Sam & Max Season 1: Episode 2 - Situation Comedy




Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    telltale games

Released:  December 2006

PC Requirements:   Windows XP, 800MHz processor (if using a video card with hardware T & L); 1.5GHz (if using a video card without hardware T & L), 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended), 32MB 3D-accelerated video card, 230MB available hard drive space


Additional Screenshots





by Becky


Having dispatched the villain from their previous adventure, Culture Shock, Sam and Max (Freelance Police) are killing time until they get a call from the Commissioner.  The next threat to civic peace has surfaced in an unexpected form.  Myra Stump – TV talk show host, guardian of grammar, and purveyor of public morals -- has been scolding her studio audience nonstop for three and a half days.   She refuses to let them eat, sleep or leave.  Sam turns on the television in his office, and is treated to an on-screen tirade from Myra, followed by a pitiful voice calling, “Help us!”  So begins Sam & Max Season 1 – Situation: Comedy.

“Are We Part of Humanity, Sam?”

Have you met Sam and Max? Sam is a cartoon dog.  He is attired as a plainclothes cop from the 1930s.  Max is a white rabbit with long ears, and he is a past master of the snide aside.  In Situation: Comedy, this unlikely duo must defeat radicalized rodents, locate an alien with fidelity issues and become TV show stars as they seek to liberate Myra’s audience.   

Sam and Max inhabit a world that is edgy and more than a little askew.  The sky is yellow, there’s no living vegetation and an alternate reality seems just around the corner.

The world is enlivened by other wacky characters.  Reprising their roles from Culture Shock are Bosco the Inconvenience Store proprietor, and Sybil the psychotherapist/journalist/tattoo artist.  Bosco and Sybil anchor separate subplots that wind through Situation: Comedy.  My favorite new character is Hugh Bliss.  Hugh is the dapper inventor of Prismatology; he has peculiar talents and hinted-at secrets.

Situation: Comedy features fast-paced, witty dialog.  In fact, it has some of the best comic writing I’ve encountered in a game.  The script includes one-liners, puns and word play, hyperbole, body function humor and general goofiness.

The voiceover cast does an excellent job with their unusual roles. Special kudos to William Kasten in the role of Max, who delivers preposterous remarks with zestful aplomb.  David Nowlin as Sam uses just the right tone of understated sarcasm.  Lip synch, gestures and facial expression during dialogs effectively bring the characters to life.

“All Right People, Let’s Get the Stage Set Up!” 

Graphics in Situation: Comedy reveal a colorful cartoon style world in full 3D.  In addition to the neighborhood locations from Culture Shock, the game introduces the gamer to the surreal sets at the local W.A.R.P. TV station.  I would define the design aesthetic at W.A.R.P as early 70s plastic kitsch.  These sets make the sets on “The Honeymooners” seem posh.  Torn wallpaper, a yellow inflatable sofa, stained carpets, and avocado green kitchen appliances assault the eye.   

The game plays from a third person perspective as you move Sam around by using the mouse (you do not get to play as Max).   Sam handles most of the investigation and interrogations.  Max wanders all around the locations, scratching and picking at himself and trying to cough up hairballs.  (Were you aware that rabbits have hair?)  Sometimes Max walks right into his partner, at which point Sam ruthlessly bats him out of the way.

I encountered only one annoying glitch in the game – occasionally Sam heads in a direction opposite to the one to which I’ve directed him. 

“Playin’ Cocktail Angst on My Bassoon…”

I enjoyed the musical variety in Situation: Comedy.  Much of the music is jazzy, sometimes a 30s-style Big Band sound and other times a more contemporary and mysterious cool jazz.  Each TV sequence begins with an amusing theme song.  Hugh Bliss has his own techno-mystical background drone, along with a high plink tone whenever he introduces himself.

Ambient sounds are most noticeable in the outdoors scenes.  Complicated sound effects occur during the chase sequence, where you can hear gunfire, the squeal of tires and the various crashes as Sam’s Desoto mows down parking meters and café tables.  Indoors, minimalist ambient sounds are generated by Max: scratches, armpit “music” and thumps when his large feet hit the floor.

“Dazzle us with a Feat of Legerdemain, Will You?”

Challenges in Situation: Comedy are mostly inventory and dialog based.  The inventory screen consists of a cardboard box at the left corner of the screen.  Clicking on it spills Sam’s current holdings for your selection and use.  Hotspots are easy to find, though sometimes they only work after something is triggered in the game.  The chase scene in the Desoto is the sole part of the game in which timing is vital.  A strategy lurks, awaiting discovery -- once I had figured it out, I found winning the chase to be mildly tricky.

Solutions make nonsensical sense (if that makes sense).  Although none of the challenges achieves the bizarre logic seen in the mind control dream sequence from the first game, one does come close.  I should have seen it coming a mile away, but of course I didn’t.

The Sam & Max Season 1 episodes are aimed at adult gamers.  But they are also quite appealing to children.  Maybe too appealing to children.  Although some of the witticisms will go over their heads, children will definitely understand the gags that descend into toilet humor.  Large subtitles make it easy for the young gamer to read along and to select dialogs, and the language is sophisticated enough that even twelve-year-olds will be learning new vocabulary.  (One foolishly hopes that it is Max’s vocabulary and not his attitude or behavior that children will imitate.) 

May We Come in and See the Show?”

I played Situation: Comedy on GameTap, though it is also available via download at Telltale Games, and (eventually) the entire series will ship on disk.  Playing time for this episode clocked in at around four hours.  I wanted it never to end. 

Quick List for Sam & Max Season 1 – Situation: Comedy

Situation: Comedy is the second episode of six in the new Sam & Max game series.  It’s a cartoon mystery starring our heroes: Max -- a rabbit with a depraved attitude and Sam -- a semi-conscientious police dog.  It introduces a handful of other offbeat characters that I hope we’ll see again (especially Hugh Bliss).  Voiceovers are lively and engaging.  Top-notch writing, clever dialog, various pop culture references and comic antics.  You can click through the dialogs (though you won’t want to).  Appropriate for children with laid-back parents.

Bright, stylized 3D environments.  Point-and-click interface.  Third person perspective.

Inventory and dialog challenges.  One not-overly-difficult chase scene that requires accurate timing.  No mazes, no sliding tile puzzles.  One challenge that uses color discrimination, but which can be completed by paying attention to the subtitles.  No sound matching puzzles.  It is possible to get stuck in the game if you don’t complete every dialog tree or if you miss a spot that becomes “hot” only after the correct triggering event.  Eccentric approaches to the puzzles/challenges are rewarded.

One recurring glitch in which Sam sometimes walks left when you are clicking to go right, or vice versa.  Plenty of save slots.  You can save whenever you like, except in the middle of dialogs.  You cannot die, nor (I’m pretty sure) does anyone else.

I played the game on GameTap, but it is also become available at Telltale Games via download. 

Sam & Max Season 1 – Situation: Comedy is aimed at fans of the original Sam & Max comics, the Sam & Max television series, and the 1993 Sam & Max Hit the Road adventure game.  Adventure gamers who enjoy interacting with odd characters while following a tale full of wild absurdities should give this one a whirl.

Final grade: A

My Computer Specs:

Windows XP Professional

Pentium 2.80 GHz

2046 MB RAM

Direct X 9.0c

512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX

SB X-Fi Audio

January 2007

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