A remake that only changes what’s necessary, Sam & Max Save The World 2020 is a must play for existing fans and newcomers alike. The Finger Guns Review.
It’s interesting to think of the impact Sam & Max Save The World Review had on gaming back in 2006. It was the first game to prove episodic game releases could be viable. It was the game that put TellTale Games and the TellTale Tool on the map, starting them on a road that would make them one of the most well-known game developers in the world. It was also proof that the point and click adventure genre wasn’t dead or “too risky”. It just needed a little spruce up and someone to take a chance on it. TellTale took the ball that LucasArts dropped and ran with it for a decade. While TellTale are probably most well known for their take on the zombie apocalypse or the caped crusader, it’s some of their earlier stuff – the games that felt like the natural evolution of the point and click adventure – that I remember most fondly and that, for me, began with Sam & Max Save The World. 14 years on and the Freelance Police are back in a remake that bundles together all 6 episodes of their Earth saving antics into 1 upgraded package thanks to developers Skunkape (made up of ex-Telltale developers and named after S&M character Skun’kape). A combination of recovered assets from the original release, a few pieces of new content, a total visual overhaul and accommodations for the modern day player, I’m happy to report that Sam & Max Save The World is as good as those rose tinted glasses make it seem.
To save existing Sam & Max Save The World fans some time, this part of the review is purely for you: the core of this series remains totally unchanged. The puzzles are the same. The story is the same. The gags, jokes and offbeat humour are all here as you remember it. The changes that have been made here are all improvements and necessary changes. The most noticeable is the visuals. Everything has been redone for higher resolutions and a new lighting system has been implements which give the characters a far more 3D feel. Even on the lowest graphical setting, this game looks substantially better than the 2006/7 version (especially the Wii port which was the last version I played). There’s other subtle changes too; the voice actor for Bosco has been recast. It takes a beat to adjust to this new voice for such a familiar character but the recasting has been done for all the right reasons and before the end of the first episode, the change becomes unnoticeable. Some other changes include reworked scenes to improve camera angles, a much more fluid UI and five new jazz tunes from composer Jared Emerson-Johnson which better accompany the scenes they’re in. Maybe it’s my imagination but I’d also swear that the driving mini-games have had some subtle tweaks and what I found to be a real pain to play years ago are a nice little diversion now.
Having the core of Sam & Max Save The World remain the same, with the same puzzle solutions and structure, does mean that if you were one of those that thought the original series was too easy and the solutions were too obvious then that doesn’t change here. Personally, I like the difficulty level that Save The World is pitched at (and I’ll get into that later) but the content hasn’t changed. No amount of visual spit shines are going to make you like this game more.
All of this is to say that if you’re a fan of the original, this remake is the best way to play Sam & Max Save The World. Feel free to skip to the bottom and read the score (if you’ve not done so already) and be safe in the knowledge that his remake doesn’t ruin the original and only improves what needed improving.
Now for you newcomers to this game. Set in the Sam (6ft dog in a suit and the voice of reason) & Max (frenetic, manic, psychotic bunny with a penchant for violence): Freelance Police universe from cartoonist Steve Purcell, Save The World is a collection of 6 self-contained point and click cases to solve that form one long connected story arc. The central theme to each case and the whole season is hypnotism as a series of one-off or recurring characters come under someone else’s influence. Each chapter raises the stakes from the previous until Sam & Max travel to the moon to – as you might have guessed – save the world. Knocking washed up child stars unconscious to infiltrating the Toy Mafia, breaking the internet to becoming POTUS, this tale goes to some… Interesting places.
The story here that goes from the sublime to the ridiculous but the many beats of this game aim to do one thing over anything else – make the player laugh. Sam & Max as characters are hilarious, bouncing off each other’s personalities in a double act that can rival the best in gaming. The pair are twisted in their own special way. Both have questionable morals that delight in the job they do and the zany way they do it. Sam, a dog with an million idioms, is often the good cop and Max, for whom violence is always the answer despite his cute appearance, the bad but together, they’re a comedy force to be reckoned with. They are written in such a way that not a single line of dialogue is surplus to requirements and is aiming to tickle a rib or two. Their humour is a combination of the abrupt or biting with subtle nuanced jokes that take a second to land. I’ve laughed out loud playing this game more times that I can remember. These characters would feel out of place and almost villainous if it wasn’t for the twisted version of New York they live in. There’s an absurdity to everything – from tiny jabs like Bosco’s ‘Inconvenience’ Store to the broad stokes of a lunatic president hypnotizing the masses – that’s capable of conjuring a smile on the players face every few seconds. Every interactive item is an opportunity for a joke and none of them are wasted. Thankfully, there are not many pop culture references or in-jokes because these have dated significantly. While they still landed for me, I can see some of them going over the head of younger players.
Within each chapter, you’ll have objectives to complete in order to get to the bottom of the case. For the most part, the puzzles in Sam & Max Save The World are simple enough to solve and have solutions which telegraph themselves to the player should they interact with everything they can (and why wouldn’t you when you often get a laugh out of it too?). As you might expect given the nature of Sam & Max, there’s some ‘out of the box’ thinking required but it’s never too outlandish that these puzzles become frustrating. Despite this being a point and click adventure, it’s light on the clicking. There’s no need to be selecting “Pick up”, “Talk To”, “Combine” or any of the traditional options from this genre. When you click on someone/thing that’s sentient, you’ll start a conversation. Click on an object and you’ll either get treated to a description by Sam and/or Max or they’ll add it to the easy-to-use inventory. Head scratchers are part and parcel of this genre though and I can see a few puzzles being a little tricky for some. A small amount of trial and error, using everything in the inventory on suspect locations, might be required. Thankfully the game world isn’t vast in each chapter so you’ll likely stumble over the solution quickly. The biggest issue might be the driving mini-game’s which still feel a little clunky in 2020 but are much better than they were in the original.
Because Sam & Max Save The World is a relatively easy graphic adventure game, it moves at a pretty rapid pace. Some sections do slow down but for the most part, you’ll be arriving at solution after solution and moving the narrative along quickly. This keeps Sam & Max Save The World fresh and entertaining compared to many other point and click adventures. It also means the humour retains its edge as you’re not hearing the same quip’s over and over. This won’t agree with everyone in 2020, much like it didn’t in 2006/7, but for me this formula is one that works and means I can enjoy and complete a whole chapter in an evening then have the game wrapped up in a week.
It’s also worth mentioning that Sam & Max Save The World 2020 is playable as a standard point and click with a mouse, using WASD or direction keys or even with a game pad (like the Xbox 360 version). I’ve tested all 3 methods and they’re all functional, accessible and user friendly.
Replaying this remake of Sam & Max Save The World felt as pleasurable and as funny today as it did when I got my grubby mittens on the original. It’s a testament to the adventure game formula that Telltale used 14 years ago that in 2020, it doesn’t feel out of place among modern day releases. Sure, there’s a hand full of pop culture references that feel out of touch and it might be a little too easy for some. Neither of these things should put you off. There’s a spirit to these games – this and the other two Sam & Max seasons – that Telltale excelled at that felt like an evolution of what made the LucasArts classics so revered. That remains present and correct. Roll on ‘Beyond Time & Space’…
Skunkape have done a fantastic job of refining everything that needed to be updated but have left the prevailing spirit of Sam & Max Save The World untouched. For fans of the genre or for anyone who enjoys absurd irreverent humour, this is a ‘must play’ title that has the capacity to have you in fits of laughter.
Sam & Max Save The World is available now on PC (review platform) and Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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