Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Telltale Games

Released:   July 2010

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7 (Mac OS X 10.5 or newer), 3 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent processor, 1 GB RAM memory, 128 MB video card, DirectX 9,0c or better 






by Becky


The fourth episode in the Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse series opens immediately after the cliffhanger ending in the previous episode: Who Stole Max's Brain? The plot and the game's wacky cast of characters have been through historical reinventions and smoke-and-mirror deceptions. But at this stage in the season, the subplot details are coalescing and previously well kept secrets are being revealed. Even wispy hints about this fourth installment: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls (BAD) might be considered spoilers for the early episodes, so it's difficult to discuss exactly what's going on without giving anything away. If you don't want to encounter anything that might, in some shape or form, be a spoiler, stop reading now.

Wispy Hints

Suffice it to say that the plot in this episode sustains most of the themes from earlier episodes, yet gives them another strange twist (the true motivations of some of the characters are even more bizarre than they seemed early in the season). While trying to save the world, the Freelance Police might be affecting it in unintended ways -- particularly as Max's psychic powers continue to expand, hopscotch and belly flop.

The excellent voiceovers and writing continue in this episode. My favorite voice in this episode belongs to the ultimate villain, who is particularly amusing when describing (with relish) the probable outcome of his/her ambitious plans. (The voiceover artist really nails the "Bwahahahaha" thing.) The humor is wide-ranging. You'll encounter absurdist commentary, pop culture allusions (the dandy Star Trek "quote" in the Stinky's Diner scene, for instance) and political asides (this is why all Presidents of the United States grin and nod). The mysterious Dr. Norrington finally makes an appearance, and contributes some intriguing history about the Devil's toy box. You may even discover who Girl Stinky has been texting all this time.

Weird by Our Standards

The graphics are 3D and cartoon-like and continue the theme of darkness from the third episode. That is, the game is set entirely during a stormy, foggy night and a good chunk of the gameplay takes place in underground tunnels and laboratories. BAD has more of a kooky science fiction ambiance than previous episodes, partly because of the laboratories and partly because of some eerie techno background music. The game uses a third person perspective and frequent cut scenes, and has the same various interface options mentioned in earlier reviews of the Devil's Playhouse episodes. (I used the click-and-drag mouse option.)

Puzzles are largely inventory based. There's also a clever interpretive outcome puzzle sequence with a machine that's supposed to be a Dimensional Destabilizer. If you've been waiting eagerly to shoot things with a purpose, here's your chance. The most difficult challenge is at the end, with Lady Liberty and the game's Busby Berkeley moment before yet another cliffhanger ending. This portion was less fun than it would have been had I not run into a glitch where a "back" directional hotspot disappeared, forcing me to quit the game repeatedly and then start again to figure out how to beat the sequence.

This episode provides a stimulating setup for the last episode, The City that Dares Not Sleep. Will the city survive, even if it somehow manages to stay awake?

Quick List for Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls

A darkly comic cartoon style adventure featuring Max -- a bunny with a magical brain, and Sam -- a formerly one-of-a-kind straight man/dog. The characters are expertly voiced. Nightfall in New York City with menace aplenty, underground laboratories, and liberties taken with a famous Statue. Appropriate for teens and up. You can click through the dialogs. This is the fourth episode of five.

Third person perspective with recourse to first person psychic abilities. Three options for navigation (I used click-and-drag with the mouse). You can't die. Inventory, psychic power and extra-dimensional challenges. No mazes, no sliders, no sound or color based puzzles. About four hours of gameplay.

No problems with installation. One annoying glitch that deleted a "back" hotspot, necessitating a frequent reload of a saved game during the most difficult sequence.

The Playhouse is hushed in anticipation of the final act. The lights dim. The piano stops playing. The characters take their places. A roar shakes the theater. Enter the Narrator, stage left ....

Final Grade: B

Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls can be purchased via download at the Telltale Games website.

What I played it on: 

Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi


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August, 2010

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