Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead

Posted by Erik-André Vik Mamen.
First posted on 15 February 2008. Last updated on 25 August 2010.
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Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead
The episode title obviously pays homage to a popular cult movie.
Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead
Sam and Max are "raving" with the dead (only at nighttime, of course)!
Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead
Unfortunately, shooting the undead will not cure their "deathly" condition!
Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead
Sam and Max find their way to a zombie filled castle.
Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead
Sam and Max are trying out a new look!

Sam & Max: Season Two

The season, Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space, is comprised of 5 episodes:

Episode 201: Ice Station Santa

Episode 202: Moai Better Blues

Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead

Episode 204: Chariots of the Dogs

Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub?

Chalk up another big release to Telltale Games! The latest episode (the ninth to be precise) of the now venerable Sam & Max series has finally seen the light of day (err... night)! Sam & Max Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead continues on this season's supernatural footprints... hmm... footsteps. From elves and Santa (sorry kids, of course he is for real) to living Moai heads, the dynamic duo of anthropomorphic shamus canine and hyperkinetic rabbity thing are now confronted by undead brain eating zombies. I guess Max is pretty safe, considering he is rather brainless, but Sam may not be so. Seriously though, in their latest case, the freelance police must figure out why the living dead are invading their "never quite peaceful" neighborhood.

The source of the plague seems to be the "zombie factory" located in a small German town named Stuttgart. This is where much of the game unfolds. The new scenes are rich in detail and manage to deliver quite a few surprises. Apparently, a large discothèque is located in Stuttgard, and this is where the zombies have congregated to have a good time, dancing to the rave music. It is noteworthy that composer Jared Emerson-Johnson has once again delivered a versatile soundtrack for the game. The episode features techno music which is very different from any music in other game soundtracks.

It is a known fact that Telltale Games recycles many scenes from the series in its episodes. This episode is no different. However, the developer has also learned a lesson from hearing critics of the earlier episodes. Much of the gameplay is this episode is played out at brand new locations. Also, the developer has chosen not to reuse the familiar formula of needing to acquire a frivolous item from Bosco or getting some unusual help from Sybil in order to defeat the enemy, a gag that has been running since the beginning of the revamped series. Instead, the episode now has a more unpredictable gameplay.

Only a single location from this episode has been taken from an episode in the previous season. I am not directly complaining, for this is in the nature of episodic games: reuse what is already made, and keep the development cycle short. Since each episode is just a small part of a bigger series, there is nothing wrong with this approach, especially when each episode still bears an engaging storyline and delivers much of the humor without being overtly repetitive. Nonetheless, I think many fans of the series will appreciate a bit longer gameplay, even if it means that they need to survive a longer wait between releases of successive episodes.

Notwithstanding these drawbacks, I quite enjoy the new take delivered in this season. The humor is by far the most important defining trait for the Sam & Max series, and the developer is really doing a great job with each installment. I also like to point out that Telltale Games is perhaps the only top tiered developer which has been able to consistently deliver their games on time and on a regular basis. Other series from other developers have been either canceled after only a single episode (such as SiN) or blatantly late in the delivery of the episodes (such as Half-Life 2). The point of episodic games is, after all, to shorten delivery times for the benefits of both gamers and developers. I think somewhere in the middle is probably ideal, but I guess Telltale Games must be satisfied with its success so far.

This season has seen some developments in all major characters of the series, though there are still a few paths definitively left unexplored (perhaps intentionally) in the season. Bosco, who has already proclaimed that he no longer owns a shop (but rather a bunker), has now disappeared. Instead, Sybil is back at her place. She continues on her search for a new love, after her failed affair with Lincoln (really) in the previous episode. She no longer runs a dating service but now looks for new candidates for her own love life. C.O.P.S. (Computer Obsolescence Prevention Society), first seen in last season, is also back once again as part of a new racing mini-game.

Stinky's diner has more or less remained the same. Stinky continues to brag about her life and all the wonderful items in her restaurant. On the other hand, Sam and Max continue to suspect that Stinky has killed the original owner of the place. Even though she claims that "old Stinky" is her grandfather, she keeps slipping and forgetting him as a relative. I wonder if this may turn out be an upcoming case for the freelance police—to find out what has happened to the "real" Stinky.

Flint Paper, the detective next door to Sam and Max, has so far made only a few cameo appearances. His role is slightly bigger in this episode. He comes to rescue Sam and Max and seems genuinely to care for them, unlike Stinky. He really appears to be a good guy, and I can only assume (as well as hope) that his role will get bigger in the final episodes.

The ending seems to be a cliffhanger, or at least it is a nod to the next episode. Whether it is a true cliffhanger or just a humorous stunt from the game designers remains to be seen. Now that we have reached halfway through the season, I am very positive about the changes that Telltale Games has made to revamp the series this year. The only sad part is that there will only be 5 (rather than 6) episodes for the current season. There is no reason to be depressed yet, though. There are still 2 more episodes which fans can look forward to playing. Until then, stay away from the zombies!

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