Sam & Max Season 1: Reality 2.0 & Bright Side of the Moon


Genre:   Cartoon adventure

Developer & Publisher:    telltale games

Released:  April 2007

PC Requirements:   see review


Additional Screenshots: Reality 2.0, Bright Side of the Moon





by gremlin


What is it?

Sam and Max are Freelance Police. Sam is a dog in a slightly overlarge suit and a fedora who’s fond of a wisecrack or two. Max is a white long-eared lagomorph (or possibly a rabbit, if you prefer) whose main preoccupation is with violence and the dealing of it, in preposterous quantities, to others. They are the crime-fighting stars of a long running series of comic strips by Steve Purcell, and it was in a more comic strip form that they first hit the shelves of computer game stores back in 1993, in Sam & Max Hit the Road.

Now we’ve moved fourteen years on, and despite a hiccup a few years ago with the cancelled Sam & Max Freelance Police, we finally have a new Sam & Max game: Sam & Max: Season 1; only this time it is being released as episodes over the course of six months. Other GameBoomers reviewers have taken episodes 1 through 4, and now it’s my turn, with episodes 5 (‘Reality 2.0’) and 6 (‘Bright Side of the Moon’).

Is there a plot?

Season 1, it turns out, is not a set of isolated incidents in the glittering career of our eponymous (almost) heroes, but a series of interrelated crimes all stemming from the power-mad mind of a super criminal… whose name I shall not, of course, reveal. There seems to be something of an underlying theme of hypnotism as well <cue Twilight Zone music>.

In Reality 2.0, Sam & Max take on the Internet and the C.O.P.S. (no I’m not going to tell you who they are) in a mixture between reality (insofar as Sam & Max’s cartoon world is vaguely real), and Reality 2.0 – a multi-user online simulation of reality that is currently in beta testing. Not unlike most multi-user online simulations we know, then.

Assuming Sam & Max survive their electronic ordeal, there is Bright Side of the Moon… okay, obviously they survive, otherwise there wouldn’t be an episode 6 to discuss, now would there? 

In Bright Side (a fairly obvious paean to that other homage to madness, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon), Sam & Max travel to the moon in their old DeSoto convertible. Don’t ask me how, although I’m told they’ve done it before! There’s no indication how such a vehicle could achieve low earth orbit, let alone reaching the moon. Once there, Sam & Max must finally deal with the criminal mastermind behind all their hypnotic troubles.

There’s online bank fraud, electro-biological warfare, spoon bending, a roller-coaster, Tic Tac Doom, massive constitutional change to the USA, a moonquake, and, worst of all, amateur magic! Not to mention an interplanetary plot to hypnotise every living thing on the Earth.

How do you play?

Episodes 5 and 6 are entirely point-n-click adventures in a number of 3D worlds. Unlike some of the earlier episodes, there are no arcade sequences to challenge your mouse skills. Regarding the rest of the user interface, all six episodes are nicely consistent. The menu is pull-down (by pressing Escape) from the top of the screen, with Save/Load, Options, New Game and Quit, and your inventory is found in a cardboard box in the bottom left of the screen. Clicking upon an inventory item makes it the cursor object, so you can click on things in the world, though there is no combining of inventory items. Right-clicking on inventory items will get Sam to comment on the item.

The puzzles in these episodes are mostly dialog puzzles (getting the right character to say the right thing) and inventory puzzles. There are neither mazes, sliders, colour discrimination, nor tone-based puzzles. Thanks to a little co-operative play-by-email between myself and a certain web diva of high walkthrough-writing renown, none of the puzzles were too mind-bendingly difficult, though some were somewhat obtuse. Of course, that means that there was some challenge to the games, despite the initial appearance (based on the lack of size in the downloads) that each episode would only take a couple of hours.

Notable Features

Technically, the Sam & Max episodes were very stable. The few issues I had were more connected with pre-existing driver issues on my PC, and not the games themselves. I played episode 5 on both my desktop PC and my laptop to see how they compared, and as it happens, there was no significant difference between the experiences on the two environments, despite the yawning chasm between the specifications of the two machines (see below).

All the episodes are introduced by a monochrome credits sequence (black and some other lurid colour – a different one per episode) accompanied by a wild theme tune in a Big Band style, composed by the wonderfully named Jared Emerson-Johnson. His musical score in both episodes was consistently upbeat and fun, without ever being distracting or jarring.

The key characters of Sam and Max are joined by a curious bunch of oddballs, some of whom are limited to a single episode, and some of whom (Sybil Pandemik, Bosco, and Jimmy Two-Teeth in particular) make regular appearances throughout all six episodes. In addition, a number of other key characters from the earlier episodes return in episode 6, in one form or another, making episode 6 really rather busy. Not that the plot suffers for it, quite the opposite; it makes for a rich reprise of the story so far.

Any other novelties?

The main novelty in these games is the episodic nature of Season 1. I think Telltale Games and GameTap are onto a serious winner here. The individual episodes are nicely self-contained, but all contribute to the overall story arc, so that as soon as you complete an episode, you’re eager to see the next one.

I was surprised by the graphical and music quality in these games too. For a full-length game these days, we’ve come to expect that the game will come on DVD (hinting that the game takes something in the region of 2-4 gigabytes of data), and even the downloadable demo might weigh in at 150 megabytes (some are even more). With Season 1, the sum of all six episodes is a full-length game, but the total download is under 450 megabytes, including the duplication of a lot of graphics, music and the game program itself! Quite an achievement.

Now clearly we’re looking at a game for which you ideally need broadband, but at roughly 75 megabytes per episode, it isn’t actually out of the question on dial-up.


In addition to reviewing episodes 5 and 6, I was given the opportunity to investigate the earlier episodes too, and therefore I am happy to say that the quality of the games (technically, graphically, musically, plot-wise and puzzle-wise) seems to be very consistent throughout.

I had a lot of fun with the wit of the eponymous anti-heroes, even unto their own self-parody late in episode 6. So if you haven’t already played any of the episodes, I fully recommend the whole of Sam & Max: Season 1. Of course, if you’ve already seen the earlier episodes, you know perfectly well by now that you’re going to buy the last two episodes, to complete the tale.

Grade: A

What do you need to play it?

Recommended Requirements

  • Windows XP or Vista,
  • 1.5GHz processor,
  • 256MB RAM,
  • 32MB 3D-accelerated video card

(I used a custom built Win XP Pro SP2, AMD Athlon 64 3500+, 2048 MB RAM, and ATI Radeon X1950 Pro 512MB graphics, and a Dell laptop PC with Win XP Home, Intel Celeron M 1.6GHz, 1024 MB RAM, and 128MB Mobile Intel 915 video card)


May 2007

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