Games

Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse Episode 3 - They Stole Max's Brain!

Telltale brings together all those seemingly unrelated plot threads while constantly expanding the scope of the game to create an exciting mid-season climax.


Sam and Max: The Devil's Playhouse Episode 3 - They Stole Max's Brain!

Publisher: Telltale Games
Rated: E10+
Players: 1 player
Price: 34.95 for the full season
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS3
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: 2010-06-22
URL

For a long time, all of Telltale’s games followed a predictable formula. They begin with a small puzzle to acclimate the player, then open up the world while introducing a larger puzzle with multiple parts. Finally, they close the game with another small puzzle. The Tomb of Sammun-Mak mixed things up by combining the first two sections into one very large section and then ending with the usual small puzzle. This little change made that episode feel much larger and longer than others. They Stole Max’s Brain! takes things even further, constantly upping the action to create an exciting mid-season climax.

With Max indisposed, the opening puzzle has Sam interrogating witnesses in a noir-infused semi-violent rage. The whole puzzle revolves around dialogue, finding holes in a suspect’s story and interrupting them at the right moment to catch them in a lie. It’s a refreshing change of pace to have to look for a solution that, for once, has nothing to do with item combinations, and this twist is a great introduction to an episode that’s only too eager to break from formulaic traditions.

For a while, however, it continues to follow formula. After the intro, the game world poens up and a more complicated puzzle with multiple parts is introduced. It’s worth noting that the two new characters introduced here are easily the best new characters this season. I love the laissez-faire voice of the ultra-obedient cockroach Sal, and I hope the fickle and hyperactive Pharaoh continues to have a central role in future episodes. As you work your way through the game’s riddles, you can feel the episode coming to a climax, but just when you think that you’ve reached the end, the world suddenly opens up even more, dropping you into an alternate reality. By the time that you reach the real end, it’ll feel like you’ve played through two episodes, not because this one is really any longer than the others, but because so much happens over the course of time that you’ve played. There’s finally some major plot progression.

They Stole Max’s Brain! is the culmination of all those seemingly unrelated plot threads: Skun-ka'pe and the psychic toys, Paiperwaite and the Devil’s Toy Box, Sammun-Mak and the Mole Men, all of them come together in a way that’s surprisingly logical. It's good to see that all those disparate story elements weren’t as disparate as they first seemed, those cliffhangers weren’t just for linking one stand-alone episode to another, they were actually important. And it’s good that Telltale proves this, because They Stole Max’s Brain! ends in much the same way that the first episode of the season did. After everything is wrapped up, there’s a sudden twist, and the game ends. In the first episode, this kind of sudden cliffhanger felt like a cheap way to hook to keep the player interested, but since Telltale has now proven there’s a method to their madness, I’m excited to see how the twist plays into the rest of the story.

The only disappointing thing about this episode is that while the Future Vision toy makes a return, it’s sadly underutilized, but this also means that the spotlight can shift to other toys (Rhinoplasty in particular) that are great fun in their own way. It’s strange that when switching to Max that there are so many open slots for psychic toys, yet we only ever get three at a time. That’s often more than enough for a single episode, but I’m anxious to see if Telltale starts giving us more simply for the sake of giving us more, though based on the excellent pacing and plotting of They Stole Max’s Brain I shouldn’t be worried. Telltale clearly knows what they’re doing.

8

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image