Sam and Max Season One review

Back in the days before 3D gaming and when it was un-cool to play games on a personal computer there were two distinct game types vying for pole position. Strategy games like Command and Conquer and point and click adventures such as Monkey Island. I was definitely in the camp which preferred a good point and click game; Indiana Jones & the Fate of Atlantis as well as Beneath a Steel Sky are still firm favourites of mine to this day, and at the time, totally defined the genre. Sure they look dated now and the versions I played on the Commodore Amiga didn’t even have digitally recorded speech (imagine that), but the sheer game play and sense of humour buried in these titles really made console platforming games look childish in comparison. So what happened? Well the releases of the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64 changed things completely, suddenly 3D adventure games and ‘realistic looking’ sports games arrived and well, who wants to point and click when you can score goals against Brazil in three dimensions, throw a giant Bowser into bombs or stare at Lara Croft’s incredible breasts. After a few years when the fuss had died down someone who hadn’t forgotten about point and click games decided to use 3D technology to bring them back from the grave, enter Sam and Max, freelance police. So whilst the traditional 2D format remains, the locations and characters and most of the objects are 3D models, herby making this a 3D styled 2D game, anyhow here is our review of Sam and Max Season one for Wii.

The first thing you notice about Sam and Max is that they’re not your ordinary game hero’s. Sam is a talking Dog detective who won’t go anywhere without his trusty pistol and Max (Sam’s trusty sidekick) is a psychopathic Rabbit who wants to put everyone behind bars (or kill them if it saves time). Whilst the game is set in the modern day, everything about Sam & Max themselves, (Sam’s clothes, their car and their office) is very Dragnetty. Sam and Max season one for Wii contains six episodes, whilst each has a different storyline the overall theme of hypnotism from episode one remains quietly constant through the series.

You take control of Max with your Wii Remote and point where you’d like him to walk and click the A button. As you walk around the office you quickly get a sense of how the game will play, you can look at almost every object and hear both Sam and Max describe it and make off remark jokes. You’ll be able to collect certain items along your way to complete puzzles with, for the most part you won’t know you’ll need them until later on, until then they are stored in the cardboard box displayed in your onscreen HUD (along with the Save/Load button). Generally each Episode has around 10 or so different locations which you’ll need to visit then backtrack to later on when further elements of the story become apparent or when you find an item which you need to use elsewhere. Most of the time you move from place to place by walking however certain locations will need to be reached by car, this is not an open world game so the driving is very limited to steering left and right and sometimes shooting your pistol (so GTA4 fans may want to look elsewhere). There are many other characters to meet and most of them are quite integral to the story, everyone though is a bit strange and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone normal to talk to. You’ll quite often have a really off the wall conversations with them to find just one clue to progress, luckily though the banter is usually quite funny. You might partake in the odd bit of interrogation and odd bit of physical detective work here and there but overall you’ll be using your noodle to solve item based puzzles whilst being entertained by the colourful cast of characters.

The typical find an item and use it here puzzle technique can get a bit tiresome, this has been the case in point and click adventures from the very start and only the best games managed to starve off the boredom factor successfully. The developers of Sam and Max tried to be spice things up by making the character interaction a lot more dynamic, rather than every character having just a couple of lines which they’d repeat constantly you’ll find here they actually have quite a large script to cover every eventuality which you might encounter. So whilst you (Sam) tend to do most of the puzzle solving, Max certainly chirps in with comments here and there. You may well have to interact with Max yourself because he could come up with something you hadn’t thought of yet.

So as previously mentioned, controlling Sam is quite easy with the Wii Remote point and click interface and he will generally walk where you ask him unless it’s impossible. Using items is very simple, click on the cardboard box (inventory), select the item and then click where you’d like to use it or who you’d like to use it on. Even though Sam’s pistol is freely available to use in most area’s you don’t really get to do much shooting (and I thought this was meant to be America!). Playing Sam and Max season one does feel very much at home just like using the mouse on the original PC versions and speaking of those, you might be glad to hear that for the most part these are very faithful conversions to the originals. But perhaps they are too faithful.

It appears that instead of ‘Wiimaking’ Sam & Max for Wii which would probably take quite a bit of time we actually have more of a conversion of the PC code ported to Wii. Sadly this has come with a few technical issues which spoil the game somewhat. Firstly as we know the Wii lacks a hard disk and apart from caching in RAM, game data is loaded off the disc quite frequently. So whilst you play Sam and Max on PC today it’s all very smooth but on Wii there are some very annoying moments when the dialogue is being loaded from the disc which quite frequently results in it being cut off before it’s finished playing, however the next time you try that bit of dialogue it plays fine (presumably because the file is now stored in the Wii’s memory). So quite often you’ll need to chat to a character a second time to hear what they said properly. Some people would be quick to jump on the Wii’s limited hardware as the issue but that would be incorrect, the Wii easily outpowers the specification needed to play the PC games. Another bad problem with the conversion is the driving sequences which suffer from awful frame rates and stutter; it’s not as if these scenes are technically demanding, the actual driving scene is usually on a graphical loop (much like the backgrounds in old cartoons) which only varies when another car appears on the street occasionally. It really is just lazy work for the Wii release, shame.

So whilst Sam and Max season one for Wii incorporates everything that made the PC games a hit, the puzzle solving, the hours of dialogue and most importantly the humour, it feels lacking. After playing Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People, Sam and Max feels very slow and clunky in comparison and it’s age is starting to show. If you’ve never played Sam and Max then Season one for Wii is a bargain as long as you’re happy to put up with a few technical bugs here and there. It’s certainly more comfortable to play from your couch than it is at a PC desk.

Graphically Sam and Max season one for Wii feels near identical to the PC games, the lower screen resolution doesn’t affect gameplay and even though the colours look a little more washed out than they do on a PC monitor you’d only really notice if you had a PC and Wii running side by side. It’s a shame that there are moments with framerate here and there but overall they don’t spoil the main game enough to make me cry. The problems with audio playback however is annoying; the jittery speech does irritate and spoils the great voice acting, you could turn on the subtitles but that’s not the point really. The Jazzy soundtrack is fine (especially if you like Jazz) and compliments the game really well.

Each episode is quite lengthy so getting 25-40 hours of adventure out of Sam and Max for Wii is quite possible, the humour get’s better as you go along and if you like episode one you’ll love each episode after for sure. If you don’t like Sam and Max then it won’t grow on you, it’s a bit like Marmite in that respect. Sadly there isn’t any replay value to be had and if you’ve already finished the PC games then there isn’t really anything to tempt you to play the Wii version. We’d like to recommend Sam & Max Season one for Wii to you but with the other proposition of Strong Bad on WiiWare which doesn’t feature such technical issues we really can’t. Perhaps if TellTale games can get Sam and Max season two for Wii up to the standard of Strong Bad will the Dog and Rabbit crime solving duo have a happy life on Wii. Our review of Sam & Max for Wii ends up with a disappointing 5 out of 10 and a must do better rating.

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