Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse Episode 303: They Stole Max's Brain!

Posted by Erik-André Vik Mamen.
First posted on 22 June 2010. Last updated on 25 August 2010.
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Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse Episode 303: They Stole Max's Brain!
Yes, really! They stole Max's brain!
Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse Episode 303: They Stole Max's Brain!
Sam drives solo in the DeSoto with his dead buddy.
Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse Episode 303: They Stole Max's Brain!
Sam is angry, and he is seeking vengeance.
Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse Episode 303: They Stole Max's Brain!
No suspect is safe from Sam's relentless interrogation.
Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse Episode 303: They Stole Max's Brain!
Skun-ka'pe has changed from a general to a gladiator.

Sam & Max: Season Three

The season, Sam & Max The Devil's Playhouse, is comprised of 5 episodes:

Episode 301: The Penal Zone

Episode 302: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak

Episode 303: They Stole Max's Brain!

Episode 304: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls

Episode 305: The City That Dares Not Sleep

Previously on Sam & Max...

After trapping General Skun-ka'pe in The Penal Zone, Sam and Max uncover the bones of their ancestors. They then watch an old film of their ancestors' final adventure, in which the nefarious plan of Monsieur Papierwaite to steal the treasure from The Tomb of Sammun-Mak is foiled. Before the cinematic detour ends, Sam decides to take a bathroom break (probably for the first time in the series)—only to discover in horror that, upon his return—They Stole Max's Brain!

After Sam realizes that his little pal now harbors an open skull (literally) without a brain, he grows furious. The new, vengeful Sam is more hardboiled than the kinder, gentler Sam of the past. He drives around and relentlessly interrogates anyone who may know the whereabouts of his buddy's brain. Soon, he discovers that both Skun-ka'pe and Papierwaite are responsible for the abduction. Worst yet, the ancient Pharaoh Sammun-Mak seems keen to revive himself and regain his power to seek revenge on those who has invaded his tomb.

Since the freelance police duo has now turned into a solo detective, the game has also appropriately taken a different turn. The first part of the game focuses on Sam gathering clues through a series of advanced dialog puzzles. Unlike the dialog puzzles in previous episodes, these dialog puzzles require Sam to interrupt the suspects during the interrogations at the right time to break them to yield the right responses. This is a good refresh to an otherwise tired mechanic. Alas, once Sam gets a partner again (initially, Max's body but with a different brain, and later, Max's brain in a jar), the dialog puzzles revert back to the more familiar formula used in past games.

This episode reintroduces the DeSoto as the main transport to travel between locations. Whenever Sam enters his trusty automobile, he can select a destination on a map. Later, Max's psychic abilities can be used to teleport to most of these locations. Unfortunately, Max does not gain any new psychic power to play with in this episode. The Toys of Power, as they are called, have all been introduced in the first episode.

As with all previous games in the series, the difficulty level in this game is rather low. Most experienced adventure gamers will be able to complete the episode in just a few hours. It is clear that Telltale Games has decided to focus on delivering a good story with humor, rather than a challenging adventure game. Given the critical success of the series, it is unlikely that this formula will change in future episodes. The original Sam & Max is a cartoon that is based on slapstick humor, so the developer's decision to preserve this appeal of the franchise is sound. However, being able to cruise through the game with relative ease also means that many players will likely miss a fantastic number of funny jokes that are littered throughout the game. There are plenty of the objects or characters in the game that will bring out a humorous commentary, an interesting observation, or a witty in-joke. All these truly speak to the diversity and richness of the mythos already established in this franchise.

For each new season of Sam & Max, Telltale Games has managed to work in a few improvements. Unlike the first and second seasons, this season has featured more unique locations and characters. There are no longer the familiar chains of events that begin with yet another mission debriefing from the Commissioner and follow with the dynamic duo investigating around the neighborhood for clues to their new case. Instead, each episode takes place in an entirely different setting. Further, within each episode, there are more variations in the game mechanics. For example, the first and last parts of this episode focus on only dialog puzzles (notwithstanding minor variations), whereas the middle part of this episode makes use of more traditional puzzle mechanics.

Fans of the original cartoon will probably realize, if they have not done so already, that the characterizations of Sam and Max in this episode are more true to the original form depicted by creator Steve Purcell in the cartoon. The events of the story are more surreal, including the fact that Max can survive with his brain and his body separated. Despite this handicap (pun intended), it is noteworthy that Max's role has actually increased significantly in this season. Even without his body, he now appears to hold a greater understanding of the situation around him. For example, in this episode, Sam (which probably has a more mundane brain than Max) falls under the spell of the pharaoh. Max, however, figures out a plan on how to defeat the evil ruler. He just has troubles with executing it without his body.

While the previous episode breaks the linear storytelling by traveling to the past, this episode marks the return to a more linear narrative and back to the present. Even so, the game feels fresh and not outdated or recycled. The final scene of the game ends again with an absurd shocking cliffhanger. It is not easy to see ahead what crazy turn this season may take next. If you want to see how the story ends, be sure to keep your brain well guarded for the rest of the season!

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