The writing is what I like most about Sam & Max. Just when you thought they had begun to be predictable, Sam & Max changes their mood to a more subtle one. Jokes go from “one liners” to involved satire.
The mood changes from the normal bright and well defined mayhem to dark somber perhaps even noir. One minute we are dealing with mind control and the bright and ebullient evil of Hugh Bliss the next we are in a full blown satire of the evolving emo culture.
I had to look up emo. Emo is a rock music and cultural movement (no Max not that kind of movement) that started in the District of Columbia in 1985. Emo has evolved through four waves and endures to the present time. Johnny Depp is a little bit emo in the role he plays as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Emo is characterized by long straight black bangs that are combed to one side over the mascara ringed eyes often behind black thick rimmed glasses. Black leather belts with studs, black beat up shoes, jeans, tight black short sleeve band logo t-shirts and sometimes loose plaid shirts over top. The emo stereotype is emotional, sensitive, shy, introverted, or angsty people who are depressed, and prone to self-injury and suicide.
Into this emo background we find Sam & Max in the middle of a horror mystery. Zombies are everywhere. People just won’t stay in the grave but keep popping out and appear to be taking over the economy, the newly resurrected internet and the rock music scene. At the center of the zombie uprising is Jurgen, an emo vampire, who must be vanquished to put the world back in its place.
Along the way Sam & Max have to assemble a Frankenstein monster, that was a pet hobby of Jurgen, out cool Jurgen in depressing song lyrics, help Sybil find a new soul mate, now that she is quits with the marble Lincoln statue, help Flint Paper with his investigation, find a way to be quick enough to beat the super speed of a vampire and put him to rest, and manage to put the souls back in zombie Sam & Max so they are back to the way they were before they died.
I found some puzzles impossibly difficult even with the options menu hint system turned up to maximum. Other puzzles were incredibly easy if you listened to all the conversation, clicked everywhere possible, looked carefully at everything, picked up everything not nailed down, and tried everything with something else.
There is one inventory item that cannot be used anywhere. These types of items are popular in some graphic animated adventure games. The unusable items drive some people crazy and don’t bother other people. Perhaps if you try to guess which item is the un-usable one as you go through the game, it might be more entertaining.
All graphic animated adventure games have an obligatory arcade sequence. In this sequence you have to drive down the street as Sam and have Max shoot optical disks at zombies. When you hit 10 zombies you complete the obligatory arcade sequence and you can continue with the game.
I found the arcade sequence to be easy enough for someone who hates arcade sequences. The supporting actors from C.O.P.S. assign this task. The dynamic duo gets an indispensible item from completing the arcade sequence correctly. Many arcade sequences are impossible to complete and frustrate the game player who wants to just get on with the story and finds repeatedly failing arcade sequences, distracting, boring, or just plain frustrating.
Many of the puzzles in Night of the Raving Dead (NOTRD) involve brown sequences without the advantage of a delivery truck. Driving from place to place to complete this and that can be very frustrating for some game players. A better option than driving everywhere would be a teleport map that pops you from one place to another without the waste of time that travelling usually takes.
Most of us like the three dimensional animations and the driving animation is particularly enjoyable. But anything repeated often enough becomes tedious. A good maxim is drive once and teleport many times after that.
The characters, objects, and backgrounds are animated in cartoon style. The drawing and computer generated animations are of very high quality and with sufficient detail to keep everyone interested in exploring and discovering. Personalities come out of signature moves, like Max popping his arm pit. Some of us are very curious about the stuff that permeates the various scenes and discovering the stuff while the Sam and Max running comments keep the comedy level enjoyable.
The comedy is at the core of the appeal. Sam & Max comedy is new and fresh inNOTRD. The duo has not lost their charm. Some plot elements are not resolved in this game. These loose ends will be “tied up” in the entire story arc of the five installments contained in this, the second, season. Leaving some things hanging, creating a story arc, makes the plot more interesting and helps sell the next game in the season.
The music is like all the Sam & Max music scores, professionally done and first rate in quality. Sound effects and voice acting are equally superb. I was able to adjust the music volume down and the voice volume up so that I could understand the witty dialogue repartee using the options menu.
I am very impressed that Sam & Max have kept living up to the high standards we have come to expect. The story is fresh, enjoyable and funny. Everything about the production is professional and well done. I give the an A and look forward to the next, the fourth, installment in season two of Sam & Max.
Final Grade: A
OS: Windows XP / Vista
Processor: 800MHz (if using a video card with hardware T&L); 1.5GHz (if using a video card without hardware T&L)
Video card: 32MB 3D-accelerated video card
OS: Windows XP / Vista
Processor: 1.5 GHz
Video card: 64MB 3D-accelerated video card