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Sam & Max: Season One Soundtrack Review

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Chris 'The Tingler' Capel is trying to stop playing videogames for a while, and so now listens to music from videogames instead. It's a start...

Do you know what got me into the International House of Mojo in the first place? It was music. No foolin'. At first I just played the LucasArts adventures, but one thing that always resonated with me long after I'd stopped pointing and clicking was the wonderfully catchy MIDI tunes. I'm sure no one who's played the series will ever forget the Monkey Island theme, but personally I wanted to hunt down that incredibly hummable bit of music that plays in MI2 just after both main and end credits. I stopped at a site called iMuse Island which was one of many websites solely dedicated to the music by the Big Three – Michael Land, Clint Bajakian, Peter McConnell. After discovering what a committed and passionate fan community these games had (rivaled only by companies such as Nintendo and Sega), I made the leap to iMuse Island's host site, www.mixnmojo.com... and never looked back.

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One thing that LucasArts (even now – see the likes of Republic Commando if you don't believe me) always seems to get right is music, and adventure games were their symphonies. Thankfully, Telltale realise the importance of irritatingly catchy songs too. After cutting his teeth on the first two Bone episodes and showing that he can easily match any of the Big Three for memorable music, Jared Emerson-Johnson really gets to let rip. The first Sam & Max game had all three composers working on it, Season One's six games only has Jared. And you know what? He doesn't just pull it off, he revels in it. Hit The Road had one song, Jared gives us five. Do the math.

IT BURROWS INTO MY HEAD LIKE A DEER TICK!

I must admit though (I say this in hushed tones)... I don't really like Sam & Max's new main theme. It's trying too hard to sound very very like their Hit The Road theme and forgets to be a tune in its own right. Also, the first song 'More Than Jerks' is a little bit irritating. And the best song, 'Just You And Me (And Ted E. Bear')', ends too abruptly.

And that's pretty much all the criticisms I can think of. Honestly, it's that good. It's truly amazing to hear how long some of these tracks go on for, considering most people will probably only hear the first minute at most, and they stay good.

One of the problems with Hans Zimmer's score for The Simpsons Movie was his inability to make 'funny music'. Their TV series maestro Alf Clausen, on the other hand, is excellent at this. He can make The Simpsons theme sound like The Addams Family in a Halloween Special for example, or will happily parody James Bond title songs for McBain and do them well.

Jared can do this 'funny music' very well. He can do over-emotional ('Death of a Lagomorph' – nearly made me cry). He can comfortably make references to The Godfather for 'Don Ted E. Bear's Waltz', The Exorcist with 'Wrong Number', and JFK with 'The War Room'. He can even create a “fighting” track that wouldn't seem out of place in Final Fantasy with 'Combat Begin!!'. Speaking of Reality 2.0, having the alternate universe's music composed entirely in MIDI is a master stroke. Really makes me feel old. The MIDI versions of 'Bosco's' and 'Sybil's' are probably more fun to listen to than the "1.0" variety, as well.

SAM, QUIT ENCOURAGING THEM!

Of course, he can also write (and sing) funny songs too. The shout of "Napalm!" in 'Good For You (Good For Me)' still make me smile, as does 'what the hell's a lagomorph?' in 'World of Max'. All the songs are incredibly catchy, and you'll have them all running through your mind like termites burrowing through your skull.

Some tracks just really impress. There is a Danny Elfman Mars Attacks!-like quality to 'Sore Loser' for example, mixed in with slices of wholesome American tunes. The sheer wackiness of 'Consecutive Office' seems strangely appropriate for the White House and is incredibly fun to listen to the whole thing, even though at 8.21 it's the longest track. And the 'Midtown Cowboys' theme is just superb, obviously.

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The one surprise is how few tracks made it from Bright Side of the Moon. I'm going to have to play it again I think. Were there really no cutscenes with music in Episode 6? All we have are the background tunes for the Moon (eerie), the Blister of Tranquility (freaky), Inner Sanctum (nice piano work), and the superb 'World of Max' song that ends Season One. Is that it? Oh, and that 'Bonus Track' at the end is just the end credits music from Episode 4. Pity really, I'm sure there could have been some extra stuff. Possibly even quotes from the games? Maybe I'm just being greedy. Scratch that, I definitely am.

IT'S A MAX, MAX, MAX, MAX, MAX, MAX WORLD!

The most important question that has to be asked about this soundtrack is simply: should you buy it? All the tracks are available in-game, and you can easily turn them into mp3s and make your own soundtrack. Why then should you bother buying it? Well, firstly the extra money will allow Telltale to make better quality games and keep in business. Secondly it comes in a really nice package. Finally, all of the tracks are of a much higher quality than the files you hear in-game, and a couple that are only partially heard are available in all their glory – the background music in Sybil's and Bosco's for example.

In case you haven't gathered already let me reiterate – this is a truly fantastic soundtrack. Our boy Jared done good. I've said it in a previous review but I'll say it again – he can hold his head high in the Big Three anyday. Guess they're the Big Four now. One thing I can tell you, I'll be first in line for Season Two's music CD. Which there will be, of course... right Telltale?

Purchase the soundtrack right here!

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