Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse: The City that Dares Not Sleep



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Telltale Games

Released:  August 2010

PC Requirements:   Windows XP/Vista™/Windows 7™, Pentium IV 2 GHz Single Core or 100 % compatible CPU, 1 GB of RAM, 128 MB DirectX 9.0 compatible video card, 16 bit DirectX compatible sound card






by Becky


I ran in terror. I sat in shock. I guffawed. I felt ridiculous. I grimaced with disgust. Is it possible to experience this range of emotions in the space of just a few hours? Yes, if, like me, you've been playing the final installment in Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse -- The City that Dares Not Sleep.

Note: if you don't want to read spoilers for the previous four episodes in Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse, stop reading here and skip down to the Quick List.

"What do nightmares taste like, anyway?" Sam

In the course of playing the first four episodes in this series, I've been in many strange places. I've been stuck on a wall in a tomb in Egypt. I've escaped a space ship captained by a gorilla. I've sat next to a mad pianist on the top of the Statue of Liberty.

While assuming the roles of Sam (a hard-nosed canine detective) and Max (a super egotistical bunny), I've tormented elves, outwitted clones, and toyed with psychic powers. I've dialoged with a giant cockroach, an elder god, Amelia Earhart (pre-fame), and Santa Claus (post-jolly). I've been axed, cursed, caked, canned, cowed and carded.

"Have you ever dreamt of being eaten by a chicken? Like that." Flaming Spore Max

So what was left for me to do in Episode 5? Plenty, as it turns out.

Each episode in this series has taken up the story immediately after the previous episode leaves off. The interface and the 3D cartoon-like graphics are consistent throughout. But each episode has had a different thematic approach, based on classic films.

We've had an episode with aliens from outer space, a tomb raiding episode, a film noir episode, and a science-gone-mad episode. In The City that Dares Not Sleep we have a giant-monster-attacks-New-York episode. Agent Superball, recently promoted to interim President of the United States, is doing everything he can to save the world by blowing the monster to smithereens. Sam and a crew of misfit desperados are trying a kinder, gentler approach -- saving the monster by eliminating the evil tumor pulsing in its brain. They attempt this, of course, by going inside its giant body. Time is short, because a bomb-laden robot is on its way to take care of the monster the old-fashioned way.

"How do you guys keep that flame going for so long?" Sam

This episode once again offers different types of navigation. You can use the WASD keys or a game controller or -- the option I chose -- click-and-dragging the mouse for character movement, with point-and-clicking for the hotspots. Moving around inside the monster was easy, while stomping around Manhattan streets was fairly clumsy (though the stomping sequence certainly made sense in the context of the story). Puzzles include inventory challenges, following a recipe, learning how to coordinate limbs, showing empathy (one of the toughest, of course), and walking around New York City without acting like a tourist.

"I can dispense hints for the cost of one delicious corn dog." Flaming Spore Max

The dialog continues to be wacky and witty, pop culture references abound, and the quality of the voiceovers is excellent. The music -- including variations on a jazzy tune with a syncopated beat -- is nonintrusive, partly because by default the volume is set so low. The plot device of revealing surprise character transformations also continues. Max morphs into various forms, and Sam finds himself (and his tie) mutating as well.

The game has an epilogue after the credits that is altered according to a dialog choice earlier in the game. The epilogue is easier to understand if you've played a time travel game from Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space -- Chariots of the Dogs. Even understanding the context, I didn't quite know what to make of the things I saw at the end of the end.

Quick List for Sam & Max the Devil's Playhouse -- The City that Dares Not Sleep

A riff on classic monster movies with a lot of other hare-brained stuff thrown in. This polishes off the series well, with a twist and an enigmatic epilogue. The game features Sam -- a dog asking all the right questions, and Max -- a rabbit with a heart of fool's gold. Excellent voiceovers, an unusual location, and oddball characters. Appropriate for teens and up. You can click through the dialogs. This is the fifth episode of five. Playing the first four episodes is essential in order to understand what is going on in the fifth episode.

Third person perspective. Three options for navigation: mouse (click-and-drag), the WASD keys or a game controller. Inventory, persuasion and interpretation challenges. No mazes, though the cityscape can be confusing to navigate. No sliders, no sound or color based puzzles. About four hours of gameplay.

No problems with installation. No glitches.

Aimed at the fans of Sam & Max and anyone who admires over-the-top transformations, absurdist humor, and a polished, innovative story.

Final Grade: A-

You can purchase Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse 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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