice.