For those unfamiliar with the series, Sam & Max was a zany point-and-click adventure following the exploits of the private detectives Sam (a wise-cracking, suit-and-fedora wearing canine) and his partner in crime, Max (an insane lagomorph that makes the guardian from Monty Python and the Holy Grail look like a cuddly rabbit). Originally a 2D game from the ‘golden age’ of point-and-click (Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and The Grim Fandangos), it was resurrected in 2006 in three brilliant seasons comprising of multiple episodes by the now defunct Telltale Games. Now, courtesy of a small team of the original developers, and with the blessing of Sam & Max’s creator, Steve Purcell, all six episodes of the first season have been given a remaster and bundled together in one shiny new package: Sam & Max Save the World.
As a remaster, they’ve done an exceptional job. Along with new voice acting (for the character Bosco), remastered audio and music (including new music by composer Jared Emerson-Johnson), better animations and cutscenes, they’ve also given the game a major graphical overhaul. This includes higher resolutions, sharper textures, a whole new lighting system, better character models and a more cartoonish look. Have you ever experienced the strange thing when you think back to an old game, and remember it looking better than it actually was? Well, Sam & Max Save the World does just that. If you’ve played the original games, when you first see the updated version you mightn’t notice too much of a difference. However, when the original and the remaster are put side by side, you realise just how much of an improvement the remaster is, all whilst keeping it feeling the same (that is, they haven’t gotten in and ruined the style as is the case in some remasters). As a remaster, it manages to faithfully recreate the games whilst improving and updating it, which is no small feat. For people who love the original games, these give compelling reasons to go back and enjoy them again.
For the new players who are not so interested in the improvements but the games themselves, there’s plenty to recommend Sam & Max Save the World, as the games it pulls together are, without a doubt, some of the best and funniest point-and-click adventures around.
Each episode pits the dysfunctional duo against a particular villain – whether it’s an evil plot by a robot Abraham Lincoln or the Toy Mafia (teddy-bear costume wearing gangsters who run Ted E Bear’s Mafia Free Toyland and Casino) – which all tie together in the final climactic episode. How much fun you get out of it really depends on your taste in comedy. If your taste is for something like Utopia, then perhaps look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you enjoy the craziness and fast wit of the old Marx Brothers films, then you’ll definitely find a lot to like.
There’s a huge amount of fun to be had here, simply exploring the world and the cast of oddball characters who inhabit it, and how they evolve in each episode, such as the paranoid Bosco who runs Bosco’s Inconvenience Store, or Sybil Pandemik who has a new profession each episode (my favourite being the change from psychoanalyst to tabloid publisher as she had gotten so much good material...). The banter between characters is a joy to hear, and the puzzles (and their logical, yet often silly solutions) are a delight. Also, I can’t talk about these games without mentioning the terrific music. The tunes and jingles, whether it’s the jazz-style theme music, Ted E Bear’s catchy jingle that you’ll find yourself humming again and again, or the War Song parody, are all just good bits of music, fitting perfectly with the style of the game and are simply fun to listen to.
Whether you’re a fan of the series, love point-and-click games, have never played one before, or are looking for something that everyone can enjoy, Sam & Max Save the World is definitely highly recommended. It’s a brilliant remaster of exceptional games, and I can only hope they carry on their work and remaster seasons two and three! ■