Sam and Max: The Devil’s Playhouse Episode 3

9.0 Overall Score

Written by on June 23, 2010 in

I was a dame in search of adventure.  Brought low by the dark and dreary every day world I needed the amusement that could only be found on the screen of my computer.  Here I found a team of two PI’s. One is a six foot tall dog in a baggy suit and fedora with a gift for hard-boiled Sam Spade monologues, the other is a three foot tall bundle of hyperkinetic mischief in the form of a rabbit-like creature.  Together they are Sam & Max, the Freelance Police. This series is best known for is their use of pop cultural references and witty banter in the pursuit of justice or, at the very least, a good laugh.  Being a newcomer to the series myself, I was concerned that I would be lost in the story.  The good news is that the narrator and the dialog do a good job of catching you up on any relevant events from previous episodes.

The first examples of pop cultural references come in the form of storytelling styles.  A Rod Serling-like narrator sets the scene using a style that is part twilight zone and part outer limits.   Then the adventure begins in a dark film noir motif complete with extended car rides through a sea of floating neon signs and Sam’s reflective narration.  Later the story takes on the brighter story style for good measure.  Stir all these styles together and you get Telltale Games’ third installment of a five part monthly episodic series entitled ‘The Devil’s Playhouse’. This episode begins where the last episode left off.  I would say ‘spoiler alert’ but the name of the episode gives away the ending of episode two and this episode’s main plotline.  Someone has stolen Max’s brain and Sam must find it and reunite it with Max’s newly empty body.  This episode brings back the villains from the previous two episodes.  There is the evil space ape Skun-ka’pe from episode one and the diabolical Monsieur Papierwaite from episode two.  There are also a slew of supporting characters that return to help or hinder your progress through the game.  There is Frankie the two-bit rat, literally.  The Diner owner Grandpa Stinky at his cranky best and Girl Stinky going out of her way to do as little as humanly possible.  Sal is back as the cockroach and ex-cook at Stinky’s Diner turned security guard.  There are also appearances by the C.O.P.S. computers, the molemen, the detective turned mentor Flint Paper, as well as cameos by several other kooky characters from previous episodes.  The young pharaoh Sammun-Mak also returns as a major player in this episode.  A new and mysterious character known only as Professor Norrington is introduced in his episode.  For most of the episode his role is shrouded in mystery deeper and darker than the bottom of Max’s newly brainless skull.

Gameplay is the same as the previous episodes.  It is a point and click story driven adventure game where you find clues and solve puzzles.  As Sam your main tool to solve crimes is interrogation and investigation through a decision wheel.  You must choose the right interrogation method at the right time to get information from your sources.  Sam starts the game with a vengeance as an angry PI with a short fuse.  He is not afraid to coerce information from perps with his trusty .44 revolver.  Other interrogation techniques include interruption, accusing the suspect of lying, and even a dark noir monologue to set the mood.  As the game progresses his outlook takes a dramatic change as we are transported into an alternate reality that I will let you experience for yourself.    I will leave you with the hint that Sam’s dogged obedience is misplaced in the new world order.  In the second half of the game Max must deal with Sam’s delusions in his journey to reunite his brain with his body.  Confusing?  Sure, but it all adds to the zany story.

Max’s character takes on even more dramatic physical changes throughout this episode.  Max starts out as a brainless body, literally.  Sam investigates his pal’s unfortunate fate and must settle for a temporary fix and fills Max’s body with the brain of another.  Once Max can move under someone else’s brainpower, he has access to several psychic tools that will help the dynamic duo solve the crime.  While in ‘Max Mode’ you have access to tools in the form of iconic toys from childhood.  There is the Transporter that looks like the talking toy phones some of us had as kids.  A Rhinoplasty device is Silly Putty that can transform Max into any inanimate object he can transfer onto the putty.  And, lastly, there is a Future Viewer in the form of a classic View Master that can see the future of selected characters in the game.  All of these tools can be selected using a giant See ‘n Say toy.  About halfway through the episode Max’s powerless brain is recovered and his body is taken into the altered reality I discussed previously.  As you progress through this portion of the episode, you will regain the use of Max’s psychic tools.   Other options are available that help adjust gameplay for all levels of players. In the PC version I played, you can decide the level of hints that are provided and you can use your keyboard, mouse or a controller accessory.  This game will also be available for the Mac, iPad, and PSN.  The interrogation and psychic tools are used in conjunction with a variety of inventory items you collect throughout the game to solve puzzles and once again reunite Max’s body with his brain.

So what is the bottom line?  Is it a buy or a pass?  Will Max and his brain be reunited? Can Sam Snap out of his delusional haze?  Is there any pistachio ice cream left in the freezer?  Sorry, my brain took a little mini-vacation there.  Back to the original line of questioning.  I have to say that I really enjoyed this game.  Even as a stand-alone game it held my attention and the puzzles kept me intrigued.   I was eager to see what happened next in the adventure.  I love the pop cultural references that are reflected in the different styles of story- telling, the characters, and the tools used in solving the case.  If you like gritty film noir but think it needs more sarcasm and humor, if a hard boiled private eye grilling pesky perps is your idea of fun, if you enjoy old school point and click adventures…. Buy this game.  It is a solid stand-alone game and a great addition to the series.

This episode is available starting June 22nd.  For PS3 owners the full five episode series is on sale now on PSN through June 29th for $24.99 (regularly $34.99).

A copy of the game Sam & Max:  The Devil’s Playhouse Episode 3:  They Stole Max’s Brain was provided to The Married Gamers for the purpose of examination and review.

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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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