"Because although the comedic script is sharper than ever in this episode, Sam & Max Episode 3: The Mole, The Mob and The Meatball suffers a few problems."
Sam & Max Episode 3: The Mole, The Mob and The Meatball suffers from a few problems, and that's a shame. It's the shortest adventure the pair take part in thus far, beckoning very little in the way of new locations and even less in the way of new characters. It's the easiest of the first three episodes, too, with the puzzles housed within set to only give your grey matter a light workout before being easily solved. It also suffers from the same recycling problem that Situation: Comedy fell foul of, only instead of sight gags and dialogue lines feeling stretched the second time around, they feel outright broken on the third trip. Episodic gaming is custom built for short, sharp bursts of gameplay, but Episode 3 can be conformably beaten in one sitting by even the least experienced pixel hunters.
As for why all the above is a a crying shame? Because Episode 3 contains more laugh-out-loud moments than either of it's predecessors did.
Tying together the first two games is the common motif of a secret no-gooder working behind the scenes, and the third episode puts you slightly closer to the underlying conspiracies hinted at throughout the series. It seems Ted. E. Bear's Mafia Free Playland & Casino isn't quite as mafia free as its innocent moniker would have you believe. The authorities placed a mole into the organisation to track the nefarious Toy Mafia, who they believed had taken up residence there, but the reports dried up long ago. Sam & Max are just the expendable freelance police officers needed to infiltrate the casino and find out the fate of the informant. This queues up a few exercises in tedium like a rehashed car chase and a trail-and-error word-matching puzzle in which you torture a sandwich thief with 'Yo mama' jokes until he cracks, but there's so much more to look forward to than that.
Like Bosco, the paranoid owner of the Inconvenience Store located right outside the pair's HQ. Previous games have seen him install intricate security devices to keep out unwanted agencies and cults that he believes are out to get him, constantly reinventing gadgets and inventing disguises to conceal and protect himself. After his British farce failed to throw interlopers off his tracks last episode, the monocle and English accent is replaced with a jaunty beret and a slew of mispronounced French. It's great to see him stumble though lines, trying to convince people his name is Monsieur Sissypants with his Bosco name badge proudly pinned on his chest.
Like the three singing bear heads that adorn the wall of the Casino that burst into song when interatced with, tunefully informing any listeners that there's certainly no mafia here despite the teddybear-mask wearing attendants all sporting sharp suits and firearms. Even when the gags are taken out of play, a special mention needs to be given to the voice actors, who improve with every episode, and the soundtrack's excellent renditions of each new scene. When the aforementioned bears aren't singing their falsified propaganda, the casino's jazzy tunes fit right in. Trick your way into the back rooms and into the office of the Don (who, you are informed several times, doesn't actually exist) and an upbeat version of The Godfather's soundtrack plays gently in the background. There's a great amount of attention to detail strewn throughout the game, there's just not very much game.
And that's a shame. Because although the comedic script is sharper than ever in this episode, Sam & Max Episode 3: The Mole, The Mob and The Meatball suffers a few problems. Maybe the monthly installations of the series is to blame; maybe there just isn't enough time to give gamers any more than the ninty or so minutes of gameplay or to give them anything more than superfluous and easy puzzles to solve. The depth, the vibrancy and the comic-book life Telltale have pumped into their game leaves me with nothing but a huge goofy grin on my face; but everything else simply leaves me wanted more.
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