Free Game: Sam & Max Episode 4

By Shamus
on Nov 16, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews

I’ve been very negative of episodic games before, mostly because I don’t want video games to turn into soap opera stories that string you along forever because they want to keep selling you games. This was a real concern with Dreamfall, which brought the tale to a gut-wrenching low and then abandoned the player without any assurance that a sequel would be made.

(The jury is still out for me on Half-Life 2. I thought the ending to the game itself was a cheap cliffhanger, the opening of Episode 1 was a deus ex machina, and that episode ended in a cliffhanger as well. I’m not crazy about this, but unlike Dreamfall Half-Life is more than just the story. It has fantastic gameplay to back up the story. I’m ready to forgive Valve’s cliffhanger excesses if they can bring Episode 3 to a satisfying close.)

Sam & Max, freelance police.
Sam & Max, freelance police.
But here is how episodic games can be done, and right: Sam & Max. The game is a comedy, which means you’re playing for the laughs and not the overarching plot. Moreover, there is no overarching plot: Each episode is a self-contained story.

Sam and Max are “freelance police”. Sam is a Humphrey Bogart-ish dog. Max is his insane saw-toothed bunny rabbit sidekick. The two of them inhabit a world otherwise populated by humans who don’t seem to question the existence of a Dog & Rabbit freelance police team. This is modern adventure gaming at its best: Click on stuff, listen to the funny dialog, pick up everything that isn’t nailed down, solve puzzles, and watch the surreal events unfold.

I can’t sum up the plot in any meaningful way. It’s just too strange. Episode 4 is titled Abe Lincoln Must Die! and indeed you do meet Abe Lincoln, visit the White House, and sucker-punch the President of the United States. (Sort of.) The game steers clear of partisan politicial humor and aims for more universal themes like “the government wastes a lot of money” and “politicians are liars”. This is a smart move not just because it appeals to people all over the political spectrum, but because the more specific, headline-driven humor tends to age poorly and quickly. The game got me to laugh a number of times.

You can get the full game here. On the right you can see a big green button for “Get the free DEMO”, and just to the left of that is a link to “buy” the full game for $0.00. Yes I realize that is strange. No, I don’t know why it’s like that.

It’s nice to see adventure games thriving again. I’m sorry I didn’t check out this franchise sooner. Great stuff.

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17Just 17 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Hermes says:

    I loved the original Sam & Max, and I’ve been thinking about buying it for a while. I’ll definately check it out now.

  2. MintSkittle says:

    First, Sam & Max. Awesomeness. I’d recomend getting the Season 1 pack. Each episode is about an hour long, but it’s comedy gold.

    Second, Shamus. There’s a google ad I’m not sure about. It’s a large black bar with “God still lives us” in white letters next to a biohazzard symbol. http://www.godstilllovesus.org

  3. Lebkin says:

    “Moreover, there is no overarching plot: Each episode is a self-contained story.”

    Actually, Sam and Max does it one better. Each episode is a self-contained story AND there is an overarching plot. Much like a good TV series (such as my current obsession Babylon 5), there are elements that tie each episode together into a season long narrative. But each individual episode is setup in such a way that they are enjoyable in and of themselves.

    I own all of season one, and plan on buying season 2 when the bank account allows. It is well worth your money. The distribution system is great as well. When you buy a season, you get to download each episode when it comes out. Then at the end of the season, they send you a disk with all the episodes on them. And I believe, though I could be wrong, that the episodes on the disk require no activation, thus preserving your investment for the long-term.

  4. Skip says:

    “You crack me up little buddy.”

    I was just about to type what Lebkin already did. The Sam and Max episodes are why I subscribed to GameTap – everything else was just gravy. While it would be nice to have the disc, there’s not going to be a lot of replay in them, so that’s not that big a deal to me.

    I have episode 1 of season 2 downloaded, and will probably block out a couple of hours to play through it this weekend. And honestly that’s the great thing about it – I think the most any of the episodes took me to finish last season was four hours, but it was four hours that were really fun.

  5. Alan De Smet says:

    Sam & Max Season 1 is great. Telltale Games gets episodic content. New episodes were released relatively frequently (I believe about every 45 days). Individual episodes were complete stories that let you satisfied. The season as a whole wrapped up the ongoing plot threads happily. If you get the season pass, when the season is done you can get the entire season on DVD for the cost of shipping, so you’ve got a long term version that will work even if Telltale goes under. Add in good writing and great humor and you’ve got a winner. I’m looking forward to Season 2.

  6. Phlux says:

    Also looking forward to the Penny Arcade episodic game. That one sounds like it will be a little more “plotty” than Sam & Max, but they’re designing it like a playable comic strip, so I wouldn’t expect huge cliffhangers. Also they’ve said the games will be released several months apart instead of a year or two like other episodic titles.

  7. JenaRey says:

    I loved the first Season, which had a total of 6 episodes. Abe Lincoln Must Die and Reality 2.0 were my favorites. I just finished Ep 1 of Season 2 and it’s a perfect lead into how the holidays should start…If only we could have hit the Soda Poppers with the Flounder Pounder. :P

  8. DarkLadyWolf says:

    I can easily recommend the whole of Season 1. I can also recommend the first episode in Season 2 (201: Ice Station Santa) – it seems even funnier and more clever somehow.

  9. eloj says:

    Gotta mention that if you buy the Season DVD you get a dual-layer disc with the games (450MB) and the rest is video with like four commentary tracks per episode. Something for the game nerds to really dig into.

  10. SimeSublime says:

    Lacking a credit card, I had to wait until the season was released in stores, but I can say it was well worth it. One of the best games to come out in a long time.

  11. collar says:

    Have to agree with everyone else, Sam and Max Season 1 was great. I bought it online after all of them were out. I loved it, my wife played through them all and our 3 year old watched (Max appeals well to 3 year olds ;).

    They really are episodic games done right, overall plot but broken down per episode into self contained stories. They come out at a good regular pace rather than years apart and don’t cost the earth.

  12. Zaghadka says:

    I just wanted to thank you for steering me, and the rest of the Internet, to these interesting tidbits.

    If I see anything free that I think is interesting, I’ll shoot an email to ya’.

    Two suggestions off-hand that you might want to check out and blog if you like them are Battle For Wesnoth and Art of Theft.

    Thanks again.

  13. Huckleberry says:

    Zaghadka: Thanks! I’ve just tried “Battle for Wesnoth”. I am pretty inexperienced with rule-based strategy games (I even failed in the introduction section. More than once…), so I can’t say how it compares to others; but in the end I managed to beat the evil Orc captain, successfully completing the introductory campaign, and did enjoy the game. And (hint, hint), I’d ebe interested what others think about it…

    Plus: this game is free, and it comes with literally dozens of language option, among them Esparanto and Latin. :O

  14. Zaghadka says:

    [Huckleberry] I found the game play of Wesnoth to be a little shallow, but I thought the production values were excellent for a FOSS/free as in beer game.

    If you’re new to the turn based/strategic wargames, it’s excellent. For me, I reinstalled Heroes of Might and Magic 2/3 because they have more strategic depth.

    It’s a solid game. I got a good 30 hours of play out of it before I got bored.

  15. Huckleberry says:

    Zaghadka:
    In the meantime, I’ve played through the first campaign (on easy) on my first try. Somewhat strangely, it proofed successful to keep the “captain” basically out of the game, by leaving him at the base to produce more troops if needed and additionally to make sure he wouldn’t be killed. Worked, but nevertheless felt somewhat weird to see his troops marching on without him (especially as he could have done some real damage). But: great fun! (And quite satisfying…)

    Shamus: Sorry. I’ll stop going on about Wesnoth right now.

  16. […] sound, though, as it’s all played for laughs. I first heard about this one a while back from Twenty-Sided, and I admit that up until now I’ve made it a point to not showcase the same free games that […]

  17. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    Link is dead

One Trackback

  1. […] sound, though, as it’s all played for laughs. I first heard about this one a while back from Twenty-Sided, and I admit that up until now I’ve made it a point to not showcase the same free games that […]

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