June 29, 2010

Knee-Deep In This Puzzle Shit: The Penal Zone

Telltale has really come a long way. They’ve really made episodic gaming work, and they’ve done it in a vastly entertaining way. Now they’ve come back to Sam and Max, and the result is astounding. Sam and Max Season 3: The Devil’s Playhouse looks fantastic, and plays better than ever before. You can tell they put a ton of thought into it, and it really pays off.

I recently played through the first three episodes, so look forward to reviews of all of them coming soon. I’ll probably try to break them up with other random shit. This is just a review of the first episode, the Penal Zone.

In surprising fashion for an adventure game, The Penal Zone starts you with an abilitease. You learn how to use Max’s new powers to do all sorts of cool things, and then soon have them taken away from you. The fact that this has incredibly good narrative justification in the story, due to the Future Vision, is just icing on the cake. They really thought this out.

I also rather like Future Vision has a hint and puzzle-solving mechanism. It completely works in-story and it often is more humorous than a flat-out hint would be. Oddly enough, they kind of shy away from Future Vision as Hint Mechanism in future episodes I’ve played, but it works pretty well in this first one to get you ready.

On top of that, it makes really intelligent use of your small skill-set. The Teleportation power is great, both as a quick-travel mechanism and, in this episode, as a puzzle-solving device, and they pretty well use it completely. They get some mileage out of it, and by the time it starts to get a little stale, they decide to go to other sort of mechanisms, like the Crime-Tron, in order to puzzle the story forward. It works really great.

I was really impressed with this first episode. So much so that I went and immediately played through the other two I hadn’t got to yet. If you like adventure games at all, you owe it to yourself to play this new season of Sam and Max. Even if you thought the previous seasons were lackluster, this one might change your mind.

Leave a comment