Sam and Max are at it again with the release of Telltale Games newest Sam and Max episode, They Stole Max’s Brain! We left Sam and Max at the end of The Tomb of Sammun-mak with Sam finding his partner’s brain had been removed while Sam was in the bathroom. Sam now not only has to find out who stole the Devil’s Toybox, but also has to locate and re-insert Max’s brain before his body starts to smell worse then it already does.
Story (Waring: This section contains spoilers):
The story of They Stole Max’s Brain begins where The Tomb of Sammun-mak leaves off. Sam has returned from the bathroom to find that Max’s brain has been cut out and removed. Seeing his friend’s brainless body lying on the floor is enough to send Sam over the edge. In a quick flash back sequence, Sam remembers his interrogation training and uses it on the two mole cultists that were guarding the Devil’s Toybox. I will talk about this new game play technique in the next section, but I have to say that it was a neat deviation from the norm with Sam and Max games. Armed with the knowledge that the fiend who stole Max’s brain also took the Devil’s Toybox, Sam hits the town in a blind rage to find out where Max’s brain is. He interrogates Frankie the Rat, a European Tourist, and one of General Skun-Ka-Pe’s old minions to discover that it was indeed General Skun-Ka-Pe who took Max’s brain in order to run his toy-searching machine.
Sam follows the trail of clues and it leads him to the Museum of Mostly Natural History. There, he finds Max’s brain in a jar of Grandpa Stinky’s brain preserving Demon Broth. He also finds both General Skun-Ka-Pe and Anton Papierwaite battling over who will control the Devil’s Toybox. Deciding to join forces in order to defeat Sam, Skun-Ka-Pe and Papierwaite put aside their differences and focus on summoning every toy in the universe in order to complete their goals. General Skun-Ka-Pe will get the universe to control while Anton Papierwaite will rule the Earth with his master, Yogg-Saggoth. While I do not want to spoil too much of the story for you, just know that everything goes horribly wrong for Sam and Max and they soon find themselves on a world that has had it’s history completely re-written, and it’s Max’s job to sort it out.
Telltale Games continues the strong story writing with this episode. The beginning section that had Sam interrogating other characters, was completely told in a noir style, with inner character dialog and even the nice cut scenes showing Sam driving past various neon signs. Once Sam enters the museum, the style of the game returns to the style that has been used for the last two episodes. Sol, the museum guard cockroach, makes his appearance in this episode and is a very nice addition to the Sam and Max mix. This episode still has a ton of nice pop culture references, but my favorite has to be the Hindenburg meets Lovecraft line as Sam burns the tapestry of Yog-Saggoth and, of course, the Black Flag reference.
As I said earlier, the biggest gameplay difference in They Stole Max’s Brain is the interrogation game mechanic. Instead of just conversing with the other characters, Sam has to interrupt their speeches in order to gain information. You can call them a liar, threaten them with bodily harm, or use the noir button to convince them of what you want them to believe. This new game play only lasts for the beginning of the episode, then you switch back to the tried and true game play of the Sam and Max franchise when you enter the Museum of Mostly Natural History. Once Max’s body has been revived, to a certain extent, you will also have access to the toys of power from the other episodes, like the fortune telling viewfinder and the telephone of teleportation.
The rest of the game is done in the point-and-click adventure style that we have come to know and love. They Stole Max’s Brain is much more closely related in gameplay to the first episode, The Penal Zone, than the second episode of this season. The game play is linear and forces you to collect clues to solve the puzzles before you move on. Even when you enter the alternate Earth, you will still play the game the same way as before.
While this episode does not have a huge change in gameplay, like The Tomb of Sammun-mak, the interrogation sequences worked very well to spice things up a bit.
Graphics and Audio:
The graphics are exactly the same as they have been throughout this season of Sam and Max. However, for the first time this season, I did experience a couple of graphical glitches. These glitches were very minor and did not disrupt the gameplay, but were noticeable all the same. For instance, when Sam went to shoot Max’s body that was disguised as the Hindenburg, the gun was completely sideways and not pointing where Sam had to shoot. Very minor glitch, but noticeable nonetheless.
The voice acting in They Stole Max’s Brain is as fantastic as it has been all series-long. Sal, the museum guard cockroach, is particularly good this time the cynical nature of how the character is voiced is always entertaining. I also ran into an audio glitch that, while not game-breaking, were still noticable. The audio glitch occurred whenever I heard a boom from the thunder, it seemed to short out all sound from the game for a few seconds. Again, nothing major at all, just something to note.
Sam and Max: They Stole Max’s Brain continues the great storytelling and fantastic voice acting that has become synonymous with this entire season. They Stole Max’s Brain! introduces the noir gameplay style that has Sam interrogating characters to locate Max’s brain. While this episode did have some graphical and audio glitches, these glitches were so minor that they did not interrupt game play at all and may even be fixed prior to release. If you have been following Sam and Max this season, then you absolutely must pick up the newest episode. If you have yet to get into this new season, you really should go back and start at episode 1 before moving onto They Stole Max’s Brain! They Stole Max’s Brain is available today for the PC and PlayStation 3.