Sam&Max Season 3 Episode 2: The Tomb of Sammunmak Review (PC)
Posted by Jim Cook, May 18, 2010 07:19
The previous episode in this point-and-click adventure series showed us Telltale isn’t afraid of making drastic changes. Giving Max various psychic powers was a bold choice that could have sunk the season if done poorly, but they got it mostly right and carried on. As the title of this episode might suggest, an Egyptian mythology/history theme dominates here, mixed in with some early 1900s silent film motifs and a little bit of Indiana Jones-style pulp adventure too. The good news is that Max’s psychic abilities continue to be well written and add to the plot rather than harm it, but the relatively bad news is that the writing and puzzles in this episode aren’t quite up to the series’ usual high standards. Don’t misunderstand though, this is still a decent addition to the season.
A lot of things were done right. The voice acting and music are certainly fine, and the overall plot is interesting. It is perhaps confusing at first since it starts ’in media res’ and jumps around a lot in its own timeline from there, but much of it comes together very well at the end. Max also has a whole new suite of psychic powers for this episode, so puzzles involving him as part of the solution won’t feel like they were recycled from The Penal Zone. They also did away with most of the tasteless jokes this time around, apparently having gotten it all out of their system with the last episode; that’s good. These elements all add up to a competent Sam & Max experience, and keep it generally worthwhile.
However, there are some significant mistakes this time around. They primarily fall into two categories; occasional poor comedy writing, and a few very badly laid out puzzles. When the writing isn’t funny it completely misses the mark and is instead boring, plus the pacing of several puzzles is off. On the comedy end, there are a few occasions where it was obvious the writers were trying to be funny and the actors deliver their lines correctly... but it just wasn’t anywhere near as hilarious (or even chuckle-worthy) as they thought; I found myself giving a blank stare and remarking "Was I supposed to laugh there...?", before shrugging and continuing the game. To be fair, most of the writing is fine; it’s just that when they miss the mark... they completely miss.
More worrying is that a few puzzles are just plain frustrating. Since the plot jumps around between multiple points in time and lets you pick when to go to each segment, it’s not always obvious when you have everything you need from one time segment and need to go forward or back in time to proceed. There were also a few cases where I thought I was an item short to solve a puzzle but actually had everything I needed; I only discovered this after bumbling around for quite some time and the game’s hint dialog all but outright told me I was ready to solve the puzzle at hand. This would have been fine except much of the dialog when I was on the wrong track wasn’t very funny, so I spent my time being very frustrated at points. Thankfully these situations were in the minority, but they remain disappointing.
Ultimately, this episode has most of the components of a good Sam & Max adventure. It has comparable length to the other episodes and should last most players around two to four hours depending on how quickly you figure things out, but not all of that time will be enjoyable. Being on the wrong track won’t often reward you with hilarious side jokes this time around, so you’ll end up being bored on a few occasions. On the other hand, the parts that do work out are nice... and the ending is particularly interesting, both the final puzzle and the cutscene afterward that builds hype for the next episode. Thus while it does have some significant issues, it is enjoyable on the whole and worth a play-through.
Rating: 5.0, votes: 3