by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Ending on a high
I have really enjoyed the second season of the Sam and Max series, and to be totally honest am a bit disappointed that the season is coming to an end after just five episodes. To date, the episodes have been funny, well written and have been just about the right length. The conclusion to season two is, as you’d expect, no different.
The episode begins right where Episode 204: Chariots of the Dogs left off, with our intrepid heroes searching for Bosco and his soul. Now, right off the bat, let me apologise to any of you who have not yet played the previous games in the season or read our reviews (although you should, because our egos need feeding), as much of this finale relates to other chapters from the current season as well as the first season.
Taking a trip on the Soul Train
As mentioned, the game opens up with the Dog and Rabbit team in some tunnel that leads to hell. Bosco’s soul has already boarded the Soul Train and it is up to Sam and Max to get it back into Bosco’s lifeless body. During their adventure, the duo will meet a host of supporting cast members from throughout the first two seasons. In fact, nearly everyone appears somewhere throughout the game, even if it’s in a non-speaking role. Some cast members were killed off in previous episodes, but with our crime-fighters heading to Hell, there has been the chance to revive them, so to speak. Of course, all the regulars appear, such as Bosco, Stinky and Sybil.
“You crack me up, little blasphemer”
As with all of the Sam and Max adventures, Episode 205 continued to keep me laughing. Sometimes it is just the subtle things that keep up the comedy, such as Kenny G style saxophone music being played in the reception area when you arrive in hell. At other times, it is Sam and Max’s double-entendres, which cause me to burst out laughing.
Of course, unless you’ve played all the games in the series (including the first season) some of the in-jokes just won’t be funny. One example is when Sam looks at the magazines in the waiting room and sees that they’re from Stuttgart and comment that even in hell magazines are two months old. Having played Episode 203, I immediately realised the fact that Episode 203 was now about two months old, and had a chuckle to myself. Now, if this was the first time I had played a Sam and Max game – or even if I was to purchase the full Season Two set and play from start to finish – the joke would not be funny.
What the Hell?
This is probably my only gripe about the Second Season Finale; To understand some things, the gamer should have played the previous episodes. In fact, there was even one puzzle relating to a remote control that had me scratching my head for ages, until after looking again at my inventory, I remembered a scene from the Episode 204 that would solve the puzzle. Again, without playing the previous games, the solution would make absolutely no sense at all, even by the weird Sam and Max standards.
Also, there is a bit more walking between scenes in this chapter than in previous episodes. Not so much that it becomes a bore, but a little more than what we have come to expect from the Freelance Police. Apart from those minor nit-picks (and neither would concern those familiar with the series), the gameplay continues the Sam and Max tradition of being simple to play. The control scheme remains unchanged, the difficulty of the puzzles isn’t set too high for beginners especially with the scalable hints, whilst remaining challenging enough for adventure game pros.
Again, there are plenty of references to pop culture. My personal favourite was the tribute to Return of the Jedi (another series ending) where a wall in Hell’s office is decorated with smugglers frozen in carbonate. Another favourite is an homage to The Dukes of Hazzard with Sam’s DeSoto making a huge jump during the now obligatory car mini-game. Other references relate to song lyrics, software -including Linux-, cooking shows, selling stuff on eBay and even Rupert Murdoch.
Hotter than Hell
All in all, ‘What’s New, Beelzebub?’ plays out like the aforementioned Return of the Jedi did for Star Wars. It ties up the loose ends that have been hanging around throughout the season. The writing remains strong, the jokes are funny, the audio keeps up the continued high standards set by previous instalments and the visuals are still bright and colourful, even in the fiery annals of Hell.
If you haven’t played any of the games from the current season, I would recommend forking out some of your hard-earned for the entire Season Two with the bonus Disc and extras. But, if you are like me and have played all the series to date, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be downloading the Season Conclusion right now. Now all I need to do is find something else to play until Season Three comes along…
No Pros and Cons at this time