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Sam & Max: Culture Shock Impressions

October 19, 2006 By Glenn Turner

Sam & Max Shirt Print

I'm really not exactly sure how (or even if) we'll be dealing with individual Sam & Max episodes, but I figured why not scribble down some late-night thoughts (posted mid-afternoon, naturally) now that I've finished the first episode? Really, it's quite excellent. While I am one of the few unabashed fans of Telltale's prior serial attempt, Bone, you can really see how they've grown since The Great Cow Race. They've upped the visual ante, with smoother, crisper, and generally more cartoony graphics (although I still wonder why they didn't go the cel-shaded route), the brassy soundtrack is immaculately conceived and executed, and the dialogue is whipsmart and well up-to-par with the 'franchise'. The puzzles are cohesive and sensible, while still managing to be absurd, and control is straight-forward, albeit somewhat limited.

If I were to voice a complaint, it's that some gags in the game seem like easy (and dated) marks. Jokes derived from Tae Bo? Urine humor? Troubled child actors? In the grand scheme of the episode it works but, at first I was a little put-off, and hoped for something a little less puerile and/or stale.

Additionally, some of the supporting characters aren't exceptionally memorable and fail to resonate, especially Sybil Pandemik, the mechanic, tattoo artist, psychoanalyst. She seems a bit forced, and her take on psychoses definitely pale to the more imaginative Psychonauts. Her character design, and that of her office, fail to sparkle as well.

But ultimately, you're playing a Sam & Max game, not a Sybil Pandemik game. And you're paying to hear Sam & Max do what they do best: banter, and this game has some of the best banter available on the market right now. For that alone it's well-worth the $9 price tag (or jumping on the GameTap bandwagon, which just gets better and better).

Lastly, yes, like Bone, it's only a few hours long. But it's one episode out of six. You don't criticize a television show for only being an hour (or half-an-hour) long every week, do you? Do you criticize a film for clocking in under three hours? Culture Shock is well-paced – it doesn't drag, it doesn't feel rushed, and it's sensibly priced for its length. Sounds fair to me.

Here's hoping the second episode comes out in one month as promised!

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1 comment for ‘Sam & Max: Culture Shock Impressions’

#1 Soup Oct 20, 2006 02:17am

The Geek! When oh when will they bring bck The Geek?