Last month marked the first time we were able to play a brand new Sam & Max adventure in more than a dozen years. It was the beginning of a full season of humorous adventures that would transport our favorite crime fighting duo into the 21st century. Despite its short length and easy puzzles, Culture Shock proved that the formula was still relevant in a world of YouTube and microtransactions. Now Sam and Max are back with their second episode, Situation Comedy, and they’re about to take on your favorite television shows.
I’m sure this goes without saying, but in the six weeks since Sam & Max Episode 1 debuted not much has changed. Situation Comedy offers the same art style, the same cast of characters and the same sense of humor. This is still a game where you guide Sam (the dog) and Max (a smart ass rabbit thing) through a set of comical situations that ultimately helping you solve the show’s mystery. Of course, the fact that all of this is the same is good news, since the last episode was a whole lot of fun.
Situation Comedy pits our furry heroes against a wacky talk show host who appears to be holding her audience hostage. This sets Sam and Max out on an adventure that will see them audition for a sitcom, sing in an American Idol-style reality show, take part in a game show and meet a whole lot of memorable TV stars along the way. As you might imagine, this television-centric episode allows both Sam and Max to make all kinds of jokes about real people and real TV shows.
While the episodes don’t appear to directly connect to each other, there are a few interesting references to the first episode. Sam and Max’s neighbors are still part of the game, as well as the child-like Soda Poppers. There are also a few other sight gags for people that played through the first episode, including a few funny jokes about Brady Culture and Eye-Bo. But don’t worry, those that are new to Sam & Max will still be able to jump right in and understand what is going on. The connections this game makes to the first episode have very little impact on the overall story; it’s more of less just funny comments that are made in passing. It’s also worth mentioning that the returning characters have changed in some rather bizarre ways, something that makes me just a little more excited about the future Sam & Max installments.
Since this game shares so much with the first episode it’s easy to complain about the same problems. Those that were expecting a longer experience from Episode 2 will be disappointed; the game is still only a few hours in length. Also, the puzzles are generally pretty easy to figure out if you have some experience with this style of point and click graphic adventures. There may be a few sections that trip you up (such as the trial and error-style game play required for the sitcom audition), but most players will be able to figure out the puzzles in short order.
Another thing that is the same is the great sense of humor. It’s rare to find a video game that manages to not only have a great script but also find actors that have good comic timing. Situation Comedy is full of great lines, a number of which nearly had me in tears I was laughing so hard. There are some conversations that are so funny I wished I had a rewind button so that I could hear the lines again without me laughing. The world of television is the perfect set for the type of comedy Sam & Max is known for. The only disappointment I have is that they didn’t hit nearly enough television clichés. I would have loved to have seen Sam & Max tackle Fear Factor, a one camera work-place comedy, or maybe an animated cartoon.
The graphics in Situation Comedy are full of detail and comic touches. Episode 2 does reuse some of the locations we saw in the first episode, but that’s the kind of thing that’s common for episodic television shows … so why not an episodic video game? The bulk of the game is set in WARP, the crazy TV station that looks more public access than network affiliate. Ultimately the graphics haven’t change much (if any) since the first episode, but you’ll hardly find yourself complaining when you see the silly animation and great set pieces.
After two Sam & Max episodes it’s safe to say that fans of the series should be counting their blessings that Telltale Games has decided to resurrect the series. While these two episodes are superbly crafted and full of witty writing, I have a hunch we have yet to see the best of Sam & Max’s new adventures. I can’t wait to see what the crime fighting duo does next, especially if they keep using older characters in supporting roles. Whether or not we’re building to something great, Situation Comedy is a fantastic adventure that will satisfy just about everybody who is into this type of game. If you had a good time with Culture Shock then you owe it to yourself to experience episode 2. Now bring on episode 3!