We used to have mundane office jobs, working in
water coolers and coffee cups with clever slogans and those
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…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.
responsible for my appearance!
YOU set in motion the horrible events
leading to the turn of fate which resulted in the twist of
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 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.
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
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”!
Sam & Max 203: Night of the Raving Dead is available via download at
Telltale Games and on
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)
Video card: 32MB 3D-accelerated
Windows XP / Vista
Processor: 1.5 GHz
Video card: 64MB
3D-accelerated video card
OS: Microsoft Windows XP Home
CPU: Pentium D 950 3.4GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR2
Video: BFG nVidia Geforce
7600GT OC 256MB 128bit
Sound: SoundBlaster Audigy
DVD ROM: DVD-ROM DVD-1S16P 16x
Monitor: Northgate 20'
Flat Panel Monitor
DirectX Version: 9.0c
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