How do you know that we're smack dab in the middle of the holiday season? Could it be that faint smell of turkeys being bought up at alarming rates? Could it be the fact that the days are getting shorter and the weather is starting to dip into freezing territory? Or could it be the fact that every single important game is being released all at once making it almost impossible to stay up to date? Nah ... the reason I know we're in the middle of the holiday season is because the newest episode of Sam & Max is a very special Christmas edition.
Returning after a six month hiatus, Sam & Max are back to rid the world of crime, while being as rude and sarcastic as humanly possible. In case you missed the first season here's a quick refresher course: Sam is a crime fighting dog (kind of like McGruff the Crime Dog, only with more of the 1950s noir feel to him) and Max is a rabbity thing. Together the two of them are freelance police officers who seem to have a knack of getting into deathly serious situations. In the first season this crime fighting pair took on the mafia, dismantled a virtual reality computer program, and took on an organized religion that was a little too reminiscent of Scientology.
After fighting such despicable forces, who is left for Sam & Max to go after? Santa Claus, of course. Ice Station Santa takes no time to get into the action, within the first few minutes of the game Sam and Max are introduced to an enormous pop music-loving robot that singlehandedly redecorates the crime fighting duo's city block. Upon further inspection Sam and Max realize that it wasn't the mafia or some evil dictator who sent a giant robot after them ... it was Santa himself.
To get to the bottom of this situation our heroes decide to take a trip to Santa's Workshop, which, as we all know, is in the icy North Pole. What Sam and Max find there is enough to make their blood run cold; it's a Santa Claus that is terrorizing the elves by shooting at them and threatening to fire them. It's up to Sam and Max to figure out how to subdue Santa, help the elves and save Christmas for all the little girls and boys around the world. And that's not all, this adventure will also give you the opportunity to right some wrongs, meet new friends and, in a shocking turn of events, time travel.
The good news is that this brand new Sam & Max episode is a lot like the last season; the situation you get yourself into is hilarious, the game is full of memorable characters and the game is long enough to where you feel you got your money's worth (but not too long to where it feels like a full game). Beyond the puzzle solving and story, the real reason people play these Sam & Max episodes is for the over-the-top humor. And Ice Station Santa has no shortage of laugh out loud moments. While this is not as good as the best episodes from the first season, it's certainly on par with what we played earlier this year. The writing is sharp as ever and there's a little something for everybody in this game. It never gets old to hear this duo making jokes about real world people and political events. Without a doubt, Ice Station Santa is one of the funniest games of the year.
If we've learned anything from the first season it's that there is usually a large story arc that runs from the beginning to the end. While it's hard to say what it will be that connects this episode with the rest of the season, we do meet a couple of interesting new characters that I'm sure will play a larger part as we get further into the season. One character is Stinky, the owner of the diner that is located right next to Bosco's Inconvenience. We are also introduced to Sam and Max's next door neighbor, a violent guy who is first shown beating somebody up. While I still love the characters introduced in the first season (most of which make an appearance in this game), it's nice to have a few new faces to talk to and a couple of new locations to investigate.
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