Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse (Episode 1: The Penal Zone)

Back in the late eighties, in the teen years of video games, point & click adventures like Kings Quest or Maniac Mansion were hugely popular. A number of the best adventure games came from LucasArts. A favorite of them were the Sam & Max games.

Now, fast forward about 20 years. Since the the days of the point & click adventure games, many more genres have spawned as the video game industry evolved. Dogfight sims gave way to first person shooters. Point & click gave way to role playing games. Even sports games are no where near what they used to be.

With the advancements in video games over the past 20 years, it’s hard to maintain an interest in such an old kind of game. While the graphics have been updated, I’m just not sure the tedious game of clicking on someone asking various questions on multiple topics (which you have to ask all, so you don’t miss a clue) it what it used to be. After LucasArts let the license expire in 2005 and Telltale (a company of former LucasArts developers that use to do the Sam & Max games) bought up the the license. Since then they’ve released five Sam & Max games, not including this one. Don’t get me wrong, for what it is, its okay. The humor isn’t what it used to be, but the characters remain the same as I remember. I’d say, on average, there was one genuinely funny moment or bit of dialog every five minutes.

Now for the economics of the game. Taletale Games tends to mostly do episodic games. This particular Sam & Max game will be sold for about $35, separated in to 5 “episodes”, releasing an episode every month. Break it down per episode, you’re looking at about $7 an episode. Being released for both PC & Mac, you’ll have to fork up the $35 upfront and hope the 4 following episodes are worth the money. Now, it’s also being release on Apple’s new iPad, which changes this review just a bit. For one thing, you can buy the 1st episode for $6.99 on Apple’s App Store. This is a lot better than risking $35 on a game you might get bored with in the first ten minutes. While I only played the desktop version, its my opinion that a point & click adventure would play better on the iPad. The control of the game itself, on the desktop, looks like it was originally designed for a hand held touch sensitive display. So, instead of point your mouse & clicking with your mouse, you’re using your finger to touch what you want them to use, talk to or investigate.

If you have a PC or Mac, I’d probably pass on the game, however if you have an iPad and are nostalgic for another Sam & Max adventure buy the first episodes and see if you like it.

Todd Lipska

Todd's geekiness started off early with his family's first computer: a TRS-80. As a contributing writer, head photographer, lead programmer and one of the founders of Media Geeks, well, suffice it to say, he's a busy guy.

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