July 24, 2009
We should have expected this. We should have seen it coming. We all know what Sam & Max are like. We should have known that eventually Sam & Max would end up in hell.
"What's New Beelzebub?" chronicles the journey of Sam & Max into hell to restore Bosco's soul to his lifeless rotting body. The red Bermuda triangle deposits Sam & Max into a sewer. Mr. Peepers points out that the sewer is actually the river Styx and our hero's are conveniently on the threshold of hell.
Over the course of this most hellish episode the duo helps depose Satan and replace him with new rulers. The duo then deposes the new rulers and put Satan back in charge. Also hell predictably freezes over, ice cream is served in hell, there is a snowball fight in hell and a bunch of old sayings about hell are finally debunked.
Many of the old characters make a cameo if not significant appearance in the episode from hell. Harry Moleman, Hugh Bliss, Brady Culture, the poppers, Grandpa Stinky, Flint Paper, Jurgen the vampire, Ms. Bosco, Bosco, Santa, the once evil now not demonic elf, Jimmy Two Teeth, Timmy Two Teeth, and many others. Even Agent Superball makes an appearance as an usher in the final anti climactic wedding scene. Just guess who catches the bouquet.
The plot this time is loaded with not so surprising reversals and twists. As Sam & Max veterans we have learned by now to expect the unexpected. Perhaps we have become jaded. Like Max, we like it that way.
The puzzles are not too difficult. I got stuck several times so I wrote a walkthrough solution, the first in several years when I got finished. For some reason some of the puzzles are so obvious that you have to get your Sam & Max diabolical thinking cap on for them to make any sense. I always overlook the obvious. I always feel that the solution is much more difficult than it is.
Mostly the game modus operandi is talk to everyone completely, pick up everything not nailed down, think outside of the box and don't get sucked into the obvious solution. Don't just use everything everywhere, think about it first.
One quest seems to require 64 combinations and permutations of possible outfits for an buff heroic action doll. The actual solution has nothing to do with the dangerous nature of the doll. The secret to the solution is what the doll can do to help you get rid of three annoying demons. When in doubt use the detectives' solution - shoot everything.
I love the goofy music references. Be sure to take the Maimtron 6000 for a spin around Sam & Max's neighborhood and get his musical take on all the clickable items. Don't forget to catch the "soul train" in the sewer. Satan uses a bunch of lyrical references from the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." It is amazing how many musical homages are contained in the episode.
I really enjoyed the final realization of Ms. Bosco that her son was the person who trashed her store 40 years prior prompting her to have Flint Paper investigate. Flint Paper's investigation of Bosco's trashing her store lead to a life time of persecution for Bosco. Bosco and momma finally realize that the paranoia he lived with his entire life stemmed from a simple misunderstanding.
I love the way the evil female Stinky respond to the duo when they talk to her. Every time she mentions a different dynamic duo. Sam & Max are mistaken for Batman and Robin and a bunch of other sidekick and hero twosomes. Pay attention when Stinky talks and find the new duo she mistakes them for with the same careless abandon.
The production values are good as always with the early on television like teaser that precedes the television like opening credits. (Don't forget to use the bonus introduction shooting gallery game.) Voice acting, sound effects and music are first rate. I especially enjoyed Satan with an English accent with the right amount of feigned respect and manners. The real Satan has to be almost just as twisted as this one. The voice actors should get kudos for this work.
If there is one thing wrong with this game is that it is too short and too long until the next season opener. This episode is the season two finale. Somehow I thought season one was longer. I need my Sam & Max fix. How am I going to survive?
Surfing the highway, Sam & Max graphic novel is back in print. If you feel like me that there is just not enough Sam & Max, go out and purchase the graphic novel. The graphic novel is high quality soft back with a spine that has the title printed on it. For the entertainment value included, you will find the price affordable.
I am not sure if I am imagining this. I believe that there were much more cut scenes in this Sam & Max than previous ones. It also seems that the walkthrough was shorter than in previous ones.
The one animated sequence was optional and not essential to the plot. The DeSoto becomes demonically possessed once you free Bosco's soul from hell. Before that time the DeSoto is dead. COPS will present you with an animated sequence. Sam & Max drive down the road and Sam must shoot the demon rats before the car hits them to return to hell. There are also bonus items to hit like the gigantic rubber duck, the rolling six foot donut, and the soccer ball.
This animated game within a game gives you stickers on the trunk of the DeSoto. I found the optional animated sequence to be refreshing. Those who just wanted to complete the story but are not good with animation or knee jerk animated sequences could bypass the animation and just enjoy the story. Those who enjoy those animated challenges could compete for as long as they wanted for greater and greater glory and DeSoto trunk stickers. For once more game players will be happy, especially those challenged by hand pain.
It appears that talking to people and experiencing the dialog in many instances was also optional. If you knew the solution to the puzzle you could just pick up the inventory item and just use it where you needed to in order to progress the story.
I love Sam & Max. Playing Sam & Max returns me to those glory days of computer games when animated graphic adventures were king. Those pre-Doom and gloom days were really fun for me and the rest of the people participating in the birth of computer gaming.
I still would like to see an updated version of Power Monger by producer Jocelyn Ellis. Bullfrog, EA and Peter Molyneaux have the rights to Power Monger which was released in 1992 on the heels of Populous.
Unfortunately, many of these classic games are locked up in the vaults of now defunct and some still operating game companies. Many of the games that were produced will not run on the new machines. I must congratulate Sierra for updatingSpace Quest and Kings Quest to run on Windows XP.
We can only hope that these companies will relent and release the stranglehold they have on the old games and their game developers. These old games are the best, but new episodes for these old games like Sam & Max are a treasure beyond measure. May Sam & Max live for ever!