Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space is Telltale Games' second episodic series in the classic point-and-click style Sam & Max franchise.
Sam & Max is a point-and-click adventure, which for those unfamiliar with the genre basically means that you point your cursor at objects and interact with them. The interface is very simple - you click on an object, and sometimes you are able to add that item to your inventory to use it later on. You can also interact with people, and you get to choose your dialogue from a list of options. By using items in your inventory and by selecting the proper dialogue options, you can solve puzzles that stand in your way and advance the story line.
Gameplay is essentially the same as in Telltale’s first Sam & Max series, as well as the same as virtually any other point-and-click adventure, for that matter.
Sam (the dog) and Max (the rabbity thing) are freelance detectives that solve cases given to them by the Commissioner. In this episodic series, Sam & Max tackle all sorts of crazy, madcap adventures, from taking down a deranged Santa to battling a vampire in Stuttgart to going to hell and meeting Satan himself. While at first the different episodes feel a little disjointed, there is an overarching story line that comes together at the end (I don’t want to give it away), so you really do want play the episodes in order to get the most our of your experience.
Now, anyone familiar with the Sam & Max series knows that the humor and the puzzles are probably the two most important aspects of the game. Telltale’s first episodic series, Sam & Max Save the World, fell short in both these categories, resulting in a lackluster game. Well, I’m glad to say that Telltale figured out the kinks in this second installment, as the story and humor are top notch. Some of the dialogue and situations are laugh out loud funny at times, and the puzzles are both thoroughly zany and require the use of your old noggin’, all while making sense within the context of the game world. Another problem with the first episodic series was the limited number of locations and characters in the world. While many of those same locations and characters come back to make an appearance in Beyond Time and Space, many new faces and locales have been added, keeping the game feeling fresh and different. Overall, this is a funny and engaging game.
Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space uses the same 3D graphics engine used in the previous episodic series, Sam & Max Save the World. It has a cartoony look that works for the game, but some of the textures are rather low res and character animations don’t always look as smooth as you might hope. You do occasionally come across some frame rate dips when the action picks up, but it’s not too big of a deal.
The voice cast from the first episodic series are all back, and Sam and Max both do an exceptional job again. The new characters also do a great job, much more so than the supporting cast from Season 1. The music in the game is a mix of mostly jazz and blues-like stuff and manages to be catchy but not annoying.
Like the first season, Beyond Time and Space comes in at $20, a hefty price for an XBLA title. Again however, you do get good value for your dollar, as the game includes five full episodes that you can expect to last roughly four hours apiece. At about one dollar per hour of entertainment, it’s a very fair price to pay.
Each episode has one random achievement and one achievement for completing the episode. There is also an achievement for completing all the episodes as well as one for fully upgrading your car, which can be a bit of a pain as it requires the completion of a few annoying minigames. Overall, given that there is so much content here for an XBLA title, expect to invest quite a while to get some very low TA ratio achievements.
If you’ve read my review for Sam & Max Save the World, you’ll know that I was disappointed with Telltale’s first offering. Season 2 of Sam & Max, however, is a winner. It does have a few technical deficiencies and it may not live up to lofty memories of the original game, Sam & Max Hit the Road, but overall, Beyond Time and Space is a great game. If you’re looking for a different and funny game, definitely pick this one up.