Sam & Max: The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball Review
|Release Date:||January 25th, 2007 (GameTap)|
|Reviewer:||Duncan Lawson (Sinna01)|
Sam & Max, for those unfamiliar with the series, are two anthropomorphic animals who have decided to start a Freelance Police service, which is essentially a Detective Agency, but with the ability to shoot things and issue $50,000 traffic fines. Sam is a 7 foot tall hound-dog with a bad suit and no shoes, who seems to be channelling the spirit of Detective Friday from the old Dragnet series. Max is 4 feet of psychopathic furry bunny cuteness, with an alarming number of teeth. Together they fight very, very strange crime.
So far the episodes of the revived Sam & Max have been full of cartoon violence and a charming mix of the sociopathic and the cuddly. Each short foray into their demented world has been brief yet satisfying, in much the same way as your favourite Saturday morning cartoons are so good because they're packed full of colour and noise, but short and sweet.
The third instalment of the first series is Sam & Max: The Mob, the Mole, and the Meatball will provide you with about an hour and a half of the most colourful, lunatic and accessible point-'n-click adventuring there is. It is actually this simple, uncluttered approach to the genre that provides both the greatest strengths, and most noticeable weaknesses of the game.
Anyone old or nostalgic enough to remember the heyday of Lucasarts SCUMM adventure series (including the Indiana Jones series, Zack McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders, the Monkey Islands, Loom, Maniac Mansion and its truly fantastic sequel Day of The Tentacle) will likely do so with mixed recollections of enormous fun and mind-shattering frustration.
An object two pixels by three, a subliminally lighter shade of black than its black background, would have to be found in the corner of the screen - often by painstaking screen scanning with the cursor until a 'look at..' command flickered. Said speck of dust would then be carried around in an inventory that looked like a mobile flea market for hours until it was used in some terribly unlikely way, after being combined with an equally unlikely additive. Sam & Max limits the ludicrous leaps of credulity to the plot and the characters, not its inventory system nor its puzzles.
The largest amount of objects in your inventory will be five, and one of those you will start with. There is no way and no call for you to combine items in your inventory, and the interface cursor has only one mode - no 'look at…' or 'talk to…' commands. The player actually directly controls the actions of Sam, and an object will be either clickable or not, and the appropriate action automatically taken. The most complicated item manipulation is only ever to use an inventory item with a world object. This is like a beautiful fresh breeze to all the gamers who spent literally days wandering about an adventure game before trying the ludicrous combination of talking to a rock after putting a hat on it, or some other solution born of desperation and encroaching madness.
Unfortunately, to a certain extent, it was these occasionally overly obscure puzzles that gave the games their longevity. Sam & Max, in comparison, is very easy indeed - with every object you either need or want to interact with clearly front and centre, and the solution always obvious even when the pieces to achieve it might not be. I am far from a cerebral celebrity, but I was not stuck once in the whole game, never saved, and pretty much progressed from start to finish with a bare minimum of clicking about to see what was what. In fact, the only reason to click all over the place is for the vast quantity of funny and varied dialogue such investigations will prompt. I absolutely know that the squishy machine or the bulletin board will be of no consequence, but I want to hear what Sam and/or Max will rattle off in response. This probably draws the game play hour (not hours) out the most.
The simplicity of Sam & Max, and its shortness, is again best likened to cartoons: if Scooby Doo suddenly turned to the screen and challenged you to consider the writings of Sartre in light of the modern existentialist movement, it would fair ruin the brightly coloured fun, (although it would be funny to hear him say 'Sartre').Looney Tunes are funny for about 7 minutes at a pop, not for an hour, with Space Jam as my case in point. They always do, however, leave you still wanting more. The whole game took me only about an hour to complete, including letting the start and end credits roll, but since it is available for download and costs less that a beer and a burger, it is worth it. Of course, what I'd really recommend is the same plan as anyone who hates the cliff-hanger at the end of every bloody episode of Lost adopts : wait a couple of months and buy what will no doubt be released as a Season 1 Box Set, and get a proper portion of adventure excellence.
The graphics and sound are both superb, with next to nothing in terms of modern system demands. The plot is surreal and engaging, and the puzzles simple but satisfying. The writing is still the series strength, and this is no exception with brilliant scenes such as Max's faked death, producing some excellently misquoted Shakespeare: "Oh Death, where is that guy- you know - Sting?.... Goodnight, Fresh Prince, and may flights and choirs of Charlie's Angels sing thee to thy sleep..."
If you're the impulsive type, go straight for this, its prequels and the forthcoming Episode 4: Abe Lincoln Must Die! If you can contain your sugary, hyperkinetic need for a cartoon fix, wait for that Season box set. Either way: do try it.
- Hilarious writing well delivered by a strong voice cast.
- Good cartoon graphics, friendly to all systems.
- Excellent context music.
- Simple, clean controls.
- No one pixel objects = no emotional scarring.
Not so good stuff
- Very short indeed.
- Puzzles not actually very puzzling.
- Cheap, but not 10 times cheaper than a game that's 10 time longer.