February 8, 2007
Telltale Games/ Gametap
A spokes person for Telltale Games informed us that twenty of Telltale’s approximately thirty employees were employed at LucasArts at one point or another. Dan Connors and Kevin Bruner, the company’s (Telltale not LucasArts) founders, were involved with Sam & Max Freelance Police and they left LucasArts after the cancellation to start their own company. Company bios on the entire Telltale team can be found at their website team page. I encourage you to check it out.
Originally, LucasArts contracted for and started production on a sequel to the original highly successfulSam & Max Hit the Road. The original game enjoys a cult following even today. There is even a novelization of Sam & Max Hit the Road on the web. For those of you who need to acronimize everything, SAMHTR could be an acceptable acronym, sadly not a TLA (three letter acronym) that seems so popular today.
To continue the memorabilia hunt, Sam & Max were also seen as an animated show on television [Sadly, the Sam & Max cartoon series is not available on DVD and it was only by reluctantly purchasing a bootleg copy that I was finally able to watch these wonderful shows – JA Editor/Randy]. Since the show could not get a prime time slot, and only a kid’s television time slot (i.e. Saturday morning), the language and jokes had to be toned down a bit to not only appeal to that audience but to be acceptable fare for children. Of course I am reminded of Jay Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle which was a cartoon show that appeals to adults and children even today. In many ways Sam & Max television, comics, novelizations and games have that same appeal.
Serialized online downloadable games are a bit like a television cartoon show, a bit like a comic book, and a bit like a computer game. The comedy team of Sam & Max are just as loveable as Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, two other over-the-hill road trippers, but we are not sure why because Sam & Max are not typically loveable characters. Their repartee is definitely loaded with mayhem, but what they actually do is not nearly as onerous. Perhaps the key to their likeableness is that their bark is worse then their bite, and most of us are drawn to the witty patter that they put out continuously.
The plot of The Mole the Mob and the Meatball is quite simple: the chief calls the duo to investigate the mole they sent into the toy mafia which was introduced in the previous episode. The toy mafia is once again messing with mind control, which might get boring if they keep using the same shtick over and over again. Of course good comedy can be gained from running jokes so I guess it depends on the creativity of the people working on the series. The creative juices seem to run high so what otherwise would have been a detriment is turned into a bonus in the current episode.
I don’t want to give too much away about the plot. There are some unexpected twists and turns that you paradoxically come to expect from a Sam & Max plot. Fans of the series will not be disappointed.
The setting has the duo starting out at their office again answering the phone from the commissioner who assigns the case. Much of the problem solving can be achieved by just going everywhere and doing everything which means that you must go back to the office, Bosco’s inconvenience store and Sybil’s old office and new career as a professional trial witness. A new character, named simply Listening Device, is introduced into the series and we will be seeing more of him like the boxing glove in future episodes (I peeked!).
All the game mechanics are the same as in previous episodes with save/load, options, new game, and quit activated on boot up after the loading of the beginning sequence and the credits the first time you play the game. Save/load accesses multiple four picture tabbed screens where you can save and load all the games you want. Options allow you to toggle full screen, high or low graphics quality, screen resolutions of 800x600, 1024x768 and 1280x960. I played the game on 800x600 and the three dimensional animation was smooth and the 3D graphics were more than satisfactory.
Sound options include separate volume levels for music, voice and effects. I find that I have to adjust every game to my special needs. I need to crank up voice volume so that I can hear the conversations clearly. The game also has subtitles, which I turn on, making the game less of a struggle to hear the action. Pop-up text from the characters can be turned on and off which I also find useful. I kept the warp drive turned off because I still don’t know what the warp drive on will do.
The new game option allows you to run the beginning credits and beginning sequence again should you want to show your friends and family. And you can use ‘quit’ to return to the fatally twisted world that we live in and leave the twisted fantasy world behind.
The music by Jared Emerson-Johnson continues to be excellent as are the sound effects and background noise.
In summary, Sam & Max: Season 1, Episode 3: The Mole, The Mob and the Meatball is more of the same mayhem, and sarcastic wit that we have come to expect. The game will provide you with at least 2 hours of game play which for $8.95 is bit pricey. You can get the entire season of six episodes for $34.95 and save a buck or two or you can wait until Dreamcatcher/The Adventure Company releases the Sam & Max Season One compilation later this year. Here is hoping that more roadside attractions meet up with the dynamically twisted duo.
Final Grade: A