Sam & Max Save the World Episode 1: Culture Shock
Mr. R. Olsen takes a deep breath and dives into the world of S&M.
It was the solution worthy of an adventure game; the aging laptop I use for my limited PC gaming was overheating every twenty minutes, making it nigh on impossible to get any enjoyment out of the latest Sam & Max romp. The solution? Freeze a wet towel, wrap it in a dry blanket, and keep it under the computer while playing. Shockingly enough it worked, the laptop did not overheat.
As for Culture Shock, it's good. Very good. It's difficult to compare it to the ten hour long original Sam & Max game, but at this first step of season one I'd say it looks like the episodic treatment of the franchise might make up a better experience.
I'm not going to waste anybody's time with inconsequential fluff about the story, etc., seeing that most Mojo readers already knows what that is all about. In stead, I present the theory that there are three "obstacles" you will have to overcome to enjoy Culture Shock. They are...
One! The episodic format.
Yes, Sam & Max is even more extreme than Bone when it comes to short (though this time around more frequently released) episodes. This first installment will for most people take no longer than two hours to complete, largely because the puzzles are very simple, although you can certainly prolong the experience by interacting with everything multiple times, as well as driving around hitting stuff with the DeSoto. Some might label the latter an "action sequence" but I call it fun.
Anyhow, if owning a two hour game is something you consider a major problem, then fair enough; this might not be the game for you. For me it wasn't a big deal at all, as those two hours are full of humor and wacky characters. While I had some issues with lines in the Bone games falling flat, I really did not notice such a problem in Culture Shock where almost every punch-line delivers at least a chuckle or a grin. This is easily the funniest game I've played since Psychonauts.
Two! The voices.
This is a rather subjective point, but Sam and Max's new voices grew on me quickly. Heck, Max is probably voiced better than he was in the original game. The supporting cast is, like in Bone, more of a mixed bag, but without ever detracting too much from the game play. Odds are that you will be too busy digging the fantastic soundtrack to notice the shortcomings anyway.
Three! Don't look now, but it's the 21st century.
Yes, it's 3d. Are anybody actually afraid of that anymore? I will admit that the screenshots looked a bit plastic-y to me, but everything seems to have been cleaned up nicely for the final game. Actually, "cleaned up" might be the exact opposite of what happened; "grunged up" might be a better expression. The engine seems to have undergone some improvements also, and moving around the environments feels more cinematic than it did in the earlier TTG games.
I'm fairly certain most anybody who can live with these three points will end up having a great time with Culture Shock, particularly if you are a fan of the slightly edgier tone of the comic-books. (I can only assume that LucasArts wanted a more family friendly game; Culture Shock seems to be more akin to the original material.)
This is really quite a good game, easily TTG's best. I have a feeling it will go down well with the thousands of people who lamented the cancelation of Freelance Police.
I guess playing a game that is constantly entertaining for two hours is better for me than one that's fifteen hour without any entertainment value. And hey, the thing will obviously be out on hard media some day.
4 out of 5 skulls
Pros: Tons of fun. Great atmosphere.
Cons: Short, but keep in mind that this is part of a larger canon.
This article was originally published on October 26th, 2006. Most older Mojo articles were lost, and we've been forced to resort to The Wayback Machine to revive them. Unfortunately, the layout and media of the original article is often not salvageable, so if you want an idea of how this feature looked in its original form, check out this snapshot.
Oh yeah, and here's the original news post, since we have trouble linking those correctly, too. ¬¬