It was a relief for everyone at PC ZONE that Sam & Max: Episode One - Culture Shock was as good as it was. It proved Telltale's ability to resurrect the freelance police without turning them into soulless zombies. It looked right and sounded right, with strange locations, strong characters and a stronger script. You got check-boxes? We got them check, checkity-checked. So, is the second episode as good? You bet your sweet heiny it is.
Situation: Comedy begins, as did the first episodic chunk: in your office, on the same street that dominated the first episode. Well, I say it's the same street. Sybil has reopened as a tabloid newspaper, and Bosco is pretending to be an Englishman to hide from certain government conspiracies. Jimmy The Rat, meanwhile, has shaved his body and is driving around like a maniac. You don't feel cheated by repeating the same early screens, and in any event, you'll soon be off to the TV studios.
Your mission? Myra, a sanctimonious and matriarchal chat show host, has taken
her audience hostage and is constantly showering them with increasingly unwanted gifts. So, it's off to the TV studio, where Myra's show has absorbed all of the studio staff, leaving you to star in and make all the other programmes yourself, with a supporting cast that includes a harried director, the child star Soda Poppers from Episode One, and a colourful camp chap who has a self-help book named after vomiting.
DON'T HAVE A COW
And this is where Situation: Comedy wins out on Culture Shock. All other things being equal, it's even funnier. Telltale have a rare knack for warm characters and sharp dialogue, combining to form a constant jet of hot, sharp jokes. Allow me to make one specific gush. One of the sets at the studio is for a sitcom called 'Midtown Cowboys'. The set-up is beautiful - a belligerent landlord with a strict 'no-cows' policy rents out a room to a couple of aspiring urban cowboys. Who, you guessed it, keep their cow in the living room. The second the theme tune kicks in - an upbeat jingle topped off with a burst of "they're probably hiding a cow" - you'd have to be inhuman not to slide off your chair in unbridled joy.
The whole game is a slice of playable comedy. Every line has some form of joke, and following the Family Guy/Airplane rule of scattergun comedy, you'll forgive terrible jokes, because you've heard another good one by the time it's registered. In fact, I came away from the game ready to write a job application for Telltale, utterly convinced they must have the best lives ever.
Does the game suffer? Well, it's still short, but then again it's still cheap, and still part of a series that will eventually form great value. The difficulty level is about the same as the previous episode, which makes for two to three hours for a puzzle fiend, and - cough - four hours for me. Think of it as a night in. An occasionally frustrating night in, admittedly - the driving puzzle was again the weakest link, and was solved in anger rather than logic or skill. Also, the fourth or fifth time through a conversation you'll be glad of the ability to skip speech.
This is an adventure game for anyone who loves adventure games, anyone who loves to laugh, and anyone who loves seeing animals represented as gun-toting sociopaths. And who can't admit to at least two of those?
The good life
- They crack me up, lil' buddy
- Excellent script, excellent acting
- We're even more excited about Episode Three
- A fun way to fill a single evening
- Not hard enough for puzzle nuts
- Driving mini-game not the best