Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space

Having saved the world from mass hypnosis in season one, the canine gumshoe and his bunnyish-buddy are back on the case for another five episodes of crime-fighting fun in Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space. Telltale, riding high on the success of both Save the World and their Monkey Island re-imagining, have invited XBLA lovers to cram another point-and-click adventure to their already bloated hard drives. So, assuming that a 3D Threepwood wasn’t enough to satisfy your lust for obscure puzzles and offbeat comedy, what can Sam and Max do to quench your investigative thirst?

Fans of the first season will be pleased to hear that as far as gameplay, presentation and tone are concerned, Beyond Time and Space is business as usual. As before, each episode is presented as a stand-alone story that offers a couple of hours of endearing characters, zany dialogue and quirky puzzles, and playing through all five will reveal an underlying plotline that ties the whole series together. Along the way you will have to contend with a satanic Santa, an errant Bermuda triangle and (naturally) a zombie apocalypse. Of course, Sam & Max tackle these unusual circumstances with the levity they demand. In fact, listening to their verbal back and forth as they analyse each new situation is a large chunk of the fun inherent to the series. The game has the feeling of an interactive sitcom, with the designers poring as much time into the script and story as they have into the presentation. Sam’s deadpan pragmatism plays off Max’s irrepressible enthusiasm in classic double-act tradition, and their enjoyably comedic quarrelling provides the backbone of the whole experience.

This is point-and-click action through and through, which means that the strengths and weaknesses of the genre are also present and correct. Graphics are simple but nicely stylised, and interactive objects are more easily distinguishable than they have been in other genre efforts. Dual analogue control is adequate for navigating the screens and this time you can double-click to make your protagonists run to the desired location, a welcome upgrade to the first season’s walk-only restriction. Although there is still over an hour of gameplay to be had from each episode, the difficulty-level of the puzzles are set rather low, with the occasional baffling solution throwing a spanner in the works. We’re dealing with point-and-click adventure logic here, and that means you’ll have to think very laterally when presented with some of the more wilfully obscure objects (I encountered some extremely novel uses for a red snail and a sandwich made of basalt during my adventures).

The issue of mandatory box-ticking does rear its head from time to time. During the second episode I was presented with a puzzle that required I collect an item of a specific shape. Having already spotted the item a few screens before I scampered back to grab it, only to discover that there was no option to pick it up. Thinking I had got the wrong end of the stick I began searching for other items, but 15 minutes later found that I had actually identified the correct item in the first place, but hadn’t spoken to the right NPC yet. Only when this character had actually spelled the answer out to me could I pick the item up. This necessity to go through the motions is the fidgety bedfellow of a lot of point-and-click adventures, but thankfully I only stumbled across it a couple of times in Beyond Time and Space.

Ultimately though, this is a character-driven affair, and despite a few occasions when I wished Max would shut his furry face the game delivers some strong scripting and instances of surprisingly dark humour (Sam: “What did you get for Christmas?” Max: “Tuberculosis”). Considering how under-developed game scripting can often be, it’s a real pleasure to find a franchise that focuses on dialogue and plot rather than power-ups and explosions to push a game forward. And frankly, hearing a knackered 80’s computer called Curt arguing with an answering machine in a Hawking-esque mono-drone is worth the 1600 points on its own.







One response to “Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space”

  1. David from Self Hypnosis avatar
    David from Self Hypnosis

    Great blog!!! Very informative and inciteful. Excellent!!!

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