The Sam & Max franchise is a fairly unique one in that it’s one of the few series in gaming that was reborn after being forgotten for about 15 years. Sam & Max have had a cult following since the mid 90s and with the new games now on PC and Xbox Live the duo has been brought back fully into the spotlight, and many gamers would agree that it’s a well deserved treatment.
For those who haven’t heard of the series before Sam & Max is an adventure game franchise of the classic point and click variety. The games tend to have wacky story lines with plenty of puzzles and mini games strewn across them. The other major draw of this series and many would argue the true heart of it series is the humor, the Sam & Max games are genuinely funny and will usually have you laughing at several points in the experience. It’s probably due to this unique approach that allows Sam & Max to be enjoyable over most other adventure games.
Beyond Time and Space is actually season two in the new revitalized Sam & Max series, fortunately you don’t really need to have played the first one even though it takes place right after it. There are a few plot details here and there but nothing that would really lessen your enjoyment of the game. The season is broken down into five episodes which can be played in any order but obviously it’s recommended you start with the first one. As soon you start the first episode you immediately get a feel to the humor and and unique story elements. Sam & Max are being attacked by a giant wind up robot that was apparently sent to them by Santa Claus, from there the first episode picks up and keeps going to the point where you actually go to the North Pole and face off with Santa himself. The game’s inventive situations are constantly changing and only in the cartoony world of Sam & Max can all this happen and still have an acceptable logic to it all.
Unfortunately some technical issues weigh down the game, the visuals alone are nice to look at, the world is colorful and you’re always exploring some unique location but the frame rate does tend to drop every now and then, it’s no where near enough to break the game but it is noticeable at times. However as a big plus the game from an artistic stand point is amazing, everything in the world is drawn with much detail and fits perfectly in Sam & Max’s world. You can really tell that the artists loved what they were doing with this project as there is just so much visual treats to be had through out the game.
Audio overall is very strong in the Sam & Max series, the music is give or take depending on where you are, everything fits in but no specific track really stands out other the main Jazzy theme. The big winner here though is the voice acting almost all it is done spot on, every character is given life through their voice actors and almost none come off as lazy or cheesy. Sam & Max especially are done so well they could have fit in perfectly in a full featured movie. Sound effects are also spot on and feel right at home given the game’s nature.
The gameplay itself is that of almost every classic adventure game, point and click on any object to interact with it or to pick it up. Once you have every item you can get you can then use them with others to solve problems or unlock a new area etc. For those who aren’t big fans of this style of gameplay they may be turned off by it but if you have any interest in the adventure genre then Sam & Max is a must play considering there aren’t many games in the genre in the first place. Some might say that it could be time to try and deviate from this very old formula but it’s sort of what gives the game it’s old school charm and although I wouldn’t be opposed to trying a different way of playing the series I realize this what the games have always been about.
One other issue that needs to pointed out with the game is the interface, Sam & Max are always built for the PC and later ported to other consoles so inherently the game was made for a keyboard and mouse setup. When transferred over to a home console’s controller the game doesn’t feel as smooth and intuitive anymore. The joystick on the Xbox controller is no where near as accurate as a mouse so there were plenty of times where I had a tough time landing the pointer on exactly what I wanted to interact with. The interface problems aren’t game breakers but like the framerate issue it’s noticeable.
Despite some technical problems however overall Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space is a great adventure game. Everything the genre is best known for is represented well in this game, the humor is wacky and the situations so random you’ll never be able to guess what kind of crazy adventure the duo will get into next. Also important to note that Beyond Time and Space is 1600 MS points making it one of the more expensive arcade games, however this is actually a bargain when compared to the PC version which is $35 so you’re saving $15 by getting the arcade version. If you’re a fan of the old school adventure genre then don’t hesitate on picking this game up, even if you aren’t a fan of the genre the Sam & Max series would be one franchise that can probably turn you into one.