Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub?

Posted by Erik-André Vik Mamen.
First posted on 10 April 2008. Last updated on 25 August 2010.
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Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub?
The alternative title Hells-A-Popping says it all.
Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub?
Signing an eternal contract in Hell may not be a smart idea.
Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub?
Sam and Max run their own operation in Hell, just like back in the neighborhood.
Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub?
The next stop for the "soul" train is Hell.
Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub?
Guess who is the boss in Hell!

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?

All good things must come to an end... err... Hell! This time, Sam and Max goes to Hell and creates "hell" for everybody—Satan included. Surely, is this a strange way to end a season? Not at all, least for the freelance police. When they find out that their neighborhood street is just a "soul" train stop from Hell, they are not scared; rather, they cannot wait but to jump onboard and pay a visit to the place of eternal damnation to save Bosco's soul.

Only this Hell is a bit different. It is crowded with familiar faces—faces whom Sam and Max have seen before and many of whom Sam and Max are responsible for sending there. To a casual visitor, Hell may not seem so bad. It is true that every day is Monday, and the clock shows just 1 minute before closing... forever. Every computer seems to run only on Linux (I guess Hell is still open source), and the coffee is always cold (even in Hell). It seems that working in the cooperate wasteland of Hell is just like working in a Dilbert like office—to the casual visitor at least. Only difference there is that Satan is the boss. When someone gets fired, someone really gets fired (if you know what I mean)!

Unlike last season, this season has only 5 rather than 6 episodes. As much as that I have come to love the new Sam & Max series, I only wish for another episode! Still, the length of this episode seems like a double in a way. The overall quality of this season has been so much better than the last season, so that the last 5 episodes as a whole are richer in content than all earlier 6 episodes combined.

The finale episode is not only harder but also longer than other episodes from the current season. Fortunately, the quality of the episode is not lost at the expense of these changes. Several times throughout the game, it is nearly impossible not to laugh out loud! The story keeps surprising you and adding more twists just when you assume that the game is coming to an end. It mixes in elements from earlier episodes and uses flashback humor as a device to keep the pace moving forward. Understandably, many of the jokes are less funny (but not by much) if you have not played the earlier episodes. For example, the vampire Jurgen (from Night of the Raving Dead) now works in Hell, and he is not so eager to help out Sam and Max, since they are responsible for sending him there. Knowing who Jurgen is from the earlier episode helps you to understand his motivation (or lack of) and attitude towards the freelance police. Likewise, the time paradoxes (from Ice Station Santa and Chariots of the Dogs) are difficult to understand and may appear very strange without knowing the previous context. Regardless, I say that this is easily the best episode of Sam & Max so far. The right combination of humor, gameplay, story, music, and surprise makes for a near perfect episode to end the magnificent season. If you are already a diehard Sam & Max fan, you will surely enjoy this episode. If you are only a causal gamer and have not played any of the Sam & Max games, you are still well advised to try out this episode if not the entire season.

As with the last season finale, the finale for this season is far from being a standalone episode. The episode is crowded with references from earlier episodes, not only in characters but also in dialog and gameplay. A few of these references are from the first season, though they are never so important that a gamer who is new to this season will miss a vital (and funny) clue needed to finish the game. Nonetheless, it can be a strange experience if you play this episode without the others first, since many elements of the story will undoubtedly sound strange and unexplained otherwise. After all, why start at the end when you can start from the beginning?

The game dynamics in this episode are more or less the same as previous episodes. There is a portal in Hell where Sam and Max can jump directly to most other locations, where they will discover that other characters are living in their own personal "hell". This is a clever way to recycle scenes introduced over the past seasons—and why not? They make perfect sense. Some locations are more tedious to reach. For example, to get to Sybil's place deep inside Hell, you have to manually walk through several screens that can get boring quickly if you are stuck wandering around.

The driving mini-game seen in almost every episode is back. It works as before with the same mechanics but a new objective. There are no other mini-games. A reason why this game is more difficult is the fact that there are a lot more different inventory objects to handle. It is not as easy to figure out when to use them, if they are at all usable. Some objects are found quite early but are used quite late in the game. Others are used almost immediately at the moment they are found, but you are always left wondering if you may use them again.

I know some gamers may prefer to wait until all the episodes are available in a retail box release, much like Sam & Max: Season One. You are probably wondering if you want to buy the game now. The short answer is yes! Now that the second season is complete, you can easily get them all without waiting for the next. There are no more cliffhangers that will force you to impatiently wait for another episode. The references between seasons are much less than the references between episodes of the same season, so that it is much easier to get into playing the second season even without playing the first.

Looking back at both seasons, I can say that Season One is good, but Season Two is better. I can only hope that there will a Season Three. It will be a great challenge for the developer to extend the life of this venerable series. So far, Telltale Games seems to do much right, and it is difficult to point out any wrong. My only recommendation for Telltale Games is to continue the new direction which it has started with the second season—longer episodes, more new locations, and lesser recycling of old materials. Fans are fast growing tired of the same Sam & Max's office and the same neighborhood streets (even though the designers have done a great job redressing it for this season). A great move will be to either introduce new characters in old familiar settings or reinvent old characters in brand new situations. Likewise, it will be interesting in further episodes to be able to meet these characters without first needing to visit their usual hideouts each time. Continuing this direction, I will have a very difficult time criticizing the series in the future.

Sam & Max Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub? is a great episode and a great ending to another season. With Sam and Max reigning in Hell, they may just make Hell a better place! There is no more need to be afraid of doing bad deeds now. After all, Hell seems a pretty fun place to be.

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