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Sam & Max Save the World (Xbox 360) artwork

Sam & Max Save the World (Xbox 360) review


"It’s always interesting to see the conversion from comic book to video game – It's something that often falls flat, but when it works, it tends to work great. Sam & Max have enjoyed life within the latter camp from way back with the Lucasarts original, and recently again with Telltale’s episodic revival. This trend looks to continue on the newly-explored ground of XBox Live Marketplace. "



It’s always interesting to see the conversion from comic book to video game – It's something that often falls flat, but when it works, it tends to work great. Sam & Max have enjoyed life within the latter camp from way back with the Lucasarts original, and recently again with Telltale’s episodic revival. This trend looks to continue on the newly-explored ground of XBox Live Marketplace.

There are a total of six bite-sized episodes crammed into the downloadable pack, which feature the iconic duo's over-the-top war on injustice waged as only a lagamorphic rabbity-thing and six foot talking dog can. Their chapter-driven rampage against crime pits them against forgotten child stars, sentient virtual reality programs and a mafia outfit thinly disguised as a children's adventure group. Seemingly random at first, the surreal cases all start to show alarming similarities, leading to the final episode's big showdown with the mastermind behind it all.

Where perhaps it does lose some steam over the previous releases on the PC and Wii is that the 360 interface isn't as naturally aligned to the point-and-click genre as a mouse or a wiimote. The staple simplicity of using nothing more than the left analogue stick and the A button is still refreshing, but the sensitivity sometimes becomes an issue, allowing your cursor to zip past intended hotspots. The hotspots can include anything from a character who you want to open a dialogue with, an item you want to whisk away to your easily-accessible inventory or just something of interest you want to interact with or explore.

Interaction with other characters plays a big part in Sam & Max Save the World and conversations with the colourful and outlandish cast can progress the story, give you clues, or provide you with some light entertainment – possibly even all of these at once. The most interesting aspect of conversation is the frequent option to switch between Sam and Max – which is essential for squeezing information out of the more stubborn characters. Max is the shark-toothed psycho to Sam's laid-back Bogart, and both personalities need to be harnessed.

Asides are attempted away from the constant item hunting and sleuthing in the pair's ability to clamber into their battered Desoto – the freelance police car. Naturally, this becomes your transport for later episodes which require you to travel around the game world a bit more, but the option to simply cruise around the streets is always open. Well, when I say cruise I mean driving at a high speed through puttering traffic, armed with the car’s horn, a megaphone and an unusually large handgun. Mainly, there’s little point in this but it's often necessary to progress the story by chasing down fleeing suspects or running down innocents.

Everything's encased in an impressive cartoony veneer, which fits with the game’s humour tremendously well. The cutesy characters belay the deeply satirical writing, and Max's adorably Bambi eyes and floppy bunny ears hide the homicidal heart you'd never guess at first glance. The dialogue clearly tries very hard to prove itself as funny and sarcastic and works for the most part, but as you near the end of each episode you may well find yourself tiring of the consistent gags and jokes thrown in at every possible opportunity. It’s cheesy, and truly only something a game like Sam & Max could even attempt and pull off. It's all back dropped to an outstandingly relevant jazzy, upbeat soundtrack that adds the finishing touches to each episode. Because of this, Saves the World excludes a natural noir ambience – detectives and jazz have always shared the same spotlight.

From the fantastic writing to the appreciated DVD extras like character bios and concept art, Sam & Max Save the World ticks many of the right boxes in the first season's download. Crammed to the brim with a seamlessly linked storyline, simple controls, great music and quirky humour, it’s hard to find any significant complaints to make. Sam & Max's first real showing for the XBox has effortlessly proved to be one of the best current downloads on the Marketplace.

Rating: 9/10

Kai193's avatar
Freelance review by Paige Barclay (July 01, 2009)

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