Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space: A Great Remaster of a Classic Point and Click
When one thinks of classic game genres, nothing screams early to mid-2000s like the point-and-click adventure title. Games like The Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and even titles like the original Myst were games that would ensnare players with either their gripping puzzles or witty story. One of the games that dominated the mid to late 2000s was the Sam & Max series. Developed by the now-defunct Telltale Games, players would take control of freelance police who would solve mysteries in the most strange ways.
However, with games like these disappearing from the mainstream, there’s not a lot of people who would be willing to pick up a point-and-click adventure game these days. Although, this is, in fact, the era of remakes and remasters. Now, Telltale has become Skunkape, an indie developer with enough people from Telltale and enough money to be willing to go out of their way to remaster some of their most popular titles. And a year ago, they did just that with Sam & Max. A comedy series about Sam, the talking dog, and Max, the maniacal rabbit, two freelance police in a world as wacky as them. Now, it’s all about Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space.
Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space: The Review
Sam & Max Save the World was a remaster of the first season of their point-and-click series. The game sold surprisingly well. However, there were some compromises. The game’s writing suffered the worst, with some of the jokes being “modernized,” which didn’t mean anything. The developers removed the jokes from the game, despite being more relevant with their grown age and not being as offensive as they were thought to be. The game also did remove the previous voice actor for the character Bosco, originally voiced by Joey Camen.
According to the developers, they recast the character’s voice because the voice actor is white and not African American, as the game implies. While many fans who grew up with the original were upset to see Bosco’s voice actor change, they were more upset about removing the jokes.
However, with the reveal that the second season would be remastered, many players were wary of whether they were willing to change the comedy for Sam & Max. What else would they be willing to change when it came to the second season?
Skunkape promised that nothing would be changed in the second season of the game, although they essentially “lied through their teeth” before the launch of the first season. The words of a developer who promised one thing but gave another didn’t persuade the fans at first. Although, with the second season now released, did Skunkape keep to their word? Or is it just another bout of telling the fans what they want to hear?
These games are essentially puzzle games linked together through narrative stories for those who aren’t familiar with the point-and-click adventure title. The player can walk around the environment with the WASD keys or use the mouse to “point and click” on objects to make the character move around. Items also play a role, which can be looked at if the player clicks on the cardboard box in the bottom corner of the screen or presses “Tab” on PC. Throughout the game, players will mainly be taking control of Sam; he’s the one that does all the heavy lifting. Nearly everything in the world is interactable, giving some form of commentary from Sam, Max, or both. While not everything is used to progress the story, this commentary from the duo adds to the world.
Being that point-and-click adventure games are a mix of narrative storytelling, puzzles will fall into the same logic of the world. With the game being a comedy title, players will have to get into the mind of the characters and the seemingly nonsensical yet surprisingly logical way that the duo will solve puzzles.
A good example of this roundabout puzzle solving comes from the first episode, in which Sam & Max are forced to exorcise a demon from Santa Claus. The context for all this happening is that a giant robot was sent to kill them, and this robot seemingly came from Santa. To perform this exorcism, the two need to gather the “four horsemen of the apocalypse action figures” and place them around a magnetic pole. However, they found out that these action figures they need have coincidentally been sent to their street. Driving back from the North Pole, the two of them now have to find a way to get the action figures from their neighbors. One of them is a rat named Jimmy, who has started a boxing ring inside the giant robot’s corpse. The duo has to win the championship to get the action figure, but they can’t fit inside the robot to fight Jimmy.
The answer to this puzzle lies in one of the many items Sam & Max pick up. This particular puzzle requires that Sam & Max use the boxing action figure they looted from the north pole, which could be easily missed if the player doesn’t explore. The player will then play three rounds of a punch-out-style minigame using this boxing action figure. When they win, they get the horse, but losing the championship, Jimmy then loses all hope of living, stating that boxing was the only thing he had left. Now, Sam & Max need to find a way to talk their small neighbor down.
However, the answer for this doesn’t come until later, as they realize that the demon wasn’t possessing Santa, but one of the elves, and Santa was trying to stop it. With the demon on the loose, Sam & Max have to gather all three Christmas spirits: past, present and future. Going to the past, they realize that the wrong they have to right is giving back Jimmy’s lucky boxing glove so that he can take the championship and help his son’s condition. The problem is that Sam & Max don’t have the boxing glove. The only place where they can find it is with the present Jimmy. However, they can’t get the glove unless they talk him down.
The answer to this requires using another present that can be looted from the North Pole, the world’s simplest maze. This small, one-turn maze can then be placed in front of Jimmy’s hole in their office. Then, after turning on the TV, Jimmy’s wife will walk out, thinking that her husband is slacking off, only to get somehow lost in the maze. Sam can then pocket Jimmy’s wife and take her to the present to talk down her husband. This will give Max enough time to snatch the boxing glove from present Jimmy, giving them past Jimmy.
This cartoon logic is found throughout the whole game. The puzzles aren’t super complicated, as context clues through dialogue can help players discover the answer.
Being a game that focuses on the narrative, the writing and story of the game is a massively important part of the experience. Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space takes place after Season 1. It’s required that players know what happens in the first season before starting the second one. Sam & Max is known for its raunchy and sometimes offensive humor since the original concept of the comic came from the author’s desecration of characters his brother made.
With the remaster of Season 1 also censoring some of the jokes from the game’s original release, players were also hoping that the second season wouldn’t fall to the same fate. Luckily, this isn’t the case, and Skunkape’s promises weren’t wasted breath. The game does include some of the more raunchy jokes.
One of the more offensive jokes this season was kept was Timmy Two-Teeth, Jimmy’s son. It’s a parody of Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol, which plays into the Christmas spirits piece of the plot. Timmy Two-Teeth suffers from terminal Tourette syndrome, which causes him to swear uncontrollably. However, most of the swears are censored for comedic effect in both versions.
Many would find this offensive on people suffering from Tourette syndrome, but Skunkape kept it in the game. The rest of the writing is also a parody of other genres of literature, such as the character of Flint Paper, a “private dick” who spends more time beating up goons than completing cases. The constant need for violence or banter between the two keeps players invested in the wacky world of the characters. The dialogue also proves to be the most fun part, with them both cracking jokes or worrying about their safety rather than others.
Compared to the original, which is available as free DLC to those who purchased the game, the game runs better than any other version to date. I’m running this game on PC, with an RTX 2060 Super and a Ryzen 3600 with 32 GB of RAM. The game runs at a buttery smooth framerate, and I’ve had no issues so far while playing. Telltale, and now Spunkape, has always been a company that optimizes its titles for older hardware outside of new consoles. The game could run on mid-low spec hardware.
The Audio for Sam & Max has been faithfully remastered for modern sound systems. The game’s soundtrack has been redone with a live band, providing all the original Sam & Max tunes with new arrangements that players will remember for years to come. (my personal favorite is the office theme). It’s highly recommended that players wear headphones since the music is some of the best from point and click titles.
The audio for the characters has been remastered as well. Sam & Max are still using the same recordings from the original version. However, the original version suffers due to the audio being compressed. The audio used in the remaster, aside from the re-recordings of Bosco, are all uncompressed, which makes the audio crystal clear. There are not many sound cues in the game, but playing this game without sound would be a disservice since the audio in every aspect is very well done on every level.
The Sam & Max community is small. There are plenty of community discord servers, which can be found by fans browsing online and on Reddit. However, for those who want to get their fix of Sam & Max news, there are a couple of places online that post a lot of information about Sam & Max. First off is the Sam & Max Funhouse, the official Sam & Max Facebook page from Steve Purcell, the creator of Sam & Max. This will show off art from the creator, his appearances at conventions and other information about the characters, like the games from Skunkape.
There are also two Twitter accounts for Sam & Max. There’s the Twitter account @SamAndMax, the US account for the characters and will also post about some upcoming projects from the duo. There’s also a fan account under @samandmaxUK, which posts more of the same information. However, they’re more active than the official account for the characters and will post more fan content for the duo.
I highly recommend playing the first season before Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space. However, the game comes in a bundle on the Steam store, so purchasing the current 10 episodes will be easier. The game is available on PC, Xbox and Switch.