Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock Review

There was a time when point and click adventure games were all the rage, but like one-hit-wonders, things don’t last forever. Who knew that after the classic 1993 title Sam & Max Hit the Road, it would take 13 years for fans to get their hands on another Sam & Max game of its caliber? As the idiom goes, though, patience is always the key. Telltale Games fully delivers a continuation worthy of the Sam & Max name with 2006’s Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock and fans couldn’t be happier.

The plot is relatively straightforward. It starts off with Sam (the dog in the suit) and Max (the rabbit-like thing) returning with their freelance-policing gig. Old 1980’s child stars named the Soda Poppers start to appear again, and are acting rather crazy (well, crazier than Max). After some snooping around, Sam & Max uncover a mysterious video by Brady Culture, a man with a huge afro who invented a new "exercise" called "Eye-bo," which the two believe is somehow causing the strange behavior. Naturally, it’s up to the animal duo to make things right.

One rather memorable moment in the game is when the duo meets Sybil, a former tattoo artist turned psychoanalyst. After "saving" her from a Popper, Sam can get a free psychoanalysis: an inkblot test, free association or a dream analysis. All three tests are somewhat in-depth, but I assure you that the answers are absolutely hilarious, ranging from the rather clever answers to the absolute craziest answers you can imagine.

The biggest draw to the game is obviously the wit and humor. Since its last inception, fans might think the franchise would lose its credibility, but miraculously most of the humor of the 1993 title is still retained. Max’s offbeat and random comments combined with Sam’s down to earth (yet seemingly unaffected by Max’s weird behavior) style is all there. This is perfectly captured in most of their conversations; for example, in one conversation involving a dying plant in their office, Sam tells Max, "I think Hugo [the dying plant] could use some more water." Max replies, "I’m teaching him how to fetch it by himself." Little exchanges like that truly make the game enjoyable, and give it a unique quirk not seen in many games these days. Other neat quirks include Max just standing around; he’ll make armpit farts, he’ll groom himself, or just yawn. Overall, there are a lot of things you can click on, and the duo will comment on them.

Another draw is the little eye candy. Sam & Max’s office is littered with things you can gaze at. On Max’s little elementary school-like desk, a crude drawing of Sam shooting his gun is carved into the desk, while on Sam’s massive office desk a neat drawing of Max is engraved. On the nearby bulletin board (which Max describes as "where we put the papers we’ll never look at again") you can see a little puppet of Max, complete with a brown paper bag body and an adorable white bunny head. The water cooler even houses a little home for a fish, and one of the walls is littered by a bunny outline of bullet holes, which is explained through the game’s opening cut scene. On another nearby wall, there are two pictures showcasing two past zany adventures from the duo: on the moon and on their motorcycle.

The voice acting and music are top notch. Even though the original voice actors of Sam & Max did not reprise their roles, two similar-sounding folks voiced the duo, and it’s great. The music is mostly comprised of jazz, which suits the mood of the game. At times, there were little one or two second stutters in-between dialogue, which kind of breaks the moment when people are talking, but it’s generally avoidable.

All and all, the game will run between four and six hours, depending on how long you decide to look and click on everything. A lot of the dialogue and comments are nifty, and intriguing to listen to. The puzzle solving is relatively easy, and the humor is the major draw to the game. Advertising finally paid off, as I signed up for a GameTap subscription ($9.95 monthly fee) to try this game out. This episode, along with future episodes, will debut on GameTap first, and then on Telltale’s site two weeks later. The second episode in the latest Sam & Max saga is scheduled for release on December 21.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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