So here we have it, the explosive final episode of Sam & Max Season 1. After five solid episodes this finale is here to wrap up all of the loose ends, explain all of the character's motives, and offer up a few more witty one-liners. While it's definitely not the best episode in the series, Bright Side of the Moon is a great way to end a stellar season and an adventure game that is well worth the two or three hours that it will take you to complete it.
The problem with Bright Side of the Moon is not that it has painfully simplistic controls and a story that is over far too soon, for the most part those things are fine. The problem as far as I can tell is that it's almost impossible to review this game's story without dipping into heavy spoiler territory. Even before the opening credits roll a major character is unmasked as the season's central bad guy, and from that moment on this game answers questions, resolves character conflicts, and gives you that sense of closure that you expect from a season finale. Unfortunately going into too much detail in this review will definitely spoil the experience for anybody who hasn't had a chance to play this final chapter (or any of the other chapters for that matter).
Without spoiling the entire season arc, Bright Side of the Moon is the episode where our heroes, Sam the crime-fighting dog and Max the smart-mouthed rabbit-thing, learn who has been behind all of the mind control schemes. From the first episode on, this Sam & Max season has been about somebody trying to gain control through hypnosis, and in this episode it's time to time to find out who ... and then kick their butt for good. Of course, that's easier said than done. Before you even have a chance to engage this mystery villain you must first learn more about a weird Scientology-like religion that all of the biggest stars (including Kevin Bacon) are into.
As usual Sam and Max are asked to do take part in a lot of crazy situations, such as taking part in a game of Tic Tac Doom (a video game that is supposed to have the world's best artificial intelligence), perform a rat in the hat magic trick, and fix up the disembodied head of Abe Lincoln with Sybil (who is coincidentally the Queen of Canada). And that's just the first few minutes of Bright Side of the Moon. Needless to say, by the end of the game you will have a better understanding of all of the reoccurring characters (from Sybil to Bosco to Jimmy the Rat) and know just who (or what) is behind all of these crazy cases that have plagued Sam and Max this season. Regardless of what you think of the series, this game definitely has a solid ending and it does a great job of wrapping up all of the loose ends.
But Bright Side of the Moon is not without some problems. One of the coolest things about the previous Sam & Max entries is that they always find a way of surprising you, yet in this game you pretty much know what's going to happen from the very beginning. That's not to say that you won't be surprised by how you get there, but since you already know who the villain is there's no big reveal. I would also add that this episode also feels shorter than usual, there's no double-sized episode here (I guess we only get that on popular TV show finales). And while the game is still humorous, Bright Side of the Moon is nowhere near as funny as some of the previous episodes (especially Reality 2.0, the season's best entry).
Thankfully that's it for the bad news, because outside of those minor complaints this final chapter is fantastic. Not only does this game tie all of the stories together (in a fun and exciting way), but it also manages to take you to brand new areas that have to be seen to be believed. As the title suggests, a good chunk of this game takes place on the moon's surface, a location you can drive to using your trusty Desoto. And while this episode is nowhere near as good as other episodes, there's no denying that the jokes about this spacey religion/cult are dead on and often very fun (to everybody that is not named Tom Cruise).
When it comes to the graphics and gameplay, Bright Side of the Moon doesn't differ at all from the previous five episodes. You still control the character by pointing and clicking, and solving puzzles is as easy as collecting items and using them at just the right time. The graphics are also quite good, even though they are not the sprite-based characters that most gamers will remember from old LucasArts adventures, that doesn't keep the character models from having that cartoony look the backgrounds from being detailed. Make no mistake about it, this is a good looking game, even if Telltale Games has been using the same engine since episode one.
Also impressive is the sound and voice acting. While the Sam and Max actors don't have as much to work with this time around, that doesn't stop them from giving their all the last few pop-culture references of the season. The music is also great, especially the final song (that plays over an extended credit sequence). Sam & Max has always had great music, so it doesn't surprise me that this entry is just as entertaining as the last five.
It's hard to say goodbye to Sam & Max for the second time. I remember loving the original game all those years ago and hoping that we'd see them again. Unfortunately it took Telltale Games more than a decade to finally deliver a real follow-up, but now that it's back I don't want to let it go. Hopefully the hiatus between seasons is short, I would hate to have to wait another ten years before somebody decided to reinvent my favorite freelance crime fighters. All in all it's been a great run, and while this ending is not the best game in the series, it's still a fun game that concludes one exciting season. Sam, Max, I'll miss you guys.
It's short, it's straightforward and it doesn't pack as many jokes as previous episodes ... but Bright Side of the Moon is still a fantastic Sam & Max episode. If you've been wondering how all of these cases link together, who all of the characters are and just what the ultimate goal of the game is, then you'll be happy to know that this chapter goes out of its way to tie up all of the loose ends. Bring on Season Two!
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