Rating : 8/10
The Sam & Max franchise hasn’t had the best of luck over the years. Whilst the first game proved to be something of a cult hit, it was very much overshadowed by other games being published by LucasArts at the time. When a sequel was planned a few years later, it too was overshadowed by changes at the company leading to a shift in focus away from the adventure game genre. Instead, we would have to wait until Telltale Games revived the franchise for three successive seasons of episodic games. Sadly, with the demise of Telltale a few years ago, the resurgence of the duo came to an end once again.
But all is not lost, as a group of former Telltale developers formed their own company Skunkape Games, with a view to producing more adventure titles. With the rights to the series in hand, the developer is planning to re-release all three of the games in a shiny new package. But has the passage of time been kind to this classic franchise?
For those who aren’t already aware, Sam and Max are a dog and rabbit crime-fighting duo of “freelance police”. Sam is the more sane and sensible one, and Max is just a bit unhinged, with that classic late eighties ‘attitude’ that makes him a great anti-hero alongside his more jovial canine companion. This game is largely based on the old fashioned point-and-click style, but with 3D characters that are controllable against pre-rendered backgrounds. Like the original title from the 90s, the action is based around finding the right objects or dialogue choices to control the action.
The PC version gives the option of movement by good old pointing and clicking, however the Nintendo Switch version that I played is limited to moving your character with the left thumb stick and selecting objects and characters to interact with using the left stick. It’s actually a very intuitive control scheme and I grew to like it very quickly, but I would have appreciated motion controls and a pointer as an option. You can play it in handheld mode by tapping the screen so there’s still an element of that available, just not if you’re playing on a TV. One thing that was missing for me was the ability to speed up dialogue. In the original games, you could skip to the next line but this is no longer something that’s available. It’s a minor irritation, but with some events requiring repeating the same few dialogue options until you find the correct order for a solution to a puzzle, I really would have liked to negate the need to listen to the same line multiple times.
The core script and gameplay of the original game are left largely unchanged, with the developer making a point of trying to provide an authentic experience, however there are a few tweaks that have been made. The most noticeable change is the music, which is an all-new track created by original composer Jared Emerson-Johnson. The original release had a nice soundtrack, but it was designed to be derivative of the first game. This new score gives the game an identity of its own, and also means that some of the musical cues are now more suited to the action of the game.
There have been a few changes to the game’s dialogue too, with the sound being remastered to a higher fidelity level and the pacing of some conversations changed to flow better than previously. Most of the vocals are cleaned-up from the original, but there is a notable exception which is the character of Bosco. Whilst Joey Camen did a great job in the first game, the team weren’t comfortable with a black character being played by a white actor and the voice is now provided by the renowned actor Ogie Banks.
You can still tell that it took a couple of episodes to really find the “feel” of the characters, as there’s a noticeable increase in quality as the episodes go on, but you can skip to your favourites from the off if for some reason you want to avoid a particular episode. I wouldn’t recommend doing this though, all six are great, it’s just that the later ones are better. The series’ trademark dry humour and wit persists throughout, and the characters are genuinely loveable.
The new graphics are a huge improvement. I compared a few scenes with my copy of the original on Steam and it’s like night and day. It looks much richer with vibrant colours and smoother animation, and the lighting is much more effective. Steve Purcell (original creator of the characters) assisted with the redesigns, making Sam and Max look much more like their comic book counterparts then they did back in 2006.
It’s not a particularly hard game, and those hoping for a challenge that keeps them scratching their heads, but that’s not what Sam & Max Save The World is about. I never found any “try every object until something works” type puzzles, and that’s actually quite rare for an adventure game I’d say!
Bar a few niggly control issues, this is a great port of the game. Quirky humour, a lovely soundtrack and a story that keeps you engaged. It’s a little on the easy side, but with six episodes you do get your money’s worth.
Gary maintains his belief that the Amstrad CPC is the greatest system ever and patiently awaits the sequel to “Rockstar ate my Hamster”