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
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
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220
GameBoomers Review Guidelines