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Sam & Max
301: The Penal Zone
Score: 9.0 / 10
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
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 &
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
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.
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
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.