Michael Kontoudis
25 May, 2010

Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - Episode 2: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak Review

PS3 Review | Telltale signs of greatness.
Just last month, Telltale Games offered gamers the opportunity to revisit two of the most beloved characters in the industry with the release of the first installment of the dynamic duo’s latest episodic adventure, The Devil’s Playhouse. Sam and Max, the so-called ‘Freelance Police’, got off to a terrific start, packing the requisite laughs and puzzles into a tidy three-to-four morsel which had us salivating at the prospect of what was to come. Now, with the release of Episode 2: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak on Playstation Network, Telltale hopes to up the ante with more gags, better brainteasers, and a continuation of the silly-yet-interesting narrative threads it began in its previous release. So does this latest foray into the zany world of Sam & Max capitalise on the rich potential of its forbearer, or does it succumb to the accursed sophomore slump?

I have a bad feeling about this, little buddy.

I have a bad feeling about this, little buddy.

Picking up immediately where Episode 1: The Penal Zone left off, The Tomb of Sammun-Mak finds the titular twosome in the company of the Devil’s Toybox, an ancient chest which holds dark and powerful secrets, and the skeletal remains of their ancestors, Sameth and Maximus. After using Max’s newfound psychic abilities to bond with an archaic film projector, the Freelance Police find themselves drawn into the past lives of their aforesaid ancestors, chronicling the past events which lead Sameth and Maximus to discover the mysterious Devil’s Toybox. The Tomb of Sammun-Mak boasts a wonderfully unique structure based on the conceit that Sam and Max can (psychically) travel freely among the events and places recorded in the various film reels, solving problems in one to progress in another. One early example sees Sameth and Maximus trying to escape an Egyptian temple at the chronological climax of their adventure, but being unable to on account of their lack of knowledge of hieroglyphics. By using Max’s powers to switch reels to an earlier time, the duo can uncover the mystery of the hieroglyphics by talking to a particular character, thereby allowing them to return to the future and further their progress. The cleverness of the episode’s structure, and the non-linearity of the tale makes for one of the freshest and most entertaining episodic chunks of gaming Telltale has ever produced, and its lively, buoyant atmosphere charmingly and effectively channels the old-style movie serials of days gone by.

The bevy of kooky and memorable cast of characters is a particular standout in this latest episode, with returning characters such as the hilarious Baby Amelia Earhart mixing with a host of well-written newcomers to provide what is easily the most rich and intriguing of Sam & Max episodes. The writing is whip-smart, the scenarios are compelling and inventive, and best of all, the puzzles are as satisfying and inventive as one would hope. While The Penal Zone introduced players to a range of Max’s psychic powers, The Tomb of Sammun-Mak actually introduces more powers for Max to play with without repeating any of its predecessor’s tricks. It’s fair to assume that by season’s end, the range of tools and tricks available to the player will be such that the brainteasers on show will be intricate, multi-faceted affairs.

Meet Sameth and Maximus.

Meet Sameth and Maximus.

The Tomb of Sammun-Mak also boasts the distinction of being Telltale’s most visually impressive title. The developer’s artists have gone to town with the period locales and dusty palette, painting each of the episode’s many locations in golden hues which differentiate them from the standard futuristic or ‘street-based’ sets which normally dominate Sam & Max titles. Voice acting is as spectacular as always, although it is fair to say that this episode is not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as the first episode of the season. Otherwise, the soundscape is dominated by gentle, twinkling 1940s-style piano riffs and jazzy cues which help to set this adventure’s unique mood and atmosphere. Overall, The Tomb of Sammun-Mak is a handsome production, and Telltale deserves kudos for releasing such an attractive piece of downloadable gaming on such a short schedule without recourse to reusing assets.

Most gamers know where they stand when it comes to the divisive point-and-click adventure format; for those who are relishing the resurgence of the genre, The Tomb of Sammun-Mak is a must-play experience. Snappy puzzles, a solid interface and a charming story makes episode two of The Devil’s Playhouse a good choice for anyone open to the idea that downloadable gaming can be more than reflex-heavy arcade revivals and map-packs for first person shooters. Telltale has obviously found their point-and-click-groove, and fans of the genre will be in for a treat if the season’s momentum is maintained.
The Score
Not to be missed by fans of point-and-click adventuring, The Tomb of Sammun-Mak represents the very best of Sam & Max, boasting ingenious puzzles and a surplus of imagination. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 years ago
Can't wait til I get to Season 3!!! PixieGirl told me how great Season 3 is so far (how it is more funnier) and I'm up to Season 2 Ep 5 half way!!!

Glad to see Sam and Max is still doing well icon_biggrin.gif
3 years ago
I just started playing this one after finished Ep1 icon_biggrin.gif

The first episode and this one are very different compared to the last seasons and a lot more wackier so far! Sometimes a little too wacky, but the humor seems to be better in my opinion (not that the last seasons weren't really funny too!) and I find myself just frequently laughing while playing. icon_biggrin.gif I like how they keep trying new ideas to keep it feeling fresh. I love Sam & Max!! <3
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