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Sam & Max 201: Ice Station Santa (PC) artwork

Sam & Max 201: Ice Station Santa (PC) review


"It’s been a few months since I last played through the six episodes of Telltale’s Sam & Max resurrection (and then played through them all again to review the entire season as a whole!) and the general feeling was positive. The series retained most of the aspects that made the 1993 original Hit the road such a well respected title and established itself as one of the better revivals that companies out of fresh ideas like the throw out into the market these days. Edios raping Lara Croft’s rotting corpse – I’m looking at you! Leave the poor girl alone."



It’s been an average day for Sam & Max. They've seen the Vice President taken out by a multi-storey killer robot obsessed with chart-topping 80’s hits and had to side-step their career-challenged friend's store as it was hurled across the street at them. They've exchanged quips with the decapitated 30-foot high head of an ex-president and visited convenience stores turned high-tech security HQs. Seeking a bit of normality, they hop in their battered car and cruise over to Santa’s workshop (The Second Happiest Place On Earth!) where they find the tubby beardo holed up in his office with a submachine gun.

“The snow will turn red with the blood of the naughty!”

Yup, just another day.

It’s been a few months since I last played through the six episodes of Telltale’s Sam & Max resurrection (and then played through them all again to review the entire season as a whole!) and the general feeling was positive. The series retained most of the aspects that made the 1993 original, Hit the Road, such a well respected title and established itself as one of the better revivals that companies out of fresh ideas like the throw out into the market these days. Edios raping Lara Croft’s rotting corpse – I’m looking at you! Leave the poor girl alone.

The problems that each chapter inherited were more drawbacks to the episodic nature Telltale have championed (so much better than Valve’s wait-six-months-for-each-episode approach for Half Life 2): the puzzles were too easy and the games bite-sized. The scenarios rehashed and many of the jokes wore thin by the end. I didn’t care then thanks to a razor sharp script dripping with satire and sarcasm and I care even less now seeing as many of the problems have been addressed.

The aforementioned 80’s obsessed robot takes care of the monotony of treading the exact same street Sam & Max called home in the opening minutes of the game by reducing half of it to rubble. Sybil’s running gag of trying a new profession each week has been dropped to concentrate on her blossoming romance with the stone head of Abraham Lincoln, and, thanks to all the money you ploughed in conspiracy-freak Bosco’s store last season, he no longer needs to wear a string of new disguises because he’s a trillionaire and has bought enough security gizmos to turn his store into a secure bunker. The street’s ‘invisible wall’ areas have also been opened up allowing you to cross a once uncrossable road and enter a new location: Stinky’s Diner.

The difficulty has also been addressed with a much more inventive way of providing hints for stuck players. Come last season, anyone faced with a tricky puzzle always had Max on hand to ask for help, but his helpfulness dipped and dived all season between giving you a complete answer and being maddingly vague. Among the new season’s options is now the ability to set Max’s hints on a slider between the two extremes. You can choose to go it alone and give your brain a workout or let the psychotic rabbity-thing constantly issue hints and tips. Indeed, Sam & Max: 201 seems more intent on helping their would-be players, even going so far as to recapture the opening scene of Sam & Max: Episode 1 to work as a tutorial. Upon selecting this option, an overly-aggressive sentient arcade cabinet warns you that “IT BREAKS THE FORTH WALL!” Which it does.

What doesn’t change is how the new chapters pick a subject and then SATIRES it mercilessly to death, and, today, jolly St. Nick is firmly between the crosshairs. While trying to unravel the mystery of why the notorious gift-giver would send them an Xmas present of a killer robot hell-bent on destroying them and all they love (in the middle of November, no less) they force intern elves to cry, win fixed trivia quizzes at the recently-reopened diner, and pelt the Soda Popper gang with a volley of snowballs made out of decontaminated yellow snow.

You also have to love the way Telltale acknowledge the Soda Popper’s presence. With most fans starting to tire of their presence, they've become more and more of an annoyance to the twin protagonists who now only endure them in order to further their suffering. A big deal was made halfway through Season One on how the development team were really listening to the feedback of their players, and it’s little touches like this that show that they really are.

In other words, all that made the last season great, all the sharp writing, the expected tomfoolery and comical capers return just as strong as last year’s peak, but a lot of the more mechanical let-downs have been either repressed or fixed completely. Season 2 opens with a candy-cane sparkle that the rest of the series would do well to follow.

Rating: 8/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (November 11, 2007)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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