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 –
“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
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
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
“May We Come in and See the Show?”
I played Situation: Comedy on
GameTap, though it is also available via download at
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
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
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
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