Sam and Max: Beyond Time And Space (S&M:BTAS) is a an episodic series of adventure games that originally appeared on the PC under the name Sam and Max: Season 2. Obviously, it doesn’t sound as cool, hence the name change.
Having finally arrived on the Xbox 360, fans of the series will be happy to hear that everything holds together well, and delivers what most people would expect from a Sam and Max game: humorous dialogue, superb audio, and well designed puzzles.
The concept behind this “Episode Pack”, is that S&M:BTAS gives you five episodes to play through, and although you can tackle them in any order you want, there is a loose storyline to be aware of. At its core, the plot consists of surreal events occurring at random leaving Sam and Max to deal with the consequences.
If you didn’t play the first season, there are a few gags that you will miss out on, but in reality, there is nothing major to worry about, as Sam and Max give helpful re-caps upon meeting certain characters.
The basic premise is that our protagonists, the iconic canine and leporine duo (or dog and rabbit to normal people), are partners in the freelance police, a detective agency. They must use their wits and occasionally heavy weaponry to solve a variety of mysteries and save the day. In adventure game terms, that means traveling to various locations, conversing with the locals, and solving some puzzles.
Speaking of the locals: Sam and Max’s adventures take place in a variety of weird and wonderful locations. They always begin at their office, but eventually travel to exotic locales, such as the north pole, Easter Island, outer space, and even Hell. These settings help set the stage for a number of memorable encounters with quirky characters, such as a possessed Santa Claus, a pop music loving giant robot, and a rave full of emo vampires (before Twilight made them fashionable).
The gameplay itself is exactly what you’d expect from an adventure game, with each scene having various items and characters who you can investigate by highlighting with your cursor. This “point and click” style suffers on the 360, as a controller simply doesn’t provide you with the same level of accuracy as a mouse does. It isn’t a game breaking flaw, because there are no moments when failure to perform an action results in death, but it does hinder your fun on occasion, and makes things feel awkward.
Another reason why the imprecise controls don’t have much of an impact is because the puzzles you’re faced with are not exactly mentally taxing. Although they all fit well with the course of the narrative, and there are many variations of mini games, there is nothing that will trouble the average player.
Of course no-one plays a Sam and Max game because of the thrilling gameplay, but for a humorous and engaging experience that 90% of today’s games fail to deliver. To be blunt, S&M:BTAS is one of the funniest gaming experiences available: no gag feels too cheap, no exaggerated character falls flat, and the puns fly thick and fast.
Whether it’s hearing Santa being described as a hairy, bloated, pagan God or hearing Max talk about a re-animated Grover Cleveland, the jokes are witty and at times hilarious. Also, it’s not just the lead characters who hog the limelight when it comes to classic one liners; minor characters are just as likely to be the source of inspired dialogue.
On the other hand, the presentation leaves a little to be desired. Although the characters are hardly the sort who would start in a hyper realistic game, some textures are bland, and when there are close ups, the simplistic animations and character models start to stand out. That being said, characters and locations are all interesting and appropriate, but it’s a shame the game didn’t get a full HD remake.
One of the more important aspects of the game is the sound. S&M:BTAS’s soundtrack of swinging jazz numbers is superb, and gives a classy film noir feeling that fits well with the detective story theme. In fact, the music is so good, I sometimes sit with the game playing in the background. The voice acting is also top notch, with the actors giving distinct and memorable performances, especially in the case of the two protagonists.
If you are a fan of Sam and Max and haven’t yet picked S&M:BTAS; now is the time. It’s a big step up from Season One, and yet, it still provides all the elements from the series you already love. If you haven’t heard of the series before, and are looking for a game that provides laugh out loud moments with colourful characters and some enjoyable puzzle solving; then picking up Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space is definitely better than getting tuberculosis for Christmas.
The game consists of a simplistic yet colorful design, but it's not of an HD standard.
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Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space consists of a standard click and play style, but with some humourous puzzles and characters for added effect.
The music in the game is excellent and fits the mood of each scene perfectly. Voice acting is also of a high quality, which is important in a game who's claim to fame is interesting characters.
Although there are five chapters to play through, once you've completed them, there isn't a strong compulsion to repeat the affair.
While the gameplay is basic, Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space is a witty, and entertaining ride. However, if adventure games aren't your cup of tea, then this title isn't really for you.