by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
The Sam and Max series reaches its midpoint with the third episode of the five episode series. They Stole Max’s Brain starts off in horrible fashion, with the sight that our favorite rabbity-thingy has had his brain removed. Of course, the normally calm and unflappable Sam is furious and wants to find out what has happened to his brain, any way he can. Sam, complete with facial stubble, then goes about town interrogating a number of characters (including those of ill-repute), to find out what has happened and who is responsible for the dastardly deed.
This first section of the episode is completely dialogue driven, with Sam’s interrogation techniques on display. You, as Sam, get to grill those citizens that know about the disappearance of Max’s brain and its current whereabouts. Using a number of interview styles (using the dialogue wheel from previous episodes), you will eventually find out that the brain of his best friend and partner has been taken to the Museum of Mostly Natural History.
It is there that we find the two culprits, General Skun-ka’pe and Monsieur Papierwaite. Of course if you have played the previous two episodes, you will realize that these are the main villains from the previous two episodes in this current series. Max’s preserved brain is being used in a psychic fashion with the Devil’s Toy box. It has come to pass that these two villains have joined forces in an attempt to rid the world of Sam in much the same way multiple villains would team up to fight Batman in the old television series starring Adam West. Unfortunately for Sam, his sidekick and partner won’t be able to come to his aid in the way Burt Ward’s Robin would often help out Batman when he was in a spot of bother. It is then up to you to help Sam thwart the plans of these evil-doers and reunite Max with his brain
The graphics have not changed much from the previous episodes. Sam, of course has a meaner look with his five o’clock shadow, open collared shirt and missing hat. There are a couple of familiar locations, but the new varied locations keep the game interesting for even those most familiar with the exploits of Sam and Max. Much of the game is spent in the Museum of Mostly Natural History, a strange place guarded by Sal the overgrown cockroach and General Skun-ka’pe’s over-zealous minions.
Also, Sam and Max’s town gets converted to an Egyptian streetscape where the last third of the game takes place. I’m a sucker for all things ancient Egyptian, so I really enjoyed this section of the game. Although the settings aren’t authentic, they do a great job of keeping with the Sam and Max theme.
The voice acting is up to the high standards set by the Sam and Max series. Sam for much of the game, especially early on, has a more raspy voice that has more than a hint of anger. Max, although he doesn’t have movement ability still has his devilish wit. General Skun-ka’pe and Papierwaite are again superbly voiced as is the young pharaoh Sammun-Mak. Other regular characters such as the rough-voiced seaman Stinky and the mob-sounding Frankie the Rat make an appearance and are again voiced perfect style.
The puzzles are for the most part fairly simple. When you do get stuck though, Sam or one of the other characters will give a hint as to what needs to be done next. They don’t totally tell you what to do, but the hint is enough. Many of the puzzles are fairly obvious though. It is only when using Max’s (or the young pharaoh’s) psychic powers that some of the solutions to the puzzles don’t stare you in the face.
There are some different puzzles too, which makes the game that bit more enjoyable. A bit of variation in puzzle-solving certainly keeps the mind working in different ways. There are the early interrogation puzzles (using the dialogue wheel), a puzzle involving the use of an audio listening device, gambling puzzles and the standard puzzles requiring you to combine various objects.
So, we come to the conclusion of episode three with possibly more questions than we started the episode with. Who is Dr. Norrington? What is his relation to Papierwaite? Why are a bunch of semi-naked Sams running around in a zombie-like manner? With this sort of cliff-hanger ending, there is an urging of the developers to bring forth the next episode as soon as possible to answer some of these questions. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how the final two episodes in the season play out.
Voice acting is superb, puzzles are challenging and the customary Sam and Max humour abounds
Hardly any of Max’s involvement, which means less cheeky evilness than normal