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
"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!"
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
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
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
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