Life has taught me many things, most of them related to bunny rabbits and the hunting thereof, but one lesson that has been ingrained into my mind is that “things slowly decay as time goes on.” This is true for many aspects of life, but Sam & Max defies that logic by actually getting better as time goes on.
For me, the best episodes of the Telltale Games Sam & Max series have consistently been the third and forth episodes; usually that’s when the season has found its groove, and this season is no exception with Episode 3: They Stole Max’s Brain.
I like it, is what I’m saying.
The episode starts where the last one ended, right at the COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED AND TOTALLY NOT TELEGRAPHED BY THE TITLE OF THE NEXT EPISODE plot point, where Sam discovers that someone has stolen Max’s brain. Fueled by revenge, or possibly a really bad Pedigree Chums trip, Sam goes on a quest to find his little buddy, which soon finds you engaging in another battle for the mysterious Devil’s Toybox and using Max’s psychic powers to thwart the forces that would use it to take over the world…
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. What did you expect? This isn’t The Usual Suspects here, this is Sam & Max, a series in which the laws of physics are more like a set of guidelines. You’re not here for the story, and I won’t waste any more time explaining it; it would be like trying to explain the color of an orange.
At the beginning of the game, right after Sam discovers his partner’s brainless exterior, he ditches his trench coat, grows some designer stubble in five seconds, and becomes a loose cannon cop who doesn’t play by the rules! He isn’t afraid to ice a bitch for answers! Growl! Except, comma, he doesn’t actually kill anyone for answers, but he does threaten a computer scanner! That’s pretty hardcore, right?
During Sam’s trip down the dark side, he remembers a few tips that his friend, Flint Paper, gave him on how to interrogate suspects. These techniques apparently come from the Jack Bauer school of thought, in that they largely consist of Sam screaming at people while shoving a gun in their faces till they shit their pants or give him answers, usually both.
Basically, this part of the game involves listening to the characters talk about a certain subject, and then interrupting them in order to press for more information, threaten them, or catch them lying. It works sort of like Phoenix Wright with a lot more fleas and a little more badass, as you interject at different points in the conversation to achieve the desired effect, which usually is getting Sam to pimp slap a hoe!
In all seriousness, I actually liked this feature. I’d even go so far as to say that, with a little bit of refining here and there, it could become very innovative. It was a pretty cool parody of Frank Miller comics and noir detectives as a whole, and it’s hilarious that you literally have a “noir” button where Sam will spin a dark monologue about whatever the subject might be.
But, I feel like the interrogation function was made for another game, not for a game series that revolves around a giant talking dog and rabbit-thing fighting a space ape. Maybe it should be used in some sort of CIA-simulator game (press X to waterboard insurgents and lie to the government about it). Also, like your first time having sex, it’s over just as you were getting into it. After Sam discovers where Max’s brain is being held, the mechanic is dropped and never mentioned again for the rest of the game! Telltale, you little tease, you!
Beyond that, though, the game returns to status quo, and spending a moment to talk about the gameplay when I have several times before would be redundant. So, here’s a link for you.
You know, after reviewing three of these games, I’ve often thought about how life would be if I had psychic powers just like Max. Well, I’d use them for more than just solving puzzles, that’s for sure. In terms of psychic powers, you are once again able to play around with the Future Vision and Teleportation Phone, but you now get to use the Rinoplasty to transform your furry companion into whatever inanimate object he smears it over. The only time you get to use it is when you’ve got to change into a toaster, though. Come on! I can think of so many better uses for that power! I’d find a poster of Jake Gyllenhaal, transform into him, and just walk around downtown shirtless, breaking up marriages and thus dooming the entire human race.
Now we come to the most important part of every Sam & Max game: the characters and the writing. My biggest problem with the last few games is that there’s just been too much fanwackery, shoe horning in older characters while adding in new ones that are about as interesting as a freshly painted wall. Well, to Telltale’s credit, they actually stepped it up a bit. I did laugh out loud a few times, and the new characters are endearing as well as funny in their own regard, the best one being the Pharaoh Sammun-Mak, who behaves like the snobby Prince of Persia, if he were a five-year-old boy with the attention span of a goldfish. It was actually quite hard to write jokes chastising this game, because it was pretty well written.
So, yeah, I’m definitely going to keep watching this series. Episode 3 isn’t as good as Episode 1, but it’s going in the right direction, and it’s good to see that the developers aren’t taking everything so seriously. I realize that the last paragraph was rather dry, so I’m gonna end this review on a joke:
A baby seal walked into a club.