The Devil’s Playhouse (episode two): review

The latest season of Sam & Max got off to a good start with ‘The Penal Zone’ (ahem). The quality of episodic games can vary wildly however, and Telltale Games have often been afflicted with this problem themselves. So does The Tomb Of Sammunmak grab onto one of Max’s lucky rabbit feet, or does it smell like dog’s… dinner?

The story picks up exactly where episode one left off, With Sam and Max confronted with what seem to be their own skeletons. An unexplained yet terribly convenient projector and roll of film reveals what’s going on.. to an extent. The whole story behind the skeletons, and a little more information about the mysterious Devil’s Toybox, is then pieced together over the course of the episode.

"He's just projecting his anger." "What an interesting project." "To project and serve." FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET A NEW CAPTIONIST!!!

There are a total of four reels for the projector, each one playing a different chunk of the chain of events leading up to the skeletons. Sam and Max can take direct control of their ancestors in the movie reels via Max’s new power of astral projection (ho ho). ‘Sameth’ has a moustache and ‘Maximus’ will on a few occasions turn into a cow, but apart from that it’s business as usual. Sameth and Maximus even sound exactly the same as our heroes, which is convenient for a) character empathy, and b) the Telltale Games budget.

It’s possible to complete the four reels in chronological order – there’s a trophy for doing so in the PS3 version – but you don’t have to. You will have to switch between reels several times though, in a vague approximation of the use of ‘future vision’ in the first episode. For example, at one point in the first reel, you need to give an idea for a brilliant new toy. In order to find out what this idea is however, you must progress far into the third reel where the toy is already being developed.

As in The Penal Zone, the script gets off to a slow start in terms of good jokes. Once it gets going however it’s far more hit than miss, and is undeniably Sam & Max. One of the highlights is surely the brief yet hilarious description of the board game Monopoly, which we shan’t spoil by repeating here. The sharp script works in an unholy alliance with very smart gameplay and gameplay design. Each of the areas in the four reels is quite small; but by making the player switch between reels on a regular basis (which in turn unlocks new characters, dialogue choices and rooms) Telltale Games have grabbed repetition and boredom, smashed their heads together, and thrown the lifeless corpses into a gigantic blender. And allowed the player to help.

That, sadly, is not Mr Bean.

You will most likely find that, even if you switch the hint system off altogether, the solution to virtually every puzzle will present itself to you straight away. That isn’t important. What’s important is that the puzzles are funny, they’re clever, and the whole episode is damn fun. This is a game to be played with, laughed at, and enjoyed.

The Tomb Of Sammunmak will last you approximately three hours, which isn’t very long. However, that’s three hours packed full of great jokes, clever game design, and a proudly displayed love for joy and laughter.

And, now and again, very childish humour.


5/5

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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