The Devil’s Playhouse (episode five): review

The third season of Sam & Max has been great fun so far… apart from the largely laugh – free third episode. The mistakes in this misstep are arguably attributable to the decision to cut Max from most of the script. At the end of episode four, Sam was again separated from his psychotic little buddy. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst, we dived into the fifth and final episode…

The one positive that’s been running throughout the series is variety, which is still present and correct here. Although the action starts in and around Boscotech, new locations are soon introduced via giant monster Max’s innards. Telltale have clearly paid attention to criticism from previous years that their games can rely too heavily on repetition, so kudos to them for that. Two locations from previous episodes do make an appearance later on – but only briefly.

As has happened previously in the series, trying something different actually backfires at times. The fact that you have direct control over your character (as opposed to the traditional point and click format) is unwisely exploited in two ways. In order to progress at one point, you need to completely ignore your puzzle solving instincts in favour of – lil’ tip for you here – repeatedly bumping into some free standing shelving. No, really.

The second ill advised wander from puzzle solving comes when the story allows you direct control of Giant Evil Max. Taking the reins of a gigantic city – terrorising beast should be fun; but instead, it translates to stomping around bland looking buildings (very) slowly until you stumble upon the correct location/s. Less Godzilla, more Godpleasemakeitstop.

Look out! It's a... erm, its an, um...

These criticisms are easy to overlook thanks to most of the rest of the episode, which – hurrah! – still features Max. Well… sort of. Giant Evil Max produces ‘spores’, which are basically floating, flaming, talking Max heads. Telltale get to mess around with the Sam & Max partnership, the player still gets excellently written and perfectly acted lines from Max… everybody’s happy.

In fact the script is mostly quite good, even if it does at one point resort to fat jokes (come on Telltale; fat jokes?). It’s also full of quick references to previous episodes, and twists that you almost certainly won’t see coming. But therein lies the final criticism – the love/hate relationship we have with the ending.

The series finishes on an unexpected, twisted, and slightly sinister note. Perfect Sam & Max material. However, the last minute twists and turns of the story hinge on some hard to swallow behaviour from Max, so out of character that we waited for a joke that never came. Logic and consistency are two concepts that Sam & Max games have always gleefully moulded to their liking – but that’s no excuse for an attempt to turn a surreal comedy into a surreal melodrama.

"Come help me, my iPad's just crashed!"

It’s a strangely satisfying ending nonetheless – and that just about sums up the whole episode. It may not have the consistent hilarity of episode four, or the admirably inventive puzzles of episodes one and two; but it’s a great ride, and one that demands the cry: We want more Sam and Max!!


And just in case you missed our reviews of the first four episodes…

The Penal Zone

The Tomb of Sammunmak

They Stole Max’s Brain!

Beyond the Alley of the Dolls

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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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