Sam & Max 203: Night of the Raving Dead




Genre:   Comic Adventure

Developer:   Telltale Games

Publisher:    GameTap, Telltale Games

Released:  February 2008

PC Requirements:   See end of review


Additional Screenshots





by Inferno


“We're Buccaneers! We used to have mundane office jobs, working in

cubicles with water coolers and coffee cups with clever slogans and those

wacky calendars with photos of diseased-looking chimps wearing neckties...”

Once again it’s time to hit the road with the infamous Telltale Games crew as they present their latest offering to the adventure gaming community: “Night of the Raving Dead.” Complete with wacky zombies, a redheaded vampire and a talking chicken. Originally I had approached this game with my nose in the air and head full of more “serious” horror and mysterious sleuthing fare. After all, my tastes run to the great detectives of literature: Sherlock Holmes and Poirot and the horror of H. P. Lovecraft… certainly not an adventure series about a rather large scruffy yellow dog and a naked bunny with anger management issues. Why, the idea is just too hilarious to imagine. (The operative words here being “hilarity” and “imagination”). However, from the instant that the game was loaded, I’m here to say that the game did not disappoint. What I got was a devil of a time.

“Wait, wait…do the whole thing!”

The story begins somewhere in the middle as Sam & Max, the Freelance Police, are in a very tight spot. As they ponder their imminent demise, Sam harkens back to the beginning of their story. We flash back to the intrepid duo in their ragtag office just back from Easter Island and their latest caper. Apparently Max has become a high priest and is taking his ritual bath in a ceremonial urn filled with holy water. As he bathes, he begins to have a vision of ringing bells and the undead. Nope, it was just the phone ringing and your garden variety zombie come for a visit. What? It seems that “there be monsters here”! Thus begins the Freelance Police’s latest episode and my wild rollercoaster ride into their world of raucous mayhem and insanity.

Not being a Sam & Max fan previously, I had no idea what to expect from this adventure. But I must say that I was instantly surprised. The developers have a terrific scheme going on here. The artwork and dialogue is snappy and uproarious. In fact I was sucked into the game world so quickly that I was deep inside the story before there was time to realize it.    

“YOU are responsible for my appearance!
YOU set in motion the horrible events
leading to the turn of fate which resulted in the twist of

destiny creating the grisly countenance you see before you!”

The setup for Night of the Raving Dead is bright and cheery. It’s almost a mini-game in itself. Here the offerings are a windowed or full screen mode --- low or high resolution – lowest being a standard 640 X 480 and the highest 1280 x 1024, as well as low or high graphics quality, full screen or windowed. There is also an “HLF” or Hint Level Frequency which operates anywhere from 0 to 5. One may also find the controls to adjust the options for subtitles, pop-up text and audio to one’s preference. Once this is completed the gamer has the choice of a tutorial for Sam & Max rookies like me -- or Sam & Max groupies can dive right into the episode by selecting “New Game.” Once inside the game, adjusting any of these parameters is easy by simply clicking on the gear icon at the top left of the screen.

The game play is a third animal (oops, I meant third person) affair. For the most part, the gamer takes on the persona of “Sam,” a fearless-but-affable canine gumshoe minus the shoes. He becomes mobile by clicking on any area one wishes to explore. Sam will run if the gamer double clicks the area in question. Although one can utilize eight save slots at first glance, as these become used a new page of four appears, making for endless possibilities. There also are strategically placed auto saves if one forgets, as I was apt to do, since I found myself totally engrossed in figuring out the plot.

Max: "It seems these evil men will never begin to understand our peaceful nature."

Sam: "Hope they figure it out pretty quick.  My trigger finger is blistering."

The puzzles for the most part are inventory and story based, and Max does provide various and obscure hints along the way. Keep in mind though that the logic applied to these puzzles is Max’s logic. (I’m wondering if he actually is the mastermind behind the writing.) It wasn’t until I realized that I needed to think like Max that the puzzling got easier and the story began to flow. While this is first and foremost an adventure game that has no real action sequences to worry about, there is one timed sequence for Max. Add a few scenes where mild action does take place on the part of the gamer playing as Sam. One is an arcade-type puzzle early on in the beginning of the story involving our hero’s Desoto, some Zombies and a few well placed computer discs, from which the first “prize” acquired is crucial to the story. The others employ Sam’s trusty service revolver, requiring the gamer playing as Sam to shoot various items. But take heart my fellow gamers, Sam is a fair shot and neither character can die… well, ok -- they can die but only for the purpose of moving the story forward, and not in the sense of ending the game early. At no time did I ever feel frustrated with any of the puzzles or enigmas; I just giggled a lot.    

"Holy jumping Jack Smelt in a rented hamster suit.  We're on our way!"

The look of the adventure grabbed me right out of the gate; something akin to a virtual graphic novel or comic book comes to mind here. The lively 3D characters seem to “pop out” against the 2D background. Now this is not to say that the background graphics pale in any way. They sport an absolutely brilliant jewel toned palette and the whole look is sharp and kitschy, with nary a right angle anywhere to be found, which only adds to and never detracts from the characters or story.

The underscore and music was just as lively and helped create a memorable ambiance. The musical feel reminded me of the old film noir private eye movies from the fifties, yet all created with overtones of a fresh comedic edge to the pace of the entire game. This tempo is provided to move the action and plot along, hell bent on achieving the developer’s goal with a riotous breakneck speed. Now the interesting point here is that, while all of these elements combine to form this “runaway train through the mountain pass” sort of velocity, I never felt at anytime that the game was getting away from me. Rather, it helped to spark my own imagination and willing suspension of disbelief to hop aboard and enjoy the ride.

Take THAT and THAT and THAT! HA! I warned you, didn't I? Didn't I

WARN you? I thought I warned you. I didn't? Oh, sorry.

The writing was indeed the strongest point of the game. The dialogue is witty and crisp from all characters. Voice talent of the entire cast of characters is fresh, exciting and spot on. There are many inside jokes and references to past episodes; which makes it easy to see why this series has a large cult following. Yet the story is so well written that Night of the Raving Dead stands well on its own merit.

So then, can gamers enjoy and play a Sam & Max episode from the middle of the season with little or no prior knowledge of what might actually be in store for them? Absolutely. I had a super time during the three nights (roughly twelve hours in all) that I spent tagging along with the zany detectives of the “Freelance Police.” The references to past episodes in Night of the Raving Dead only served to pique my interest in investigating the earlier episodes – an investigation that this reviewer has now begun with a decided fervor.  Holy mother of Murgatroid in a purple running suit with sea green trainers! I believe I’ve joined the “Freelance Police”!

Grade A

Sam & Max 203: Night of the Raving Dead is available via download at Telltale Games and on GameTap.

Minimum Requirements:

OS: Windows XP / Vista

Processor: 800MHz (if using a video card with hardware T & L);

1.5GHz (if using a video card without hardware T & L)

RAM: 256MB

Video card: 32MB 3D-accelerated video card

Recommended Requirements:

OS: Windows XP / Vista

Processor: 1.5 GHz

RAM: 512MB

Video card: 64MB 3D-accelerated video card

Played on:

OS: Microsoft Windows XP Home SP 2

CPU: Pentium D 950 3.4GHz 800MHz


Video: BFG nVidia Geforce 7600GT OC 256MB 128bit

Sound: SoundBlaster Audigy


Monitor: Northgate 20' Flat Panel Monitor

DirectX Version: 9.0c

February 2008

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