"Night of the Raving Dead brings all the good things the series has been steadily building upon and then some. It improves upon the lacklustre length of Moai Better Blues, keeps the quality of the script high, and, while the puzzles are still on the easy side, they’re still a step above those seen in the first season."
Let’s talk about me! I’m the atypical 20-something gamer who grew up pointing and clicking his way through the Lucusart’s 90s library with a sense of grim determination. I’m Telltale’s target audience for their revival of Sam & Max, and we’ve been good to each other thus far; they’ve given me a fantastic slice of a beloved genre which once faced extinction and I’ve told the world they rock. Yes, I’m well aware it’s my job to do so anyway, but, hush, I’m going somewhere with this.
Night of the Raving Dead brings all the good things the series has been steadily building upon and then some. It improves upon the lacklustre length of Moai Better Blues, keeps the quality of the script high, and, while the puzzles are still on the easy side, they’re a step above those seen in the first season. But the tenth game in the series brings in an element that the others lacked -- something that adds a little extra appeal for this particular writer. Episode 204 gives you zombies. Brain-munching, feet-shuffling, Redfield-fearing zombies!
The undead don’t just walk the earth, though. They barge into the crime-fighting duo’s office and steal Jesse James’ hand right off the frame the pair keep above their souvenir cupboard and try to graft it on to their own rotted stump of an arm. They wander the rubble-strewn roads aimlessly, ignoring the corpse of the killer robot that rampaged through the streets back in Ice Station Santa, and ignoring Stinky’s pro-zombie advertising campaign centring on her diner. Those that aren’t so close to home migrate to Stuttgart, home of the hip nightclub, The Zombie Factory. The clue to the club’s real purpose is cleverly hidden.
Here, the rotting ravers dance the night away within a seedy disco décor flooded with heavy electro-beat, beneath a haunted glitter-ball that swoops around the gargoyle-littered rafters. Some of the undead gathered here blame unscrupulous corporations releasing an untested virus for their current lack of life and steal worried glances at the typewriter ribbon sitting innocently on a nearby table, but the majority have their host to thank. Look to the corner of the dance floor to spot Jurgen, the emo, Eurotrash vampire holding the legions of the zombies under his spell thanks to a gothic-tinted mixture of style, careful trend following and hip-hop lyric spitting skills, yo.
He must be destroyed.
Not the easiest of tasks, though. Putting aside his army of brain munchers, the pointy-toothed poser has the annoying habit of being immortal. Powerful enough to resist even the hardest of blows, quick enough to snatch bullets out of the air and toss them aside without even needing to stop cutting up a rug and clever enough to have reoccurring bouncer, Superball, stop party-goers from bringing in garlic and holy water. As usual, the answers to his downfall lie in more unorthodox methods, the finding of which lands you in the middle of a bitter break-up between Abe Lincoln’s 20-foot head and local job-dropper Sybil. While Lincoln sulks it up in the café, Sybil runs a clinical search for a new suitor based around a mythical item she won on EBay, pulling in knick-knack loving Harry Moleman, last seen selling tacky souvenirs in Bright Side of the Moon.
Not only does Raving Dead create interesting new personas for the existing cast to slip in to, but Jurgen presents the strongest foil the pair have had to face yet. Interrupt his dancing and he’ll teleport to your location to brush off your promises of his demise with an irritable flick of the wrist, answer your question then get right back to pretending you don’t exist. Shoot the little bugger and he’ll swat the bullet away with a roll of his eyes and a smug little smirk. Engage the Lord of the Night in combat and he’ll position himself in Daniel-san’s famed Crane Kick. Leave him there for a little while and watch him lose balance, stumble, and then look around the room to make sure no one saw his mishap. In capturing Jurgen’s moods and facial expressions, Telltale have done a fantastic job and have sold the character as an over-the-top egotistical villain with a comic book emo twinge. The scene-stealing blood-sucker really is a joy to bump heads with.
Which is a relief, because despite my preference for mowing down the undead, it’s hardly an easy angle to squeeze new life from. And while you’re groaning from the unintended pun (honest!) I’ll happily report that, mainly thanks to attention quickly being shifted away from the zombie horde and sharply focusing on Jurgen, have little complaints of old ground being re-trod. Unless we’re talking about the continual rehashing of locations, an awkward habit the new Sam & Max franchise has yet to shed, but there’s always something around the corner to make you smile, even if it’s a corner you’ve turned several dozen times before.
Ten episodes in, and the interest is still high. And while Night of the Raving Dead’s residents might be slowly dragging their feet, Telltale are still picking up momentum.
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