Sam & Max Save the World review: Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

by VR Lars
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Sam & Max: Save the World is a breath of fresh air. Which is funny, considering it’s a remastered version of a game released in 2009 by Telltale, a company now infamous for basically creating a genre and then oversaturating it until it collapsed. Sam & Max is of a much finer pedigree than that, though, first adapted into the gaming medium by LucasArts in 1993. They’re point n’ click royalty, and though they use the same episodic format as Telltale’s multiple licenses, there’s no illusion of branching narrative – just good ol’ fashioned witty dialogue and puzzle-solving.

This is a remaster, and a good one at that – Skunkape Games is a studio comprised of former Telltale developers, so it’s fair to say they know what they’re doing with the game. It looks fantastic – the resolution is sharp, colours are vibrant, and very rarely does it show its age. Granted, certain graphics styles age much better than others – Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is a fantastic example of that – but Sam & Max Save the World has been treated very kindly by its new caretakers. This is not by any means a shameless cash grab – it’s preservation of a beloved series.

Sam & Max Save the World cut scene

It’s refreshing, truly, to play an adventure game like this that sticks to the basics. There’s certainly merits to the “interactive narrative experience” approach, but there’s nothing like a well-written dialogue and funny puzzles to sell me on a game. Sam & Max is a textbook example of that, and the spirit of the franchise still burns on. The characters are brilliant, ranging from clever, subversive caricatures to sheer absurdity. Sam’s cool, collected attitude is perfectly offset by Max’s hyperactive, hyper-violent nature, and their career as “freelance police” always leads to genuinely hilarious and unexpected antics.

There is nothing predictable about Sam & Max. One moment you’ll be interrogating a rat after he took your phone hostage, the next you’re thwarting a brainwashing plot championed by washed up child stars. The puzzles themselves are mostly straightforward, occasionally a little bit abstract for the sake of slapstick comedy, but the real genius is the pacing. It never lingers on one joke for too long, rarely repeating itself, constantly moving forwards to the next thing. It’s almost like an improv group fever dream, “Yes, and then the talking rabbit dropped a bowling ball on the little man’s head!”.

Sam & Max Save the World gameplay

These are well-loved characters, and rightly so. It’s entirely possible that this game could be the first time many younger players have even heard of the duo, and Skunkape’s fantastic touch has certainly shown off their best side. Remasters of the following two “seasons” of Sam & Max are in the works too, which is great – there’s plenty of oddball stories already told in the world, and shining them up for a new generation is a solid move. Will we ever see a new entry in the series? Time will tell, and it probably depends on how well the remasters sell.

There are, inevitably, a few relics of older game design left behind, but that’s part of the charm of point n’ click – if you’re not blindly wandering around the same area trying to use everything in your inventory on anything you can, have you really even played the game? But the environments are so vibrant, so dense with funny little details just for the sake of it, that the trial and error process still gives a sense of reward.

Sam & Max Save the World on a TV screen

Sam & Max Save the World overall thoughts

So, if you’re a fan of the golden age of adventure games, or a fan of Sam & Max in any format, this is a remaster done right, and easily the definitive version of Save the World. If you’ve missed out, and anything in this review or the screenshots above makes you think “Hm, this might be a good time” – don’t hesitate. It absolutely is. We need more games like this, or, more accurately, there needs to be more interest in games like this, before adventure games finish their permanent fusion to the “walking simulator” genre. This is a classic franchise, lovingly brought forward to modern day, and it still has a hell of a lot to offer.

Sam & Max Save the World was originally developed by Telltale and is based off of the original Steve Purcell comic series. The remaster was championed by Skunkape Games, who have two more seasons on the way. Check it out on Steam here, and read more of our game reviews here!

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