“The Freelance Police” are on the case yet again in this 3rd season of the episodic adventure series since Telltale Games acquired the license back in 2004. For those unfamiliar with these two characters, Sam is 6ft dog in an oversized dark suit who also carries on his “person” an oversized .44 hand-cannon, whereas Max is a 3ft white rabbit with a grin reminiscent of a saw blade, marking his inevitable insanity. The two characters form the freelance police in New York City, patrolling what is known as the sticky streets. The Sam & Max franchise actually had early beginnings way back in 1987 in the form of a comic by Steve Purcell. The pair have also seen their fair share of changes in terms of their looks, as seen in the insert.
Developers: TellTale Games
Publisher: TellTale Games
Platforms: Windows,Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, iPad
Age Restriction: 10+
With that out of the way, we turn to the plot of The Devil’s Playground. Sam, the straight-shooting dog, and Max, the hyperactive rabbit, continue solving mysteries and fighting crime, only this time the villain is not from earth. The villain, in the form of a white and purple gorilla (as we understand in earth terms) named General Skun’ka’pe. He lands in New York City under the pretence of a friendly, technology-sharing alien in his gorilla head spaceship. Needless to say, this isn’t the case. Amidst this strange occurrence, Max also deals with newly found powers, which is unveiled one at a time as the game progresses. The game revolves around what is known as The Devil’s Toybox and the Power Toys, which the villains attempt to find in order to control the universe.
The game was actually released as a five part series, which, at the time, was released in five consecutive months, each of which delve deeper into an ever twisted series. These five episode include:
- Episode 1: The Penal Zone
- Episode 2: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak
- Episode 3: They Stole Max’s Brain!
- Episode 4: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls
- Episode 5: The City That Dares Not Sleep
If you’ve played any of the PC titles, you’ll be fairly familiar with the gameplay. In addition, you will also know that you shouldn’t be expectant of great graphics, as the game relies rather on its satirical humour, accompanied by thoughtful detective work. At times, you will depend more on luck and accident, as opposed to knowing exactly where to search for clues. This becomes very evident in the way you approach the game as more time passes between finding these clues and piecing the puzzle together. Since this game is spread over five different episodes, there is more than enough game time, which could either mean loads of fun, or more frustration. As with all games of this nature, frustration can mean that the game doesn’t perform as well. But for fans of the title, this won’t be an issue.
For those who wish to play the game, I will advise you at this point to jump straight to the next paragraph. You have been warned, this may be a spoiler for the start of the game. The game starts with a narrator describing the situation in which the heroes find themselves. Sam and Max have already been captured by General Skun’ka’pe, locked away in the cells within his spaceship. With help from a brain (found floating in green liquid), he explains to Max how to use his powers (assisted by the Toys of Power) to escape. The game then goes back to when Skun’ka’pe first arrives on earth, after which you will start your detective work, switching between using Sam to search for clues and Max with his special abilities. With a number of twists along the way, from the first episode, right to the 5th, there is more than enough to keep you thinking. In addition to the gorilla, other villains include a necromancer called Paperwaite who also seeks the Power Toys in which to summon the dark god Yog-Saggoth back this dimension. Also included in the line-up is a power-crazed teenage Pharaoh brain, Max’s stolen brain and masses of Sam clones. A word of advice though, take a break every now and again to avoid the frustration of running around in circles trying to find that illusive next clue.
The episodes are narrated by a plump Englishman, overshadowed by his crazy hairstyle. Another oddity in his appearance is the fact that he appears in black and white throughout the series.
If you’re a fan of the franchise, you will have no difficulty in deciding your verdict of this game. For those first time players, you might find the game tedious at times, despite the humour and storyline. Speaking of humour, the dry and satirical humour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there should at least be a few for all to enjoy. With a storyline full of twists over a five part series, there’s nothing lacking in those terms. With a little bit of everything, this game will keep you occupied for quite some time, but it depends on your detecting skills and sense of humour whether you will enjoy that time or not.