by Stefanie Fogel
reviewed on PC
"Let's go kick that devil bunny's ass!"
Poor Max. The lovable, psychotic lagomorph has had a rough season. He's had his brain stolen by a space ape and a sorcerer, his body hijacked by an ancient, bratty pharaoh and, at the conclusion of Episode Four, he's been transformed into a shambling, tentacled elder god. Like a Cthulhu-inspired Godzilla movie, monster Max begins to terrorize the city, and his former friends and partner must band together to stop him. So begins The City That Dares Not Sleep, the final episode of the Freelance Police's latest adventure from Telltale Games.
Like any good finale, The City That Dares Not Sleep has an epic feel, and a sense of urgency, as Sam assembles a crack team to infiltrate monster Max's innards and save his little buddy before the U.S. government can take him down. The team is comprised of series characters both new and old, including one fan favorite who's current physical condition is sure to provide a few giggles. I found myself wishing that some of those characters had been given more to do, though, especially old favorites like Agent Superball, the Devil and Jurgen. Sam & Max veterans might also be slightly disappointed to find out that there is no big, goofy musical number, which is a break with tradition from seasons past.
"These puzzles are making me thirsty!"
With Max and his psychic powers out of commission, it's up to Sam to solve the episode's brain teasers. While I've complained in prior reviews that the psychic powers made many of the puzzles too easy (Future Vision can be used to figure out most of them), The City That Dares Not Sleep seems to suffer from the lack of them. Some of the puzzles feel a little uninspired, and can be solved simply by choosing the correct option on the dialogue wheel, no brain matter involved. The inventory is still pretty underutilized, as it has been for the entire season, and I found myself missing the great interrogation sequences from They Stole Max's Brain! If any of the mechanics introduced in The Devil's Playhouse make it into Season Four, I hope it's that one.
[url]Unfortunately, the mild sense of disappointment in the puzzles carries over to the storyline as well. The big reveal of the mystery villain is more head-scratching than shocking, and I felt as if I might need to play through the episode a second time just to make sense of it all. Even more disappointing was the game's ending, though others might disagree with me. (SPOILER WARNING!) When it appears as if one of the characters has met an untimely end, it is both emotional and shocking. "Oh, my God," I thought to myself as the credits began to roll. "They actually went there!" My head began to fill with visions of a Star Trek: The Search for Spock-esque Season Four. But, instead, the writers chose to not go there after all, and I can't help but feel that an opportunity has been missed. Ultimately, though, this is Sam & Max, a series that often requires you to accept its oddball logic and simply enjoy the ride with a good laugh.
"I guess this is where Max keeps his junk." "Nah, that's a couple stories down."
Luckily, The City That Dares Not Sleep manages to serve up plenty of laughs. The series' usual fourth wall humor is back in full force. The episode is also packed with plenty of jabs at the adventure genre, like Max's "Inventory Room" and the stories that Max's disembodied spores tell to try to get Sam to fall asleep. And no one does the silent pause for comedic effect better than Telltale. There's one in particular involving pennies. You'll know it when you see it.
The visuals are another standout in the episode. Monster Max is especially well done, as is the stark black and white world of The Narrator. There are very few recycled settings in the episode, as most of it takes place inside Max's body. Shunting back and forth between the various body parts to solve puzzles gets a little tedious after a while, but exploring each of them will uncover plenty of chuckles.
Now that the season has ended and can be looked back on as a whole, the big question is, "Was it worth it?" Absolutely. There's a reason why Telltale Games is the current king of adventure gaming, and why Sam & Max are two of its flagship characters. Despite its flaws and weak ending, The Devil's Playhouse was an enjoyable ride. With the full season currently on sale for $19.95, it's a whole lot of funny for a pretty cheap price.
Plenty of humor
No more Sam & Max for a while