Home
Twitter
RSS
Newsletter
Tristan Kalogeropoulos
15 Nov, 2006

Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock Review

PC Review | One sixth of a great game.
Back in 1993, when most of us were experiencing PC gaming on a 15inch boxy beige monitor, one of the most critically acclaimed point and click adventures hit our collective consciousness with an hilarious splash. Sam and Max: Hit the Road was that game. Based on an underground comic book by the creative, and slightly twisted, Steve Purcell, the game came at a time when companies were able to take risks and not rely as heavily as they do now on franchised titles. Thirteen years later we have gotten lucky and seen the revival and continuation of the Sam and Max franchise. Telltale Studios, creators of the Bone games, amongst others, have chose to breath new life into the IP in serial form, the first being Sam and Max Episode 1: Culture Shock.

The story of the Sam and Max begins with a stolen telephone and doesn't get any more sensible as you delve deeper into the game. With a plot that ends up involving an eccentric former child star attempting to take over the world using hypnosis videos masked as 'Eye-Bo' excercise instructionals, there is much ridiculousness to be revelled in. The central aspect of the game are the main characters, who are the world's only rabbit and dog pair of freelance police. Sam and Max are, less good cop/bad cop, more sardonic cool, calm and collected cop/hyperactive cutesy cop with antisocial personality disorder. The great dialogue between the two of them is one of the things that, thankfully, has remained from the first game.

These guys have a serious flair for interior decorating.

These guys have a serious flair for interior decorating.
Close
Telltale has chosen a simpler interface to the one used in Sam and Max’s previous outing. With just a stylised pointer you navigate the duo’s world. Things that can be interacted with display their name in text when hovered over and the pointer glows slightly. Clicking anywhere other than on those items that can be manipulated causes the pair of comedic law enforcers to walk to that point in the virtual world. The inventory is similarly uncomplicated. An icon of a small cardboard box constantly hovers in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. When clicked on, this box falls to its side and the inventory is expanded from left to right. This works quite effectively, especially considering the limited item count in the game (we’re not sure how this system would cope with a more extensive amount of items though). The minimal interference from the gameplay interface leaves you able to focus all your attention on what’s going on in the game and is one of the more elegant examples of how a game can be controlled.

Humour is something that can be difficult for developers to include in a game. Audience tastes differ vastly and although most people who will play the game will share some commonalities, many aspects of our personalities and experiences are vastly different. Sam and Max manages get a good variety of gags in. These range from those with a socio-political bent to sarcastic comments by the pair about each other’s character traits. There a couple of laugh out loud moments but most of the time you will find yourself chuckling along with the banter.

One of the cornerstones of an adventure game is the puzzles, and Sam and Max does a reasonable job with this. Whilst none of them should leave you stuck for hours there are a few that force some creative use of your virtual environment. Inventory items are kept to a minimum and much of the game’s challenges involve manipulating the game world rather that combining the odds and ends that you’ve picked up on your journey around town. There aren’t a great deal of puzzles to solve bit those that are a fairly fun affair. Scenes, such as one where you enter Sam’s dreamworld, allow for some interesting and way out situations.

Max is in interesting guy, one part cute one part psychopath.

Max is in interesting guy, one part cute one part psychopath.
Close
The point and click adventure gaming genre has never really demanded the most bleeding edge of computers. New advancements in graphical power have however, aided in the visual aspects of titles within this category. Sam and Max: Episode 1: Culture Shock has benefited from these graphical progressions. Coupled with some great art direction the game looks great. The setting of the game is sort of timeless and incorporates some 50’s gumshoe asthetics with some more contemporary cultural icons, such as the convenience store. Everything in the game has a sort of exaggerated visual feel, adding to the cartoonishness (not a word, we know, but you get our drift). In many ways the look of the game is closer to Steve Purcell’s comic pencil work than the original did.

The voice acting, whilst not acted by the cast of the original game, is extremely well done. Lines are delivered well and there’s no awkwardly wooden dialogue. Any issues that there are probably aided by the cartoony nature of the game and as a result those playing are able to suspend their disbelief more easily. It's not only the dialogue that's a great aural aspect of the game,Sam and Max’s music is one of the standout elements of the title. From the minute the title sequence's swing tune starts up you feel as though your in for a great time.

Don't worry little guy, the game's pretty short. I'm sure you can hold onto it until we're done.

Don't worry little guy, the game's pretty short. I'm sure you can hold onto it until we're done.
Close
Episodic content is a fairly new beast roaming the gaming landscape and it is incredibly brave of Telltale to be dipping its toe in the water to test it out here. The game is supposed to come to a grand total of six episodes, with one being released each month. Should Telltale be able to stick to this schedule and not suffer some of the disappointing delays that other episodic titles have suffered (yes, we’re looking at you Valve) the gameplay style of the point and click genre appears to lend itself well to this model of distribution. Although the game is short - incredibly so, clocking it at around 2 hours, even after investigating everything - knowing that there will be a new episode a month after playing doesn’t seem to much of a stretch to wait out. That said it would be great to be able to play through the game all in one sitting or at your on pace with a fully fledged title rather than in small chunks. The game is only available in Australia and Europe via digital distribution through Telltale’s website for US$8.95(AU$11.71/ GBP4.70) per episode or US$34.95 (AU$45.72/ GBP18.36) for all six.

Sam and Max is an extremely well developed game. Much loved when it first appeared on the scene, it is a joy to see that developers have payed attention to this fact and revived the franchise. Telltale has done a great job of recapturing the feel of LucasArts' first game. The humour is all there including the oddball cast of supporting characters. Whilst not an overly difficult or lengthy outing, Sam and Max Episode 1: Culture Shock delivers and incredibly enjoyable experience and it will be intensely interesting to see how future episodes fare.
The Score
Sam and Max Episode 1: Culture Shock is a great game. We would have liked to have seen some more difficult hurdles to overcome and maybe even an extra hours gameplay would have kept us more happy until Episode 2 comes out. If you love point and click this episodic series looks like it could be good. But if you hate the premise of episodic gaming you may want to give this game a miss. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock Content

Telltale comment on Sam & Max console rumours
21 Mar, 2007 The duo may hop to consoles.
New Sam & Max game dated
12 Sep, 2006 Sleuthing duo to make October comeback.
Sam & Max return on the cards?
02 Aug, 2005 Speculation grows as creator hints at a comeback.
10 Comments
7 years ago
I think it would be better if they released all the episodes closer together, that way you dont have to wait a long time inbetween episodes. But it still looks awesome, and cheap...
7 years ago
Tristan wrote
Back in 1993, when most of us were experiencing PC gaming on a 15inch boxy beige monitor...
15" monitor?! Luxury!

Good review! I'm looking at taking the plunge with this new fangled e-distribution thing and getting Culture Shock this weekend, sobriety permitting.
7 years ago
I like that they made this episode pretty conclusive, so I'm not waiting a month on a huuuge cliffhanger. While that can be fun, in 4 weeks time I would have probably forgotten what the cliffhanger was icon_biggrin.gif

I'm pretty pissed that non-americans miss out on the Gametap exclusive cartoons though! I might have to "Acquire" them >_>
7 years ago
Being a huge fan of the original PC title, this new episodic series looks pretty cool to me, but I think I'll wait until all 6 episodes are out so I can play through them all at the pace I want.

I wonder if they'd ever consider doing something like a boxed-set release of the complete series with a few bonus materials down the track once all the episodes have been released... kinda like a DVD boxed-set for a TV series... I know I'd be up for buying it probably...
7 years ago
That would be excellent - but I don't think I could wait that long icon_smile.gif
It's a damn good idea though, I'd get it on top of the downloads if the price was right.
7 years ago
Nice review, after playing the demo and the simplistic feel of the interface, I feel like it is something that I want to pick up more of and hopefully get all 6 episodes, which are at a pretty nice price.
7 years ago
Andronicus wrote
I wonder if they'd ever consider doing something like a boxed-set release of the complete series with a few bonus materials down the track once all the episodes have been released... kinda like a DVD boxed-set for a TV series... I know I'd be up for buying it probably...
It's not exactly what you asked, but you have the option of having a CD version sent to you after all 6 eps are released if you buy all 6 at once. I think you just pay for shipping?
7 years ago
i've been loving the first part for about a week now (when not playing WoW icon_wink.gif ). it's a great little game, and really $11 (or less, depending on the exchange rate when you buy it) isn't a huge price to see if you like it's style or not.

i did think the driving level was a little average... at best, but aside from that (so far, i'm not finished yet), it's been a great throw-back to the games i played in my early teens.

i would also love to see a collector's boxset-esque collection released upon the series' completion. i would probably fork out for that as well as the episodes as they're released.

i need to upgrade my order now, from the single episode to full season.
7 years ago
EvilHayama wrote
Andronicus wrote
I wonder if they'd ever consider doing something like a boxed-set release of the complete series with a few bonus materials down the track once all the episodes have been released... kinda like a DVD boxed-set for a TV series... I know I'd be up for buying it probably...
It's not exactly what you asked, but you have the option of having a CD version sent to you after all 6 eps are released if you buy all 6 at once. I think you just pay for shipping?
That could be great if the CD is presented well in a nice box or something...
7 years ago
Presentation smesentation. It's the game that counts. And Episode 1 was aweome. Pitty that we have to wait a couple of months for part two. It's also great value - only $36US for the entire season, which is like $45 bucks out here or something.
Add Comment
Like this review?
Share it with this tiny url: http://palg.nu/2jw

N4G : News for Gamers         Twitter This!

Digg!     Stumble This!

| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Telltale Games
Developer:
  Telltale Games
Players:
  1

Read more...
Currently Popular on PALGN
Australian Gaming Bargains - 08/12/11
'Tis the season to be bargaining.
R18+ Legislation
R18+ Legislation
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Preview
Hands on time with the game. Chat time with the CEO of CyberConnect 2.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2007
24 titles to keep an eye on during 2007.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2008
And you thought 2007 was populated.