Sam & Max Save the World (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Jenny Geist 02.12.2020 1

Review for Sam & Max Save the World on Nintendo Switch

Sam is a soft-spoken but enthusiastic Irish Wolfhound and Max is a loyal but sadistic rabbity-thing, and together, they're the Freelance Police; a surprisingly competent force that always somehow saves the day. First created in 1987 by Steve Purcell, these characters have been adapted several times over the years, most recently with a trilogy of point-and-click adventures from the late Telltale Games. While Telltale Games may be gone, the new studio Skunkape Games has plucked the first season from their archives and remastered it for Nintendo Switch with Sam & Max Save the World. The question remains, however... is this case worth reopening, or should it have stayed shut? Cubed3 investigates.

This first season of this noir-inspired comedy is split into six different episodes, each with roughly two to three hours worth of content. Sam & Max are investigating a series of hypnosis-induced crimes across town, each of which brings the two closer to uncovering a world-endangering conspiracy. While the ongoing story is, by all means, nothing special, the individual cases in each episode are as silly as they are fun to solve. Rogue former child stars are running amok, a nagging talk show host is holding her audience hostage, the president has gone crazy, mandating federally-imposed group hugs; each episode is more creative than the last, drawing players back to see what dastardly new villain Sam & Max will face each time.

Sam & Max's unique little friendship is one of the true cores of this game's charm. Sam's witty aphorisms and Max's crass snark bounce off each other incredibly well, strengthened by fantastic voice acting and expressive facial animation. Players will want to interact with every object in every episode, just to see what clever comments Sam & Max will offer. The titular duo are not the only memorable characters, either. There's Bosco, the conspiracy-obsessed inventor with a rotation of unconvincing disguises, Sybil, the feisty neighbor with a fluctuating career, and a handful of other colorful characters that are worth checking in with each week.

Screenshot for Sam & Max Save the World on Nintendo Switch

The main gameplay loop involves exploring environments, solving puzzles, and interacting with characters. Puzzles generally require finding a specific item to use at a specific place or exposing a character's vulnerability through a certain dialogue path. Earlier puzzles are a bit simple and often blend together, as the items are placed in fairly obvious places with equally obvious uses. This makes the first couple of episodes fairly easy, which may be nice for new players, but is less interesting for series veterans.

Fortunately, the puzzles do improve in difficulty and variety as the game continues. Several predicaments within later episodes require imaginative thinking and keen observation of the surroundings. For instance, a character blocking progression may offhandedly mention having an allergy to tomatoes. Players will then have to find a way to cook up a meal, find ketchup to squirt onto it, and then feed it to the character, removing them from the situation. There is not any kind of formal hint system, so it's all up to the player to come up with these solutions themselves. Thinking of creative uses for items to progress past tricky roadblocks really makes one feel like a genius detective.

Screenshot for Sam & Max Save the World on Nintendo Switch

Of course, controls are also going to be a difficult prospect when translating point-and-click gameplay to a controller-based console. For the most part, Sam & Max manages to make it work, but there are a few hitches. In handheld mode, players can use the touch screen to tap what they want to interact with, but in console mode, it isn't that simple. Instead of tapping or clicking where the character should go, players have to control Sam himself. The right trigger shows what objects around him are interactive, and the right control stick can be used to select an object. It works alright, but obviously isn't the ideal or fastest solution. A motion control pointer, like the Wii release of the original had, would have been a nice inclusion for easier navigation while playing on the TV.

Beyond interacting with the environment, players will also need to hunt for clues through dialogue. Most non-playable characters will have several dialogue paths, some of which only exist to add jokes, and some of which have genuine clues hidden within. This is all fine and interesting… except for the fact that repeat dialogue cannot be skipped. Choosing a wrong dialogue choice or searching for an obscure dialogue path often means hearing the same lines over and over. While not a super common issue, it gets a bit grating as the game continues.

Screenshot for Sam & Max Save the World on Nintendo Switch

For returning players, this remaster has quite a few upgrades beyond its original content. Of course, the visuals have been improved remarkably well, with a brand-new lighting system that looks right at home on modern consoles. The expressive characters and hilarious sight gags in each location look better than ever. Beyond these visual changes, the noir-inspired jazzy score has also been re-recorded, even including five brand new tracks. In terms of content, everything else is the same as it was in 2006, but there is a level of aesthetic polish that absolutely still justifies this game's rerelease. For existing fans who want to re-experience these adventures in the best-looking and best-sounding way, this game is a must-buy.

Screenshot for Sam & Max Save the World on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Sam & Max Save the World is notable for starting Telltale's reign over episodic games that lasted for nearly a decade. Upon a revisit, it's easy to understand why. The writing oozes in charm and wit, and solving some of the trickier puzzles requires quite a bit of detective-work. While a few quality-of-life upgrades introduced in later Telltale Games would have been appreciated, the visual enhancements are still welcome. Hopefully, Skunkape Games remasters the other two seasons of Sam & Max, as well, because this is a case that deserves to be revisited for years to come.

Developer

Skunkape Games

Publisher

Skunkape Games

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Our member of the week

I'm not sure I'm a fan of the human characters redesigns or the newly recorded voiceover. I liked the old acting better though the audio compression level was atrocious on those games so I do recognise that it had to be done if high quality recordings of the original were not available anymore. Great game anyway, and I do hope the rest of the series follows (I was devastated that they never released the third season on Wii, I still have my physical copies of the first two).

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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