Sam & Max: Season One is the sequel (in a long and roundabout way) to 1993’s Sam & Max Hit the Road. Season One started out as an episodic adventure game series on GameTap, and then it was picked up for publication by the Adventure Company. I reviewed Episode 1: Culture Shock way back in November when it came out, but now I have the entire first season, and this review is for the game as a whole.
Season One includes six cases for Sam (a dog) and Max (a “rabbity thing”) to solve. The cases involve things like a former television star trying to hypnotize people into loving him again, a virtual reality game trying to take over the world, and a statue of Abe Lincoln trying to become president. As you might intuit at this point, Season One is not a gloomy, realistic police procedural. Sam and Max get into one crazy situation after another, but their wits and random acts of violence always see them through.
The interface for Season One is about as simple as an adventure game interface can be. You control Sam, and you left click to cause him to move, and you left click to allow him to interact with objects and other characters, including Max. In the lower left hand corner of the screen is a cardboard box that contains Sam’s possessions (which always include his gun), and clicking on the box allows you to use and examine the items that Sam has picked up. There is also a driving mini-game (where you can, among other things, pull over drivers and give them $10,000 tickets), but left clicking completely controls that as well, and so Season One is easy to play.
Probably the best thing about Season One is the dialogue. Provided that you have a somewhat warped sense of humor, the conversations between Sam, Max, and the other characters are wickedly funny, and their barbs hit a wide range of targets, from politics to computer games to television shows to Canada. Better yet, unlike some of the comedies you might have seen recently in theaters, the jokes in Season One rarely miss their marks. I laughed quite a bit while playing the game, and I suspect that it’s almost as much fun to just sit and watch it as it is to play it.
Balancing out the dialogue a bit is the fact that the interface is so simple that the puzzles in the game are pretty easy to solve. Almost all of the puzzles are inventory-based, but there are so few inventory objects to find and so few places where you can use them that most of the puzzles can be figured out without much effort, and most of the rest can be figured out through trial and error. Season One isn’t a game where you’re going to need to keep a walkthrough handy; if you really need the help, then Max can give you (reasonably subtle) clues, and that will probably jog you in the right direction.
From what I can tell, the six episodes in Season One are identical to the six episodes offered by GameTap. But the Adventure Company, perhaps sensing this problem, included a bonus CD with the game. The bonus CD contains some video shorts (which are not the same as the videos on GameTap’s Sam & Max web page), wallpapers and concept art, a soundtrack “sampler,” and more. Most of this I didn’t care about (I’m not much for DVD extras, either), but the sampler, which contains 18 tracks, is nice, provided that you like jazz music. Still, I’m a little surprised that the Adventure Company didn’t spring for a new mini-episode or something like that, because if you played the episodes on GameTap, then there isn’t much reason to buy them again now, bonus CD or not.
But overall, I found Sam & Max: Season One to be an excellent game. It is extremely well written and well acted, it looks just like a Sam & Max cartoon should, and its puzzles, while not overly complicated, at least make sense -- given the universe where you’re playing. So it’s easy for me to recommend Season One to you. If you like adventure games or comedies, then this is definitely a game you should buy. I can hardly wait for Season Two to appear.