GeekTeen Review: Sam & Max’s The City That Dares Not Sleep

Geek Culture

Cthulhu Max rampages the city. Image: TellTale Games

Below, GeekTeen John gives his take on the latest TellTale Games offering in the five-part comedy saga “Sam & Max .”

The best part about Telltale Games is the intense season finales. The final chapter to the latest Sam & Max adventure, The Devil’s Playhouse, is no different. In The City That Dares Not Sleep, the game suddenly becomes twisted and dark as the villains’ master plan is unveiled and all chaos breaks loose. But the finale does manage to keep the wacky hijacks and the upbeat tone that are the core of Sam & Max.

For an episode which wraps up an entire season, The City That Dares Not Sleep has a simple plot: Max has turned into a giant Lovecraft-inspired monster, and Sam must organize a rescue team to be eaten by Max so they can reverse the change. They have to work their way through Max’s bizarre body, where all the organs are completely furnished living spaces, and get up to the brain to remove the tumor infecting giant Max. But what Sam discovers inside Max’s brain might leave your jaw on the floor.

The game is fun to play, even without being able to use Max’s psychic toys, which were a powerful puzzle-solving tool in previous episodes. Many of the puzzles are simpler because of it. In fact, this game felt more like earlier seasons of Sam & Max. And there are actually many references to the comics and previous games, including the 1993 LucasArts game, in a certain spot that Max seems to be very sensitive about. The twists are ingenious, and many players won’t be expecting them. (I certainly wasn’t.) I won’t give away the ending, but it will leave you shocked.

Now, I thought that this was a great episode by itself. But The City That Dares Not Sleep has problems fitting into the entire season. Other Telltale games, such as Tales of Monkey Island, have done a good job of connecting individual episodes into one story line. All the episodes could be played and enjoyed by themselves, but they all had an underlying connection that was tied up very nicely in the finale. With Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse, most of the connections to other episodes are just a means of getting to this last one. At the end of every episode in this season, problems are introduced that have no bearing on events of the previous episode. Characters and settings are reused but only for the purposes of the current episode.

But the thing is, Sam & Max have never really had a complex, coherent story like Monkey Island. They have always had short, crazy, adventures. Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine. But it’s certainly not enough to ruin my experience and enjoyment of the game.

So would I recommend this game and season? Yes. It’s fun to play, listen and watch. It has wonderfully written dialogue. And could keep you glued to your seat for three or four hours. Teens and tweens will enjoy the subtle humor. The younger crowd might not understand all the jokes, but there’s nothing here that’s inappropriate for kids.

Available from TellTale Games. TellTale sent me a review copy.

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