Sam & Max: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak for the PC is the latest episode in Telltale Games' Sam & Max series The Devil's Playhouse. The release of episodic content has proved a success for Telltale; does the good fortune continue in The Tomb of Sammun-Mak?
In the game you control Sammeth, a dog who stands upright at six feet tall, wears a snappy suit and solves mysteries that are far more bizarre than the fact that he's a 6 foot tall dog who wears a suit. Yes I referred to him as Sammeth and not Sam because in The Tomb of Sammun-Mak you actually control Sam and Max's great grandparents Sammeth and Maximus, who just so happen to be detectives as well. While majority of the game sees you controlling Sammeth you will periodically need to control Maximus, a rabbit who actually wears clothes for once. The reason is that Maximus has mysterious psychic powers like a magical can of nuts, Charlie Ho-Tep (a psychic ventriloquist dummy) and most importantly the astral projector.
I say most importantly because Sammun-Mak shakes up the gameplay by telling the story through a series of film canisters. The canisters show the story of how Sammeth and Maximus recovered the Devil’s Toybox from the Tomb of Sammun-Mak. Along the way you're challenged by leading toy manufacturer Kringle and his elf employees, mole people and members of the brotherhood of Yog-Sogoth. Each film canister represents a different part in the story and, using the astral projector ability, you will need to jump to certain parts in the story, often advancing forwards in time, to discover a clue for an earlier part.
This change in storytelling was an interesting and generally well implemented element of the game. It makes it more than your standard point-and-click title and continues the innovative storytelling Sam & Max titles are known for. The game will usually let you know when you've exhausted the current reel but it's up to you to choose the correct place to go next. It can be a bit daunting at first, jumping around, but it's quite easy to get in the groove of things and find clue after clue. Maximus’s psychic powers were also well implemented into the game. They were often a key component to completing the required puzzles, if you could work out where and when to use them properly.
Speaking of clues, the game has a bit of added difficulty and frustration through its design. Many of the puzzles require you to trek back and forth between points in the level and points in the various reels. It's only because of small level designs that this doesn't become overly frustrating but if you miss a hint that the area is exhausted for now you can find yourself going back and forth between parts of the level for no reason. Much of my success in the game actually came through luck as opposed to skill but Sam & Max veterans should have more success solving the puzzles than I did. My Sam & Max experience lasted at least four or five hours but longtime point-and-click fans may enjoy a shorter experience.
The dialogue contains the trademark Sam & Max dry, quirky, and witty humor. Often you'll find yourself exhausting every dialogue option just to hear the response. Although once you've gone over the dialogue once don't expect to hear anything new until you've completed the correct part of the game. The game is also self reflexive, poking fun at the point-and-click adventure game genre and the accents of certain characters. It's nice to see a game that isn't afraid to make fun of itself and it seemed to benefit from it.
Graphically The Tomb of Sammun-Mak is a good looking game, with Sam & Max looking better than ever in 3D. The use of some nice vibrant colors and a little bit of filtering, to give it that projected film quality, were nice touches. There were only a few times when a glitch appeared, like characters bleeding into the environment or hovering above the ground but because they were few and far between they didn't affect the experience. The characters are well designed with Baby Amelia Earhart and Vampire Slushie standing out as some fun, creative designs. There were a few times when the lip-syncing didn’t line up and it made some of the characters appear extra creepy. This was noticed earlier in the game when you talk to the elves but wasn’t as noticeable later in the game.
On the whole the game runs really well with no noticeable drops in framerate or rendering issues in the background. One issue, which was a bit of a drawback, was the constant changing of camera angles. Sometimes the angle chosen didn’t give you the best vantage point to navigate the map and find what you’re looking for. At times it would make controlling Sammeth (controlled with the keyboard) quite difficult. In one camera angle you are walking forwards as the camera is behind you, then the camera will randomly change to a side on view and you’ll be walking across the screen. These transitions make controlling the character difficult as sometimes you will need to hold up and left or right to make the character go in the direction you want. Similarly if you try and click where you want to go you sometimes can’t see what it is you are clicking on and the sequences in the tomb seemed to struggle with this the most.
While The Tomb of Sammun-Mak may not entice non-genre fans, point and click fans, and specifically Sam & Max fans should love this game. It runs smoothly, has some brilliant dialogue and most importantly has challenging puzzles. Furthermore, the implementation of the fragmented, film canister story adds another level of difficulty to the game and ensures that each Sam & Max episode has its own feel.
Sam & Max The Tomb of Sammun-Mak is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief, Drug Reference, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on: PC, PS3 and Mac.