Sam and Max: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak (PC) Review
Posted by Lee Price on 05.24.2010
Sam and Max return in another Telltale episode, as they continue the search for the Devil's Toybox. Does this chapter live up to the previous high standards set by Telltale Games? Find out inside.
Game: Sam and Max: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak Publisher: Telltale Games Developer: Telltale Games Genre: Adventure Players: One Rating: E for Everyone
Telltale Games have been building a reputation for attempting to almost single-handedly revive the point and click adventure genre. They have their hands on a number of high profile franchises, chief amongst them being the Monkey Island series and the Sam and Max series. The first two series of Sam and Max games produced by the company showed increasing promise, though neither quite managed the ascend the same peaks as the original game.
With the new series, The Devil's Playhouse, we find Sam and Max on the lookout for the Devil's Toybox, a mysterious ancient artifact that fell from the sky in Egypt 6000 years ago and made a lowly mook by the name of Sammun-Mak the emperor of Egypt.
The game opens with a short cinematic in which Sam and Max discover what looks to be their own skeletons. After a bit of rummaging they find a set of film reels and a projector throughout which they learn that their great grandparents, Sammeth and Maximus, had been on a mission to retrieve the toybox themselves. You get a small introduction to Max's psychic powers when you use them to fool Nicholas St Kringle in an attempt to escape the tomb, before getting into the game proper.
The chapter centers around switching between the four reels that Sam and Max find with the projector, each of which document a different chapter in their great-grandparents' story. The general object is to use information from later reels to solve puzzles in earlier reels and vice versa, until you eventually complete each one and finish the game on the fourth reel.
The titular toybox was introduced in the first episode of the series, alongside Max's new found psychic powers. These powers continue to be the crux upon which a number of the puzzles in the game are based and it makes for an interesting, though often quite simple, method of creating in game puzzles. The game does do a good job of balancing between regular adventure puzzling and using Max's psychic powers, and generally finding your way through a reel involves some logical thinking mixed with smart use of the powers. They provide a new dynamic to the puzzling, though Telltale Games must ensure that they don't become a crutch upon which to base all puzzles in future episodes.
The script is as snappy as ever. Max is his usual insane self, though its Sam's deadpan delivery that steals the show as always. There are a few “laugh out loud” funny and self-referential moments, such as Sam suggesting that adventure games could be the next big toy to thunderous silence, and the game feels like it belongs in the Sam and Max universe which means they must have done something right. New characters in the series, such as a curmudgeonly old Santa Claus parody and the mole people all have a role to play as well as having funny moments of their own and Telltale Games, as usual, does a good job of expanding on an already beloved game without tainting it with poor characterization.
For those who aren't too up on their adventure game the game does provide a handy hint system which pretty much holds your hand throughout. You can choose the frequency and quality of the hints, or turn them off completely, so its a useful feature that caters to everybody, be they hardcore adventure gamers or casuals who want their hand held throughout the experience.
Control wise, Telltale Games continue with using their mixed system, with the keyboard being used to control Sam, while the mouse Is used to click on relevant items or people. Its a good system, and one that has served the company well with previous iterations of the game, so there was no need to change it and it is probably amongst the best systems used in point and click adventure games of the modern age.
Graphically Telltale have done a good job, as they have done throughout the series. The only problem arises when people attempt to play the game with an old standard definition monitor. The game is extremely dark in some places, even with the brightness turned all the way up, making it a little more difficult to progress. Luckily it isn't an all-encompassing problem and can be dealt with. Other than that the game looks good without ever really excelling, but the graphics have a certain character of their own which is ideal for a game that doesn't look to put polished graphics over its core gameplay.
The voice track is of a high standard, as we have come to expect from these types of games. Delivery of lines is spot on and it really has to be in an adventure game, so Telltale can be commended for that. Everything else is handled well without ever really excelling. Sound effects are decent and the little musical flourishes are fitting, but this is a game that lives and dies by its voice acting and so that should be, and is, the primary concern. Luckily Telltale have done a good job with it.
Telltale Games are fast becoming the biggest name in the adventure genre, taking old IPs and bringing them into the 21st century. You can see the growing confidence with which Telltale handles their scripts these days, as they have become one of the more experienced adventure game developers in the market today, and this is evident throughout the course of The Tomb of Sammun-Mak. While the game doesn't host any standout moments, it is solid throughout and raises a fair few chuckles while providing a bit of a challenge as well. While the title won't last beyond a couple of hours, once it is played in the context of the previous and upcoming chapters, you will have a solid gaming experience and I expect the next three chapters will continue the high standard set by the first two in the series.
Good voice acting
Decent puzzles that don't rely too much on Max's psychic powers
Interesting gameplay mechanic involving the four reels
Doesn't have any standout moments, even though the game is good throughout
Graphics aren't ideal for standard definition monitors
They never excel, though they do have a certain character to them. Dark areas become extremely difficult to see on older monitors, though this generally won't trouble many gamers these days.
Decent puzzles that have the multi-layered mechanic of Max's psychic powers and the reel format of breaking the chapter into smaller pieces that you must switch between. A good show all round really.
Superb voice acting to complement a good script. Other sound effects and music do their job, but Telltale did right by focusing on the voice acting above everything else.
By its very nature it isn't intended to be a long game, clocking in at around 3-4 hours depending on how long you take with the puzzles. There is little replay value either outside of playing simply to experience the game again.
The puzzles are interesting and the script does have some genuinely funny moments. A fan of the series should feel right at home with it.