Sam & Max Save the World

Review

posted 7/15/2009 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360
While I can't say much about Abe Lincoln Must Die, I have no problem talking about episode five, Reality 2.0. This is, without a doubt, the single greatest Sam & Max episode of the first season. This is the episode that lampoons video games, quite effectively I might add. It makes fun of some of your favorite video games, including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, classic LucasArts adventure games, Dragon Warrior, Castlevania, and many more.

Before long you'll be introduced to the central hub of Reality 2.0, a small storefront that houses four memorable pieces of technology (a pong machine, an arcade cabinet, an old school computer, and a telephone). These four characters introduce you to the wild new world of Reality 2.0, a game that requires you to wear a fancy new headset that sees the world in a completely new way. In Reality 2.0 the world around you has been transformed into something straight out of a video game, and all of your favorite items have been turned into something a little bit more appropriate to a computer game. One look at Reality 2.0 and it's easy to see why nobody wants to go back to the boring old Reality 1.0.

The truth is I could spend the next three pages talking about nothing but Reality 2.0. This is an epic episode that riffs on everything from text adventures to massively multiplayer online role-playing games. It completely changes the world when it needs to and gives us four of the most compelling characters I've seen in a video game. Reality 2.0 is worth the $20 alone, it's that good.

I would hate to be the episode that has to follow Reality 2.0. The sixth and final episode in the first season is Bright Side of the Moon, an episode that can't quite live up to the greatness of the first five episodes. That's not to say that the finale is bad. After all, it does have full resolution and a bad guy to take out. The problem is, after spending hours making fun of video games, jokes about Scientology don't seem as clever. As usual Sam and Max are asked to do take part in a lot of crazy situations, such as taking part in a game of Tic Tac Doom (a video game that is supposed to have the world's best artificial intelligence), perform a rat in the hat magic trick, and fix up the disembodied head of Abe Lincoln with Sybil (who is coincidentally the Queen of Canada). The problem is, a lot of it feels like it's just going through the motions. Perhaps Telltale Games should have ended the series with Reality 2.0.

Oddly enough, it's not the mysteries or the puzzles that kept me coming back for more. The brilliance of this game lies in its characters, especially the supporting cast. I couldn't wait to see what Bosco was paranoid about from episode to episode. And don't even get me started on Sybil, a loveable character who has a new profession every time you turn around. I loved hearing the crazy things that Max would say and just living in this cartoon world. Even beyond the great stories and the puzzles you solve, it's the atmosphere that makes this game special.

While it's recommended that you go through the game in order, you are not locked to starting on the first episode. If all you want to do is play, say, Reality 2.0, then you can skip ahead and just play that episode. You may not understand what is going on, but you can play it nonetheless. Each episode will run you between two and three hours (maybe longer if you're really bad at adventure games), which means that this $20investment will have you playing for 12 - 18 hours (perhaps longer). There are a few incentives for playing through the game again, including achievements you may have missed. While this may not have the replay of a first-person shooter, I did have a good time going through the episodes a second (and in one case, third) time. Even if you only play through it once, there are enough jokes and fun puzzles to make the purchase well worth your time.

This Xbox Live Arcade version doesn't really add anything new to the mix, so fans who played through the episodes a year and a half ago may not have much reason to pick this up. The graphics are now widescreen and HD, which really makes the world look good. Other improvements include actual car controls (a vast improvement over the clumsy way you steered on the PC) and the ability to turn on a bunch of subtitles.

Sam & Max Save the World is one of the funniest games I've ever played, an adventure game that lampoons just about everything we hold near and dear in pop culture. And even while it's making jokes about the mob, politics and game shows, it still manages to be an exciting adventure game with a lot of puzzles to solve. By the time you've made it through all six episodes, you will feel like you really experienced something big. Maybe not important, but definitely big. At just over $3 an episode, you would be a fool to pass up Sam & Max Save the World.


B+
Sam & Max Save the World is not just the funniest video game of the year, it's the funniest thing I've seen on my television screen in ages. It features clever writing, thought provoking storylines, huge mysteries and enough puzzles to keep you going for close to twenty hours. The only reason you could possibly have for not picking up Sam & Max Save the World is that you are an enemy of comedy!


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