Sam & Max Save the World Episode 101: Culture Shock

Posted by Erik-André Vik Mamen.
First posted on 19 February 2007. Last updated on 25 April 2012.
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Sam & Max Save the World Episode 101: Culture Shock
Sam & Max! Back at last!
Sam & Max Save the World Episode 101: Culture Shock
Sam, aim the gun at the apple on Max's head!
Sam & Max Save the World Episode 101: Culture Shock
The driving mini game works a bit differently from the original.
Sam & Max Save the World Episode 101: Culture Shock
This is why unisex toilets are dirty all the time!
Sam & Max Save the World Episode 101: Culture Shock
Conversation is carried out via a simple dialog system.

Sam & Max: Season One

The season, Sam & Max Save the World, is comprised of 6 episodes:

Episode 101: Culture Shock

Episode 102: Situation: Comedy

Episode 103: The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball

Episode 104: Abe Lincoln Must Die!

Episode 105: Reality 2.0

Episode 106: Bright Side of the Moon

A compilation of Sam & Max: Season One has been released in August 2007 by The Adventure Company in partnership with Telltale Games. It includes all 6 episodes of the season as well as bonus contents such as behind the scenes videos, trailers, desktop wallpapers, concept artwork, a soundtrack sampler, and a full-sized printed limited edition poster.

Back in 1993, LucasArts released Sam & Max Hit the Road—a story of 2 freelance police, a dog and a rabbit (or, more accurately, a hyperkinetic rabbity thing). I would like to say this was my favorite adventure game from LucasArts, but the same could be said about almost every other game from LucasArts, though for different reasons. What makes Sam & Max Hit the Road such an enjoyable game is the crazy bizarre humor and unexpected twists. So, when LucasArts announced a sequel in 2002, I was really looking forward to another great adventure game by possibly the greatest adventure game maker of all time. Unfortunately, with the falling popularity of adventure games, the sequel was canceled in 2004.

The adventure game genre itself has fallen to the dark ages since the late 1990s. Few companies dare to develop new titles, and most fans are stuck playing the classics. Of course, there are exceptions. By 2005, Telltale Games has acquired the Sam & Max license (after the rights have been reverted from LucasArts back to creator Steve Purcell) to develop games; it has also decided to release the games in episodic form. A total of 6 episodes, called Season One, will be produced, but each will be much shorter than a full-length adventure game. In my opinion, this format fits well for the new Sam & Max series, since the episodes will be based on different crime cases. Telltale Games has also promised to listen to criticisms of earlier episodes to make the later episodes better. Unfortunately, this means that each episode is short and fans must wait for the next episode to be released for the rest of the story. The episodes, however, are fairly independent and can be played separately.

When you first start Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock, you will be greeted immediately with a spectacular opening credits and a familiar tune. The tune is reminiscent of (but different from) the theme in Sam & Max Hit the Road. The music is enough to set you in the mood for the returning heroes. Soon, you will find yourself in the office of Sam and Max as they are waiting for their new assignment. Both of the main characters are easy recognizable, even though they now appear in full 3D. Of course, the crazy bizarre acts and funny commentaries are played out by Sam and Max to the fullest. This is where fans of Purcell's work realize that they have truly missed the freelance police.

The commissioner gives them their first assignment—track down a group of 3 former child stars called the Soda Poppers. They are breaking the law by tagging, and reversed shoplifting, (yes, it is Sam 'n' Max all right) to promote Brady Culture and his marketing scheme. Soon, you meet your neighbors—storeowner Bosco and ex-tattooist now turned psychotherapist Sybil. As keepers of the law, you have to break a few to catch these little stars as well as Brady. The task seems pretty simple. Well, it kind of is! Before you know it the episode is over and you have to wait for the next. Indeed, it is a relief that the release dates for all these episodes are pretty close!

So, how well does the game work? Somehow, Telltale Games has managed to follow closely in the footsteps of LucasArts when making this game. It is still point 'n' click, played from a third person perspective. The scenes are controlled pretty much the same way as in a classic adventure game. Much like a theatrical set, only 3 of the 4 walls (except in some cut scenes) are visible and the camera follows as the character walks around in the set. The bottom-line is that it is a 3D adventure that feels like a traditional 2D adventure game.

Many fans may be expecting the familiar voices (Bill Farmer and Nick Jameson) for Sam and Max from the LucasArts original. Telltale Games has hired new voiceover actors (Davin Nowlin and Andrew Chaikin) to fill these roles who, in my opinion, have done a great job. With great dialogs and great voice acting, the game stays very true to the franchise set by the original.

If you are already a fan of Sam & Max, perhaps the most important element about the game is the humor. Are Sam and Max still funny? The answer is yes! They are still their twisted selves and the same old characters from Sam & Max Hit the Road. The plots and the puzzles may not be entirely logical, but they are really entertaining, such as destroying the light on a car and later giving a ticket for driving without the light.

For a hardcore adventure gamer, this is a pretty easy game. The solutions are fairly straight forward. There are relatively few items to manipulate and few locations to visit. Both make the game even shorter. After all, the episode plays much like a chapter of a game, not a full game itself.

Overall, Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock is a great revival but short-lived reunion with perhaps the funniest game heroes ever in an adventure game. There is always a hilarious and twisted outburst from either Sam or Max waiting for you. Do not expect a great challenge, though. Since you can get all 6 episodes for less than what you may normally pay for a full game, I will say this is much laughter for a low, low price!

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