and Max Episode 2: Situation: Comedy
Review by Scout
There's a little hole-in-the-wall Lebanese restaurant a couple
of blocks from my house. I go there once a month, regular as clockwork,
for a take-out order of their version of lamb schwarma, a delicious
dish of rice, veggies, and tender chunks of lamb with a side of
freshly baked pita bread. For eight bucks, I get almost three meals
out of it. It's always the same: tasty, satisfying, and predictable.
I never hesitate to recommend the place to anyone on the lookout
for good, no-frills Lebanese food because I know they'll leave with
a happy tummy and an undamaged wallet.
What does my love for lamb schwarma have to do with the new Sam
and Max: Situation: Comedy? Substitute Telltale for the Lebanese
joint and a Sam and Max episode for a white paper bag of
carryout, and you have my take on this series. Sam and Max are
a safe bet for any fan of third-person, comedic adventure games.
Sam and Max will leave you satisfied, fulfilled, and with
enough cash left over to pay the electric bill. Just don't go in
expecting a four-course meal with dessert, white tablecloths, soft
music, and an ever-changing menu displayed on a chalkboard.
Situation: Comedy is pretty much like its predecessor, Culture
Shock. It has the same core characters, the same
core locations, the same gameplay formula, and the same loving attention
to detail. Like Culture Shock, Situation: Comedy is fun,
intelligent, and extremely well-crafted. Telltale has honed its
operation, settled on a few tried-and-true recipes, and is now busy
dishing up servings of Sam and Max to a regular clientele.
In case you aren't familiar with the Telltale series, Sam and Max
are, respectively, a big, goofy dog in a private eye getup and a
short, certifiably insane rabbit dressed in ... well .... nothing
but its own fur. They are freelance police, meaning they have something
to do with crimes, justice, and writing their own rules. Mostly
writing their own rules. They are headquartered on the second floor
of a decrepit two-story brownstone, which is flanked on one side
by a convenience store and on the other by a tattoo artist/piercer/therapist/tabloid
publisher. Bosco, the paranoid price gouger, runs the convenience
store, and Sybil, the profession-fickle entrepreneur, runs the extattoo
parlor. Both characters are just as loony as Sam and Max and exist
to populate the neighborhood, add color, and provide a few necessary
inventory items for use later in the game. There is an old LucasArts
adventure game and a long-running comic based on Sam and Max. Steve
Purcell is the creator.
Just like Culture Shock, Situation: Comedy starts out with
a couple of puzzles set in the 'hood. Once those are resolved, Sam
and Max spend the rest of the game in the second, and main, location,
a TV studio going by the call letters of WARP. An Oprah Winfreylike
character, Myra Stump, is holding her audience hostage, giving them
free stuff against their will. Sam and Max have been called in to
break up the festivities and release the long-suffering audience.
But to free the audience they need to get on the talk show, and
to get on the talk show they need to prove their worth to Myra Stump.
This premise is the core of Situation: Comedy, and its resolution
takes up the bulk of gameplay, climaxing with Sam and Max's inevitable
appearance on Myra's talk show. While this sounds a bit generic
and dreary, it's mostly great fun and worth the 2.5 hours it takes
to play from beginning to end.
Making a return appearance from the first game are the Soda Poppers,
three washed-up child stars called Peepers, Whizzer, and Specs.
The Poppers are little media whores, seemingly ageless, changeless,
and as about as self-absorbed as media whores can be. There is also
a self-absorbed new-age mystic, a self-absorbed situation comedy
star, a pretty indifferent cow, and a self-absorbed director with
the ability to appear on any one of the connected TV sets a split
second before Sam and Max arrive. All of these shows are smoke and
mirrors with zero socially redeeming qualities, and of course Sam
and Max eat it up. They gleefully make their way from set to set,
show to show, tossing out wicked one-liners, outwitting director,
host, contestants and new-age whizzes alike in their quest to land
a spot on Myra's show. The final showdown, the big finale, is very
similar to the one we experienced in the first Sam and Max in
that once you deduce the shape of the puzzle, it's just a matter
of navigating the dialogue tree until you find the proper responses
and then it's game over and credits.
There's really not much more to say. It's only a 2.5-hour game,
after all. It's the second in the series and so suffers a bit in
comparison to the first, highly anticipated game. Even as I write
this review, the third installment has already been released and
the fourth is on its way.
There will no doubt be big retrospective reviews galore once the
series wraps up, but for now there are couple of questions that
occur to me. Is this short game worth your money? Are the rest of
the games going to follow the same formula set down by the first
two? The short answers are "it is" and "I don't know."
If you liked the first Sam and Max, you'll like this one
too. The devs tinkered a bit with the voice acting, I think, but
otherwise it's pretty much the same game except for where it's different.
Just like Culture Shock, Situation: Comedy is fun and expertly
made. Unlike Culture Shock, it's not about crazed ex-TV stars
but about crazed current TV stars. If I have any serious criticism,
it's that the writing seems to have slipped a bit. I was also initially
put off by the shameless coopting of popular, real-life TV shows,
but that quickly faded as the charm of Sam and Max took over.
There are more of these little games on the way. So how long will
the gaming public tolerate the same dish time and time again? Quite
a while, I'm guessing. If the quality holds and the ingredients
remain fresh, probably for as long as Telltale wants to keep cooking
Release Date: December 21, 2006
Four Fat Chicks Links
800 MHz (if using a video card with hardware T&L); 1.5 GHz (if
using a video card without hardware T&L) (1.5 GHz recommended)
RAM: 256 MB (512 MB recommended)
Video card: 32 MB 3D-accelerated video card
Where to Find It
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