A lot of companies toy around with the idea of distributing episodic games, but at this point it's Sam and Max who seem to be the only two that actually get it right. In only six months Telltale Games has managed to release three fantastic games that offer compelling stories and remind us why we liked point and click graphic adventures to begin with. Their newest game, The Mole, The Mob and the Meatball, may not stack up to the first two games, but it is still a memorable adventure full of interesting characters and witty dialog.
After taking down former child stars and dabbling in show business, Sam and Max are back to tackle one of the most notorious gangs of all time … The Mob! After a short introduction Sam and Max are assigned to infiltrate the mafia and track down a mole that was placed in the nefarious organization. But it's not going to be that easy, because in order to get in good with this group you're going to have to win ten million dollars, recover a meatball sandwich, kill two of your friends and force a local business owner to stock hypnotic teddy bears. Do all this and you'll be treated to one of the funniest games of this brand new year.
The Mole, The Mob and the Meatball introduces us to one new area, an ironically named Mafia-Free Casino. It's there that you will need to talk with Don Ted E. Bear and crack the mob's dastardly plans. While the idea of having only one new area may not sound like much, this brand new establishment is easily one of my favorite locations in this first season of Sam & Max. It features a lot of jokes about how blatantly obvious this front is and even comes with its own theme song (which you won't be able to get out of your head). And best of all, the deeper you go the more interesting this location proves to be.
While the writing and voice acting is still rock solid, there's something a little off about Sam and Max's newest adventure. While neither of the previous outings were very difficult, this one feels especially easy. Most (if not all) of the puzzles in this game are surprisingly obvious, to the point where you won't have to do a lot of thinking or hunting around. It's still possible to get stuck, but it will probably have more to do with you not seeing an item to pick up than not knowing how to solve a puzzle. It's also disappointing that the game is so short, most people will be able to bust through this game in just over an hour. Past games have been a bit longer due to some trial and error game play, but this episode just seems a little too straight forward for its own good.
But not all is lost; this is still an exciting game that tells a great story. The game may only take you an hour to complete, but you'll be laughing and having a good time while penetrating the mob. The experience isn't very deep (and you may not want to come back to it once you've beaten the game), but it's unique enough to recommend. It also helps that there aren't a lot of games out there that are consistently funny, which definitely sets this third Sam & Max game apart from the rest of the crowd.
Now that I've gone through the three recent Sam & Max outings it's safe to say that I'm enjoying their various on-running jokes. I love how the games are constantly referencing the past cases; hopefully building to a conclusion that will take into account all of the characters and items this crime fighting duo has run across. I also love Sam and Max's two neighbors, especially their friend Sybil, a woman who seems to have a new job in every episode. She's tragically underused in this episode, but I look forward to seeing what she's up to with each new game.
The game play remains unchanged, you spend all of your time pointing at places you want Sam to walk to and click on items you would like to investigate (and even pick up). Nothing has changed in this new episode, you still can't combine items and there is nothing more complex than pointing and clicking. Not that this is a bad thing, but it does seem to make the game feel a little too easy at times.
The graphics are also the same; you can expect to see the same character models and backgrounds as you saw in previous Sam & Max games. Thankfully this isn't a big deal, this series has had strong art direction since day one and there's no reason to drastically alter the game's look. If recycling character models and backgrounds means that Telltale Games is able to release a new episode every few weeks then I'm all for it, it beats the heck out of waiting six or more months for the next adventure (I'm looking at you Half-Life 2).
One of the best reasons to play this series is to hear the witty banter of the two main characters, and this third episode does not disappoint. Both Sam and Max are full of hilarious quips and obscure pop culture references. Even though the game is about the mafia and not show business, you can still expect to be inundated with crazy references to movies, TV and even newspaper journalists. Thanks to some great voice acting and writing, Sam & Max manages to be funnier than most television sitcoms (not that this is that big of an accomplishment these days).
Make no mistake about it, The Mole, The Mob and the Meatball is a fun ride that is still worth the price of admission. I wish that the adventure could have been a little longer and more difficult, but I still had a lot of fun going through it. If you're looking for a light hearted game that you can just sit and laugh at, then you can't do much better than Sam & Max episode 3. Now that I've seen them go after the mob and show business, I can't wait to see what my favorite freelance crime fighters are going to get wrapped up in next time around. Hopefully I won't have to wait too long.