Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak




Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Telltale Games

Released:   April 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 latest Sam & Max takes up the story immediately after the final events in The Penal Zone (Episode 1) and reveals a startling artifact left in the basement near the Devil's Toybox -- the skeletal forms of our heroes, with Sam apparently throttling Max. What could have caused this alarming detritus from the Freelance Police past?

"We stole it, fair and square!" Maximus

To solve the mystery of their apparent deaths, the detective duo use Max's new psychic powers to "project" themselves into the bodies of their ancestors, Sameth and Maximus, by using old film reels containing their ancestors' exploits. Their progenitors are identical to Sam and Max except for their clothes -- and Sameth's luxuriant mustache.

In their ancestors' shoes, our heroes embark on a quest to steal the Devil's Toybox, which has been buried for centuries in an Egyptian tomb. Among their tasks: prove their worthiness to a showman named Papierwaite, avoid being tossed off the Disorient Express, elude the tomb's magical guardians, and somehow keep their loot out of the hands of multiple thieves. As I recount this, I realize that (on paper) this sounds more respectable than Sam and Max's ordinary activities. (Could you perhaps even call this archaeology?) Anyway, don't be concerned, in practice it's not -- the least bit respectable.

"I'm not leaving 'til the background stops moving." Sameth

Some of my favorite moments in the game occur on the Disorient Express, as the duo hurtles to and from Egypt. Having played other adventures set within the confines of a train -- including The Last Express and Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express -- I felt a wave of nostalgia as I watched our heroes walking down the cartoon-style train corridors, figuring out how to fast-talk or puzzle their way into various compartments. The train vibrates to the rhythm of the wheels, and exterior light plays down the corridors as the locomotive speeds through the night.

Sammun-Mak's tomb is fairly extensive, with long flights of stairs, side chambers, death traps and torches throwing flickering light over ancient statues. The locations have clearly inspired the game's music, which is more prominent than in the previous episode and ranges from a theatrical organ melody to a Ragtime tune and mystical Egyptian matador music. Ambient animations include floating curse icons, skittering scorpions, and flapping pigeons.

The game contains a well-balanced cast of characters (including a few who are the ancestors of the wacky characters encountered in previous Sam & Max games). Voiceovers are pitch perfect, especially Jurgen. Nefertiti is the only character who's on screen a bit too long.

"Tomb Guardians do not let people 'scootch past.'" Tomb Guardian

This game uses a third person perspective. You can move Sameth with a click-and-drag mouse motion, by using the WASD keys, or using a game controller. Navigation within the environments is reasonably smooth, though changing camera angles can confuse. Thankfully, most exits can be clicked on. Movement between film reels or when working with objects or engaging in dialogs is point-and-click.

This episode contains some unusual challenges, including manipulating magical curses, squeezing into a can of nuts, voice-throwing dialog challenges, using future information to solve things in the past (and vice versa) and being in the right place in the right reel at the right time.

Some puzzles involve using the inventory, but even more tap into Maximus' psychic abilities. If you fail at certain points, Sameth and Maximus can die, which returns you to the film projection room to try again. A couple of the puzzles are mildly timed. Most of the challenges are clever, achieving that golden balance in which they aren't so difficult as to be frustrating, but not so easy as to be trivial.

"I have nothing for you but mocking laughter. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" Jurgen

The humor in The Tomb of Sammun-Mak is even better than that in The Penal Zone. This episode had more laugh-out-loud moments, and the humor overall seemed less snarky than in the first episode -- though bathroom humor and double entendres remain. Memorable gags include speaking in hieroglyphics, a particularly awkward transformation, and a scenario of brilliant flatness.

Quick List for Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak

A cartoon-style historical adventure broken into separate film reels, featuring Sam's ancestor Sameth -- a Gentledog with a handlebar mustache. Also starring Max's ancestor Maximus -- a psychic bunny with a genuine personality disorder. The characters are expertly voiced. Time travel, ancient Egypt, tomb robbing, a luxury train and gleefully self-serving quips. Vampires extra. Appropriate for teens and up. You can click through the dialogs. This is the second episode of five.

Third person perspective with recourse to first person psychic abilities. Three options for navigation: click-and-drag with the mouse, the WASD keys, or a game controller. You can die, but you will be automatically returned to the projection room to choose which film reel to re-enter.

Inventory and psychic power challenges. No mazes, no sliders, no sound or color based puzzles. A couple of easy timed challenges. About five hours of gameplay.

No problems with installation. No glitches.

The Freelance Police have settled into their ancestors' skins almost better than into their own. The reel question: how will the next episode manage to top this winning performance?

Final Grade: A

Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak (Episode Two), can be downloaded from the Telltale Games website here. To read the GameBoomers review of The Penal Zone (Episode One) click here.

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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June, 2010

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