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Sam and Max: Culture Shock Review

Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: October 17, 2006 Also On: None

Sam and Max is an old-school point-and-click adventure game from 1993 involving two “freelance police” officers trying to solve cases. They were both animals, a dog and a rabbit. My grandma bought it a decade ago in a software pack for her Windows 3.1 Packard Bell computer. Several old LucasArts games were in The LucasArts Archives Volume I: Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones and the Fates of Atlantis, Sam and Max: Hit the Road and several demos. Sorry to say, but I never actually got to play it. My cousin came down from Michigan one holiday and took it back with him. Over ten years later, I finally get the chance to play.

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In 2002, LucasArts announced that Sam and Max would make a glorious return in Sam and Max: Freelance Police. Things didn’t turn out that way, as LucasArts quietly canned the game, leaving fans of Sam and Max more frustrated than the ten year long wait had already made them. Then, along came an upstart publisher of ex-LucasArts developers. This past September, TellTale Games announced that Sam and Max: Culture Shock would debut in October 2006 on Turner’s GameTap game network. Even though that would require a monthly subscription to the service, eager gamers had the choice to hold off for a stand-alone release on TellTale Games’ website in December 2006.

Now that the busy holiday season has passed, I actually have time to play games that I have been meaning to try. Even though I am not well known for my PC reviews (my last one was The Political Machine in the heat of the 2004 presidential campaign), I wanted to give Sam and Max a shot after all of these years of waiting. Once you finally download it, your PC will only be 229 megabytes smaller. TellTale moved the franchise from the 2D realm to 3D, but it can run on most computers (if you have only 256mb RAM, you’re in luck). Most of the space is probably used for the voice-acting in the dialogue, because you only have your apartment, outside, and three other buildings that you will visit the entire game.

That last statement may freak you out. “A $10 game and all I get is a lousy apartment, a street and a few buildings?” Hold your horses. Before you jump to conclusions, despite the reality that your space is limited, you are going to be doing a lot of stuff in these areas. Most of your time is taken up during the cut-scenes and chatting sequences. If you don’t get at least five hours of gameplay out of this (and that may sound surprising for the actual size of the area), you are either using a guide or you are insanely inventive.

The storyline starts with a rat named Jimmy in your apartment stealing your phone. He forces you to find him some cheese, but he is not satisfied with any type of cheese. He wants Swiss cheese. Conveniently, you have some cheese in your closet, but it isn’t Swiss. Once you get him the type that he wants, Jimmy doesn’t want to “cough” it up. Once you force it out of him, you start on your real assignment by heading over to Bosco’s Inconvenient Shop. Bosco, the store owner, seems to think that there’s a terrorist conspiracy involving former 1970’s child stars delivering videos to his store.

It turns out that the person giving away the videos in Bosco’s store isn’t a terrorist afterall, he’s one of the former television stars known as the Soda Poppers. The video that he’s giving out, called Eye-Bo, comes from a failed television star from the 1970’s also, Brady Culture. Once you get back to your apartment and pop it in, you find out that the video is actually brainwashing people. One of the Soda Poppers is outside of your apartment spray painting the wall with a picture of Brady Culture. It’s your job, as the Freelance Police, to find Brady Culture and put a stop to his brainwashing.

You do this using simple detective work. First, you need to find where to even find Brady Culture. What better way than getting the information from the Soda Poppers? Using different techniques and items, you will find clues and save the Soda Poppers from the grips of Brady Culture. You have a nifty little inventory box on the bottom left corner of the screen for your gun, a bowling ball, boxing glove and other items that you will need to progress through the game. You may not think an item has a use, but if you are resourceful, you will eventually find your way through the game.

Most of Sam and Max though is around talking to people. You simply walk up to someone and click on them to speak. A dialogue box will pop up giving you a choose of three or four lines to say. Obviously process of elimination plays a big role in a game like this, but there are situations where you must use the right sequence of lines or you will have to start from scratch (this is especially true in the next episode). Aside from Bosco, you will also run into Sybil, a psycho-therapist. You can analyze yourself using her ink blot test, word association and dream memorization.

If you have been waiting since 1993 for a Sam and Max follow-up, you are going to love this game most likely. The slapstick humor, wit and charm of a game like Culture Shock will please any Sam and Max fan. For people not familiar with point-and-click adventure games, you may find this type of game quite boring. The dialogue, while quite humorous, can become tiresome as well. You also just do not have a whole lot to do outside of talking to a few people, finding items, and figuring out what to do with items. There is a point-and-click driving level, where you control the car left and right with the click of a mouse and can shoot, but it’s just a repeating street. For a game that is only $10 though, you can’t go wrong with giving this a try.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 8.3
Written by Kyle Review Guide