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Available for Download Here!

 

Platform

PC

 

Genre

Adventure

 

Publisher

Telltale Games

 

Developer

Telltale Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

April 15, 2010

 

 

- Much-improved presentation and smoother gameplay beginning with an impressive, high-quality opening and also including a great enhancement to the game’s controls

 

 

- As always, some of the puzzle solutions can be confusingly difficult

 

 

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Sam & Max 301: The Penal Zone

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

sam & max the penal zone          sam & max the penal zone

 

An insane purple-ape alien that’s hell-bent on controlling the universe. Talking alien brains. Ghostly scientists. A weirdo Secret Service agent. Cultist mole men. One crazy rabbit (who’s the current president of the United States) that also happens to discover he has psychic powers like teleportation and the Nostradamus ability of

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seeing into the future. His canine partner, the second half of the Freelance Police duo. Just your run-of-the-mill collection of nondescript characters – yeah, right.

Once again, a Sam & Max point & click adventure game has a hilarious cadre of looney oddballs coupled with another riotous story full of rib-tickling humor in the zany first episode of the third “season” – The Devil’s Playground of Telltale Games’ Sam &

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Max adventures, The Penal Zone.

Sam and Max have had plenty of bizarrely funny adventures throughout their first two episodic “seasons” of classic point & click adventuring brought back into prominence by Telltale Games. As evidenced in The Penal Zone, gamers should expect that same high-quality storytelling and wacky adventuring once again.

This season begins with Sam and Max aboard a spaceship that’s piloted by the evil alien Skun-ka’pe (or Skunkape, as the Freelance Police refer to him, as he is a purple gorilla-like creature with a white striped hairdo). There’s also plenty of previous two season’s characters are in the first episode (Stinky, Mama Bosco, Superball, Harry the Moleman although paranoid Bosco sadly doesn’t). Seems Skunkape is searching for an artifact that will give him unbelievable powers that he’ll use for universal domination. But Sam and Max plan on thwarting that plan. And they’ll try doing it using Max’s newfound psychic abilities that gamers will use in Max Mode, a great new addition that’s just a part of the slick, new, user-friendly gameplay interface that really improves the quality of controls better than any previous Telltale Games point & click adventure title.

In Max Mode, gamers can often take the gameplay perspective from Max’s view instead of the usual Sam. Toys are the vessels of Max’s powers – from the Devil’s toy box. A Toy phone gives Max teleporting skills that rival Star Trek, silly putty gives Max the ability to transform into the shape of inanimate objects, and with a deck of cards Max now has fortuneteller prowess to see into the future. This future sight is particularly interesting, as Sam and Max will need to look into the future to gain puzzle-solving knowledge in the present. It’s a great addition to the gameplay.

 

sam & max the penal zone          sam & max the penal zone


This Max Mode isn’t the only new enhanced gameplay and control element. There’s also the easier-to-navigate dialog menu, which makes it much, much simpler to go throughout the many possible dialog options necessary to move the story – the typical hilarious and well-written story forward and acquire useful clues for puzzles. Unfortunately, the puzzles are still a mixed collection of easy, somewhat challenging and just confusingly hard-to-solve.

While in-game visuals remain largely unchanged (and that’s certainly not a negative), slick new introductory and closing scenes hosted by a mysteriously dapper-dressed fellow that is a complete homage to the old, old classic television show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” from the 1950s is television-quality itself.

Surely, any gamers that have played previous seasons of Sam & Max would expect that same level of entertaining characters, solid-though-zany storyline and laugh-out-loud hilarity and gameplay the episodic games are known for. But with a great new graphical presentation and the immensely upgraded gameplay interface that really improves the gameplay, the first episode of the third Sam & Max season is an entirely unexpected gaming treat.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(June 24, 2010)

 

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