Month after month Telltale Games proves that Sam & Max are the funniest game characters working today. Even their worst adventures are infinitively more enjoyable than the other so-called comedy games. However, as good as the franchise is, I just haven't been all that excited about this second season. Don't get me wrong, I'm still having a great time playing through these episodes and I'm excited to see where it takes us, but part of me just feels like there's something missing.
Thankfully that's not the case with Sam & Max's third episode of the season, Night of the Raving Dead. So far this season our favorite furry freelance crime fighters have traveled to the Bermuda Triangle and fought Santa at the North Pole, so it probably shouldn't surprise you that this episode takes place in a creepy German castle. How this connects together I'm not sure, but it definitely seems like every episode has our heroes going to another extreme.
Night of the Raving Dead is told almost entirely through flashback, which is a storytelling device brand new to the Sam & Max universe. The game starts out with both Sam and Max tied up to a big spike machine that is about to impale our heroes with dozens of sharp knives. Yikes! Thankfully Sam has enough time to tell the harrowing story of how they ended up in such a sticky situation.
It all started with a simple zombie invasion. Out of the blue Sam and Max's peaceful block was being invaded by slow moving, bad smelling, hard to understand zombies. What's worse, Bosco is missing, Stinky's Diner has run out of food, Sybill broke up with the big stone head of Abe Lincoln ... oh the humanity! After some investigating our heroes realize that the answer lies in Stuttgart, Germany. After a short trip to Eastern Europe, our heroes are introduced to a creepy metrosexual vampire named Jurgen. Without spoiling too much of the plot, the rest of the adventure involves you fighting some zombies, making fun of Resident Evil and ultimately slaying any well articulated vampire that gets in your way of saving the world.
Night of the Raving Dead is by far the shortest episode of Sam & Max to date, however, don't confuse that with its overall quality. Thanks to the introduction of Jurgen, the return of some long-forgotten friends and a few sharp pop-culture jokes, this Sam & Max adventure is without a doubt the best episode so far this season. Not only that, but the story actually makes me appreciate the groundwork that was being paved in the first two episodes, Night of the Raving Dead connects it all together in what appears to be the series' overarching storyline.
After playing this episode I realized what it was about the first two episodes that disappointed me. It wasn't that those episodes were bad; they were just so random that it felt out of place. It's strange to go from ridding the world of hypnotic dolls to trying to kill Santa Claus. But this episode connects it all together. There are elements in this episode that are so good that I'm actually starting to believe that this season could be even better than the last.
Of course, the one thing that doesn't change is the control scheme. Basically you point at an object and click your mouse button to interactive with it; it's no different from all of the other graphic adventures that have flooded the computer space for the last thirty years. But while the basic mechanics are the same, Telltale Games has been busy at making the game more accessible. For example, this season Telltale Games decided to include a tutorial level, which gets you up to speed with how the game plays. You will also be able to the hints on, just in case you get frustrated with a certain puzzle and just want to move on. And best of all, Sam can finally run from place to place, which is accomplished by double tapping the mouse button. All of these improvements add something to the value of the game; it's nice to see the company adding to what was already a streamlined series.
When it comes right down to it, it's the humorous stories that keep people engaged in Sam & Max, not the diverse gameplay and amazing controls. That's not to say you don't do anything new (there is a fun Paperboy-inspired mini-game), but if you've played any of the eight episodes before Night of the Raving Dead then you will feel right at home. Then again, what's cool is how the writers and developers are playing off what you expect, so they are constantly able to wow you with funny plot twists and references that go back to episode 2 of the first season.
Night of the Raving Dead works because of the storyline, which is easily one of my favorite scripts and looks to be setting up the final two explosive episodes of this season. If you're been following Sam and Max's exploits over the last eight episodes then you will definitely want to check out this entry, but I would recommend that even those who have never played a point-and-click adventure check out this fantastic game. If this Sam & Max episode doesn't have you howling at the moon with laughter then you might want to check your pulse, because I have a hunch you might already be one of the raving dead.