Sam & Max Episode 201: Ice Station Santa Review

I remember the same time last year, I found Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock — a seemingly ambitious game with lofty credentials to uphold due to a stern community — in my inbox to review. At the time, I only knew about the game based on name alone; I admit, I never played Sam & Max: Hit the Road and I definitely should. I also wasn’t crazy about adventure games, but I did enjoy them from time to time. To my surprise, however, Culture Shock was a hoot and the results of the series’ first season proved it to be a hit.

Now, just six months since Season 1’s finale, comes Season 2’s debut episode, Ice Station Santa. Eagerly jumping into the episode was a particularly easy task since I’ve been anticipating the game’s release for quite some time. Even though this year has certainly seen its share of awesome games, I kept Ice Station Santa safe from the game onslaught, ensuring it a spot in my playing schedule.

As expected, the basic gameplay remains largely the same, but contains new puzzles and a new narrative. One of the main puzzles in this game is to search for four action figures. The puzzle fits with the overall theme of the episode, which is Santa going nuts. You get to visit a few new places, including the North Pole and a Diner that replaces Sybil’s unemployment. You’ll definitely notice the subtle jabs to reality, such as Torture Me Elmer, so trust me, the humor remains great.

I found that since this episode is the second series’ debut, a decently sized portion is spent re-establishing characters and introducing various game mechanics. While this approach was expected to accomodate new players, for those who are experienced adventure gamers or past Season 1 vets, it may feel a bit restricted. This was the same for Culture Shock back in Season 1; heck, the first puzzle from Culture Shock is featured in Ice Station Santa as a tutorial. Since Season 2 is a monthly episodic release, my guess is that Telltale wanted to add more “newer” content but ran into time constraints.

Telltale did add a few handy gameplay tweaks, however, such as the ability to pause during cutscenes and not opening the game with credits. After playing Ice Station Santa, I can definitely tell Telltale is molding the series to mirror mini-TV segments. When you load up the game, you’re immediately shown a brief cutscene and thrust straight into the action. After solving a brief puzzle, the opening credits display, much like a TV-show.

Another new and excellent addition is the hint system. You can choose between a few difficulty settings at the start of the game and if you happen to get stuck at something in-game (or just stand around), a present character will say a hint. Depending on the difficulty setting, the hint will range from fairly ambiguous to downright obvious.

As for the negatives, the episode’s gameplay time is still short when compared to other games’ standards, but compared to Season 1 it’s about the same — 4-6 hours. Also, the aforementioned time constraints caused some admirable characters being scaled back to minor supporting characters.

Much of the humor and gags return with Season 2; Sam and Max are as funny as ever, and the laughs don’t get old as long as you prefer their style of humor. In other words, fans of Season 1 (or just comedic adventure gamers) will definitely find a wonderful game with Ice Station Santa. Everything that was great in Season 1 returns, and while the new additions may not be major, they are noticeable.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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