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Old 10-26-2009, 11:43 AM   #1
pwnophobia
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[XBLA] - Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space Review

Title: Same & Max: Beyond Time and Space
Platform: XBLA
Platform Reviewed: XBLA
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
MSRP: 1600 MSP ($20)
Writer: Adam 'pwnophobia' Cogswell

Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space Review

Sam & Max are back, but are they better than ever?

The adventure game genre is a beast that many developers try to tackle. It has spawned many great 2D and 3D games from the side scroller to the sandbox shoot 'em up that many people enjoy on Xbox Live Arcade. Before those type of games took off we had the point and click adventures where you tried to solve puzzles and advance through a linear story. Telltale Games has taken on the task of trying to revitalize this series with the Sam & Max franchise, releasing both seasons as separate downloadable games. Each game comes with at least five episodes telling their own unique story and sticking true to its PC origins. However, originally released in 1993, this formula is one that does not port well from mouse and keyboard to joystick controller.


Sam and Max: Beyond Time in Space is the second of two in the series and if you played the first Sam & Max game then you'll be all too familiar with the characters and controls of the second as you find clues, talk to other characters, and combine everything together to finish the story mode. Controlling Sam is simple; you use the joystick to click on an area of the screen and Sam will walk there. Use the same controls to find an object and watch Sam & Max interrogate a character with quick one liners and crude humor and then combine the objects that you find throughout the world to progress through the story. This is where the game falters the most. The joystick controls are extremely inaccurate and hard to control. Trying to point the cursor at a very tiny object that is buried behind other scenery is almost impossible because the controls never seem to flow. I never felt as if I was Sam or Max, more like I was narrating the story rather than taking a part in it. Had Telltale games added the functionality to move Sam around with my second joystick or even allowing me to open the inventory and scroll through it with the d-pad, I would have felt more like I was playing a game rather than watching a movie.


As I previously mentioned the game is split into episodes, five in total, and each has their own unique story. Without divulging too much of the only good thing the game has going for it, the original creator of Sam & Max took the time to piece each episode together and wrap them up in the end. After the second episode, however, the one liners started to feel forced and reused attempting to illicit snappy humor that is only funny when used sparingly. Conversations are still handled in a dialog tree but no matter what options you pick you will always end up hitting the question that allows you to move on, you cannot fail. The same goes for any of the clues as you are allowed to travel throughout the world without any punishment for missing an important object, this feature is great however if you missed something you may find yourself visiting six or seven different venues to find that off-the-wall item to progress the story further. It may be the way I think but Sam & Max provides a great challenge because you have to try and figure out the clues by thinking WAY outside of the box which can cause serious frustration and force you to be stuck in one area until you realize that you were supposed to click on that random figure behind seven different Christmas presents in the very first room you stepped into.


When I play a video game I need to feel engaged, like I am the main character. What Sam & Max fails to do is make you feel like you are a part of the game and while doing so forces useless and uninspired dialog that usually prompts skipping to be able to progress the story. Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space has its place in gaming history but it has not aged well in an era of joystick controlled characters. Before you purchase this game I would highly recommend trying out the demo to see if you have the patience to sit through a few hours of dialog with little interaction between you and the on-screen character.

Score: 1 out of 5


The Good
  • Updated graphics.

The Bad
  • Graphical glitches including the screen pausing for a load.
  • Moving the inaccurate cursor with a joystick to click on an item hidden behind three different objects.

The Ugly
  • Where is my second joystick control?

Last edited by pwnophobia; 10-26-2009 at 02:00 PM..
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Old 10-26-2009, 11:44 AM   #2
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Writer's Notes
Single Player Playthrough: 2 - 2 1/2 hours per episode (without walkthrough)
Completion at Credits: 4/5 Episodes

Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space Screenshots
(Images Courtesy of Video Game Generation)







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Old 10-26-2009, 11:59 AM   #3
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...or even allowing me to open the inventory and scroll through it with the d-pad...
Press the X button.
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Old 10-26-2009, 01:34 PM   #4
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Wow this is one of the worst reviews this site has ever published. Sam and Max rocks!
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Old 10-26-2009, 01:40 PM   #5
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Wow this is one of the worst reviews this site has ever published. Sam and Max rocks!
I pretty much disagree. As I said in my review of the first season, there's a reason they don't make these games anymore. Sam and Max, the characters are fine, but the pixelhunt item combining "gameplay" is terrible.
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Old 10-26-2009, 01:55 PM   #6
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Wow this is one of the worst reviews this site has ever published. Sam and Max rocks!
Let me ask you this question: Does Sam & Max rock because you have fond memories of playing this as a child? I know that I thought a game called Museum Madness was amazing when I played it at a young age but trying to play it now is like pulling teeth, its just not the same experience.
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Old 10-26-2009, 02:28 PM   #7
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Worst review on EvAv ever. My first clue that it was going to be awful was when you referenced "sidescrollers" and "sandbox shoot'em ups" as having been spawned by the adventure genre. Ugh... how insulting.

Giving this game a 1 out of 5 is a crime--that score should be reserved for games with little to NO redeeming value. As you have stated, even though you don't like the pixelhunt adventure style (whereas many others such as myself do when implemented well enough), the characters, humor, and story are at least somewhat interesting (and again, depending on the person, can range from hilarious to groan-inducing).

I would have been put out with a score of 2; 3 I would've been disappointed but could've stomached. But 1? Really? This game is right up there with "Big Rigs", "Shaq Fu", and "Superman 64"? Come on... (And yes--I realize you could have gone as low as ".5".)

I think the obvious take-away from your review is that you were not the right person for this job. It made about as much sense for someone like you to review a Sam'n'Max title as it would for a CoD twitch kiddie to review a Panzer Generals game. You went into this game HATING the basic gameplay mechanic; why would anyone expect anything less than an abysmal score from you? Cripes, that's like getting me to review a new artichoke casserole recipe.

Out of curiosity, what would you rate the new Monkey Island re-release? 1? 2?
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Old 10-26-2009, 02:43 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by gzsfrk View Post
You went into this game HATING the basic gameplay mechanic
Exactly. Get an actual adventure game player to review the game and people will get a score they can base a purchase decision off of.

I personally can not stand RTS games, they just aren't my thing. If I were to review the best RTS under the sun based on how much I enjoy playing it, the score would max out around 2.5/5. Thusly, I won't be reviewing any RTS games.
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Old 10-26-2009, 03:12 PM   #9
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Exactly. Get an actual adventure game player to review the game and people will get a score they can base a purchase decision off of.
Apparently you all missed my review of Sam & Max: Save the World (1.5 out of 5)... and that was coming from someone who grew up on these games and earlier. While I admire what Telltale is trying to do, these type of games do not stand up. Adventure games have evolved SO much since these point and click/text parser style games...

They just don't do it for me anymore... and I went in with open arms excited to play.

edit: Orphiuchus didn't miss it, he even commented on it... but was much more forgiving.
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Old 10-26-2009, 03:36 PM   #10
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edit: Orphiuchus didn't miss it, he even commented on it... but was much more forgiving.
Now you see why I'm usually just lazy.
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Old 10-26-2009, 04:01 PM   #11
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Now you see why I'm usually just lazy.
I can respect that too
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Old 10-26-2009, 06:38 PM   #12
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This review is Modeps... bahahha
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Old 10-26-2009, 07:20 PM   #13
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(and again, depending on the person, can range from hilarious to groan-inducing).
You're right, I know many people will not agree with my assessment but I believe those people want this game to be good to re-capture a piece of their childhood.

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Giving this game a 1 out of 5 is a crime--that score should be reserved for games with little to NO redeeming value.
The only thing I thought this game had going for it was the graphics. I was bored with the one liners after the second episode and the story felt random and off the wall. I could never tell what item was clickable and I found no guidance to help me make it to my next mission.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gzsfrk View Post
I think the obvious take-away from your review is that you were not the right person for this job.
I played a few point and click adventures as a child and loved them however I went into this review with an open mind but as soon as I made it past the second episode I realized that I wasn't having fun and was doing it just to get through the story. My review reflects this.

Quote:
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Apparently you all missed my review of Sam & Max: Save the World (1.5 out of 5)...
I'm sorry that you don't agree with what I have to say, I don't think any fans of this genre will. As modeps previously stated he gave the first episode a 1.5 out of 5 because he felt the same way I do. If you've listened to the podcast at all (I'm going to go ahead and assume you haven't for the sake of the conversation) then you'd know that modeps and I rarely meet eye to eye on how good or bad a video game is (see WET).

To answer this question:

Quote:
Originally Posted by gzsfrk View Post
Out of curiosity, what would you rate the new Monkey Island re-release? 1? 2?
I could not say because I have never played a Monkey Island.
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Old 10-26-2009, 07:29 PM   #14
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Also, I am pretty sure Shaq-Fu and Superman 64 would get a 0, not a 1
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Old 10-26-2009, 07:31 PM   #15
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Also, I am pretty sure Shaq-Fu and Superman 64 would get a 0, not a 1
They are 5 eye games through and through. Anyone who disagrees will face my red wrath.

/flexes
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Old 10-26-2009, 07:42 PM   #16
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There's a reason they don't make these games anymore...the pixelhunt item combining "gameplay" is terrible.
I totally agree. I find Sam & Max a real snore bore. However, give someone who enjoys boring pixel hunting click fests the chance to review this game and they'll give it a high rating, after they wake up and wipe the drool from the desk they fell asleep at.
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Old 10-26-2009, 09:57 PM   #17
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I could not say because I have never played a Monkey Island.
Case in point. Anyone who has never played a Monkey Island game is not qualified to review adventure games. Period. That's like trying to teach an English Lit class while having never read Dickens, Hemingway or Poe.
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Old 10-26-2009, 10:19 PM   #18
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Apparently you all missed my review of Sam & Max: Save the World (1.5 out of 5)... and that was coming from someone who grew up on these games and earlier. While I admire what Telltale is trying to do, these type of games do not stand up. Adventure games have evolved SO much since these point and click/text parser style games...
Sorry I didn't comment on that one; I had a brand new baby girl in the house at the time and wasn't posting much.

However, I will point out that the main criticism you list above--that the interface/format is outdated--really doesn't detract from the main strength of the classic adventure game format; namely, that they are highly STORY and CHARACTER driven games. In almost any good adventure game, the interface is just going to be something you deal with to get at the narrative's hidden nougaty center. Of course, ideally the UI is so easy to use that you forget it's there. But even a poor one doesn't necessarily disqualify an adventure game from being great.

There have been any number of adventure games that had clunky interfaces (original Myst, Under a Killing Moon, and the old AGI Sierra titles spring to mind) that were still considered to be outstanding because of the story, puzzles, characters development, and dialog. You want to complain about pixel-hunting being a pain? Try playing Space Quest II and getting almost all the way to the end, only to get stuck for three days because I couldn't figure out that I needed to type "stick plunger on barrier" instead of "stick plunger on wall". And yet despite that, it's still one of my 10 favorite games of all time.

Not everything has to evolve to keep being good. I understand that most gamers who grew up in the mid to late 90s (and now the 00s) aren't necessarily going to have an appreciation for point'n'click hot-spot hell NOR the zany stylings of Steve Purcell that still crack me up; old schooll adventure games just aren't for everyone. But then, neither is an ultra-realistic, unforgiving combat simulator like ArmA II. And yet I didn't see any reviews for that game complaining that it hadn't kept with the times and implemented recharge-over-time health and energy swords. Even so, there's still a market for such games. The same is true for classic-style adventure games, and with that in mind, such games should be reviewed by someone from the target audience, not just anyone picked at random from the site staff.

I don't necessarily always want something innovative and ground-breaking; sometimes I just want more of what I love. (Speaking of which, a pox upon Behemoth for not releasing any worthwhile Castle Crashers DLC).
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Old 10-26-2009, 10:59 PM   #19
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I totally agree. I find Sam & Max a real snore bore. However, give someone who enjoys boring pixel hunting click fests the chance to review this game and they'll give it a high rating, after they wake up and wipe the drool from the desk they fell asleep at.
It's okay, Johan... I know that this is really just you expressing your frustration at the reality that--due to the unintended consequences of your procreative prowess--you're unable to enjoy any game which cannot be satisfyingly consumed in 15-minute increments.
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Old 10-26-2009, 11:08 PM   #20
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Oh, and one more question, pwn--did you ever play through Season One? Or at least the original "Sam'n'Max Hit the Road"?

Because if you didn't, then trying to enjoy this game would be like dropping someone who's never seen Lost in front of the TV watching Season 3: Episode 4. Having missed out on all the preceding plot points and character development, they're just going to be confused and disinterested in what's going on, regardless of the quality of the underlying story upon which it's built. Sawyer's sarcasm, Kate's flight-instinct, and Jack's sympathetic naivete would all just seem like random traits, rather than the output of intricately developed personnas, each with their own backstory and ongoing conflicts.

Same thing with a character like Max--whereas you just see his random one-liners as endless attempts at gag humor, those who are familiar with him and how he's been developed as a character in the previous games can more easily enjoy his incessant zaniness in the knowledge that it stems from a deep-rooted psychoses and sado-masochistic tendencies, and is part of what makes Max "Max".

Ok--that is all. Srsly.
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