In preparation for this review, I indulged myself in a Sam & Max-athon
playing all the previous episodes from Seasons One and Two. It’s a great
way to get into this series, but take heart! While it definitely enhanced
my enjoyment of Chariots of the Dogs, previous knowledge of this
comedic world and its zany denizens is not required. All you absolutely
need to know is that Sam is a six foot suit-wearing, bipedal dog and Max
is his constant psychopathic rabbity-thing companion. Together they form
the Freelance Police and mayhem and facetiousness follow them everywhere.
Opening: “Guess that’s why they call you guys in for the brainy
stuff and leave the senseless violence to me.” Flint
Episode 203 (Night of the Raving Dead) ends with Bosco missing
and the Inconvenience Store extremely inconvenient. In fact, it’s
padlocked. Chariots (Episode 204) picks up this thread. We see our
heroes, Sam, Max, and Flint Paper, breaking into the store in search of
Bosco’s bunker. Getting in is easy. Getting out……hmmm, that’s another
They find the store bathed in eerie red emergency lighting. A series of
laser beams spiderweb the bathroom door. The trio form a pact to
investigate as only they can. They poke, they prod, they explode things,
and the chase is on -- and all this before the opening splash screen.
Story: ”We are going to have to join together and use every
detective skill we know to find Bosco.” Sam
Episode 204 sends Sam and Max traveling through time and space in a
quest to rescue Bosco. Along the way, it grants us a peek into our
protagonists’ histories. Small as this glimpse is, it aids the gamer in
seeing the various characters’ “humanity.” It blends players and props
from past episodes while expanding our understanding of who the characters
really are. Of course, the plot twisted and turned and seldom did what I
expected it to -- except of course, that is what I expected it to
I’m glad we already know there is one more episode yet to come in this
season. Though Chariots ends with a bang, it leaves a few loose
ends. Be sure to watch the credits for a bonus cut scene, which may (or
may not) answer one of life’s biggest questions.
Characters: “Bosco didn’t take any pictures of himself. His
camera no doubt thanks him.” Sam
The previous episodes featured memorable characters, and this holds
true for Chariots. We meet several new eccentrics as well as many
old ones. Several, but not all, of my favorite oddballs are back --
including Flint Paper. His role is small, but his paranoia fits into the
Freelance Police’s style of investigation like a precisely engineered set
The fun doesn’t stop there. A player formerly glimpsed only briefly has
a prominent role here. Best of all, we meet various incarnations of Sam,
Max, and Superball -- and we see Bosco as we’ve never seen him before.
Sam, of course, wears his rumpled gray suit, fedora and tie and remains
shoeless. Have you ever noticed he has only three toes? Max wears nothing
except his toothy grin. Though the models are not highly detailed (as is
expected given their cartoon nature) movement is smooth and fluid. They
gesture while talking or waiting and some will move around when not
engaged in conversation. If not moved for awhile, Sam utters the strangest
Dialogue: “I have mastered your primitive but no less valid form
of communication.” AI
With all these folks involved, you might think there is a fair amount
of talking going on, and you’d be right. Sam and Max have a wisecracking
comeback for everyone and everything. No one is off limits and no
institution is safe from their skewering wit.
The dialogue in this series is a large part of why I play these games.
It keeps me amused and sometimes I even laugh out loud. I savored each
reference to a previous installment and relished the allusions to games
and movies. Among others, I noticed traces of Glenn Miller, “Men In
Black,” and “Star Trek.” However, for those who don’t enjoy interaction
(or are in a hurry), much of each conversation can be skipped without
affecting the outcome of the game. Of course, the gamer must decide wisely
which lines are necessary and which ones can be safely bypassed by right
Sam and Max manage to insult almost everyone without resorting to salty
language. However, be aware that two mild expletives are occasionally
heard (five or six times, perhaps).
Sound: “The sound alone still haunts my nightmares.” Sam
In keeping with the quality of the rest of the game, the voice acting
is excellent. Expression and prosody bring life and depth to the
characters (even the inanimate ones).
The background music molds itself around the action, and contributes to
the off-beat mood of the game. Usually I enjoyed the music, but a time or
two when I was stuck and going over the same ground repeatedly in an
effort to progress, it annoyed me.
Ambient sounds contribute much to the feel of the game. For example,
each time Sam launches him into the air, Max lands with a thud. We hear
the low rumble of engines and the whoosh of elevator doors as they open
and shut. Naturally, a bang accompanies the firing of Sam’s “big gun,” and
Sam’s footsteps echo off the spaceship’s metal floor.
Graphics: “It must have at least 640 Kb of ram!” Sam
If you are a Freelance Police aficionado, you already know what to
expect. For those who haven’t yet taken the plunge, Chariots’
colorfully cartoonish graphics feature 3D characters in a 2D environment.
Sam & Max inhabit a world where angles are seldom right ones and the
mundane sits alongside the slightly twisted or the very skewed. This is a
game rich in sight gags. Thus, the badges displayed in the Oval Office are
those of the Weasel Scouts, the rug on the floor features an emblem of the
United States which is definitely not politically correct, and this week’s
special at Bosco’s is milk, diapers, and hollow points. I appreciate the
way memorabilia from previous cases shows up in Sam & Max’s office.
Gameplay is nonlinear, so feel free to roam around the seven available
locations. Some are new, some you’ve seen before, but you might see them
in a new way. Sometimes the background is static, but not always. For
instance, the fan in Sam & Max’s office turns lazily, but Bosco’s
Inconvenience store is devoid of movement.
As you make progress, you’ll enjoy several cut scenes. My favorite is a
production number which both revealed important information and set my
toes to tapping.
Puzzles:”I don’t know how to use a light bulb with that.” Sam
True to its roots, Chariot’s puzzles are mostly inventory and
dialogue based. Combining items is not necessary, and your collection is
never extensive. Though many of the solutions are out-of-the-box, they fit
into the storyline and the tone of this game.
You will not find any mazes, sound or color dependent puzzles, or
sliders. One mini-game, Whack Da Ratz, is available if you’re feeling
aggressive, but is not required to progress.
Twice, there is a short sequence of events which must be completed
within a generous time limit. You might have to repeat that series a few
times while you figure out exactly what you need to do, but then it is
Interface: “How do we use that elevator”? Sam
Chariots is entirely mouse controlled and is played from the
third person viewpoint. Its interface is intuitive and easy to use. The
left mouse button gets most of the action. You use it to move Sam (the
only controllable character). One click causes him to saunter, while a
double click prods him into a loping run. While it’s great that Sam can
run, one of my scant complaints about this game is that it only worked
Left clicking also controls the inventory, which is stored in the tatty
cardboard box in the bottom left corner of the screen. A click spills the
contents of the box. Simply drag the item to the area you want to use it
Right clicking bypasses dialogue and cut scenes. It also closes menus
and returns inventory to the box.
“Please choose from the
following options.” AI
Speaking of menus, they are accessed via the little gear icon on the
top left of the screen. Here you’ll find save, load, options, new game,
and quit. A tutorial is available from the ‘new game’ screen.
Saves are at will and unlimited. Each save is marked with a good-sized
picture and the date and time. It would be perfect if it included the
option to name the saves. In addition, the game autosaves after major
The options menu allows you to customize your gaming experience.
Graphics, sound, subtitles, and pop-up text (item descriptions) can all be
“Shut up and help me.”
My favorite feature is the hint option. In the past, Max’s remarks have
added to the atmosphere and general feeling of mayhem. But Season Two
gives the player the option to have Max provide hints. You decide if you
want them frequently or almost never.
I played with the hint level at its highest setting. At this level, Max
gave me a nudge here or a push there anytime I wandered around for too
long. Not everything he said was useful (this is Max after all), but I
learned to pay attention to the little fellow when stuck.
Chariots is Alt+Tab friendly and you cannot die.
Glitches: “Get lost, failure.” AI
The game was stable. Aside from the aforementioned problem getting Sam
to run each time I double clicked, I encountered no other glitches or
Summary: “So long. That’s how we say ‘good-bye’ in the future.”
Chariots of the Dogs may well be the best offering so far in
this successful series. I love the new characters (including past and
future versions of Sam and Max). The repartee, as always, is snappy and
entertaining. The voice acting is wonderful and the music is peppy and
This episode’s story is my favorite because we learn about the
characters’ backgrounds. The hint system is undeniably a hit with me. I
finished this one on my own, thanks to some timely words from Max. I even
liked the length -- long enough to become immersed in, but short enough to
finish in a few gaming sessions. Of course, listing the developers’ pets
in the credits won a huge smile from me.
Give this one a try, folks! If you are a Sam & Max fan, you’ll not be
disappointed. If you are new to this flippant franchise, dive right in.
Easy, intuitive interface
Third person viewpoint
Point and click
Save at will
Can’t name saves (picture and
Adjustable hint system
Voice, sound effects, music
Great voice acting
Sound effects appropriate
Inventory and dialogue puzzles
appropriate to the tone of the game.
2 timed puzzles (both are easy
and the timing is generous)
No mazes, no color or sound
Humorous storyline twists and
turns, providing surprises
Dialogue witty, sarcastic,
No glitches experienced
Sam & Max 204: Chariots of the Dogs is available via download at
Telltale Games and on