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Review: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls

20 Jul, 2010, 15:15 | Posted by: Remi
How do we enjoy the latest Sam & Max episode? Read on to find out.

Like Tales of Monkey Island before it, The Devil's Playhouse is increasingly looking like one full game divided into separate chapters. I suppose one could argue that was the case with Sam & Max's previous two seasons also, but really, not to the extent to what we're seeing here.

Beyond the Alley of the Dolls -- a title borrowed from the Roger "Video Games Can't Be Art" Ebert-penned Beyond the Valley of the Dolls -- shares a lot of similarities with the previous episode, They Stole Max's Brain!. This makes a lot of sense, as the game is again written by Mike Stemmle and Joe Pinney.

And when They Stole Max's Brain! opened with a noir tribute, Beyond the Alley of the Dolls' first part is one giant George Romero lovefest. If you like Night of the Living Dead you will feel right at home with Sam and Max barricaded inside Stinky's, fighting off... Clones? Zombies? Doppelgangers? Whatever they are.

Some felt the noir segment in the previous game should have gone a bit further than just the initial puzzle. This was a valid criticism, and luckily the Romero-fest continues well into this episode. Of course, it's not all a zombie-movie tribute, and Cthulhu fans will probably be sent to hog heaven with Beyond the Alley of the Dolls. And hey, there's also another little noir puzzle, involving Flint Paper.

With the consistency of the season I doubt anyone would expect to see an episode that would be a major letdown, and Beyond the Alley of the Dolls does not disappoint. The dialogue is quick and, obviously, funny. Even characters that for whatever reason might not have gotten much fan-love before shine here. (The Stinkys, in case you're wondering. Not the Soda Poppers. Though there is a reference to them in here.) The puzzles are a step up from the previous episode, too, though some still feel either tacked on or just random. They don't stand out like a sore thumb or anything, but are definitely this episode's weak point. One, for example, I solved without having any clue what I actually did right. This is not good.

Regardless, I really do feel that this season of Sam & Max has been Telltale's best work. Much excitement as there is over the special edition of LeChuck's Revenge right now -- and well deserved excitement it is -- The Devil's Playhouse feels extremely fresh and well developed. I think that's a fair statement, even though there's still one episode left.

Beyond the Alley of the Dolls is another quirky and fun piece in the puzzle known as The Devil's Playhouse. Great fun.

What does everyone else think about this?

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    Comment by: tenochtitlan | Posted 24 Jul, 2010, 15:27 | Quote

    One, for example, I solved without having any clue what I actually did right. This is not good.


    You're talking about the piano music puzzle? This is probably Telltale's one and only "as awful as possible" puzzle design moment...
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    Comment by: The Tingler | Posted 21 Jul, 2010, 02:33 | Quote
    Totally agree, especially about the puzzles. The bit where you just arrive at a scene and get a crucial toy of power randomly in particular stuck out... although I do suppose there is a narrative justification for that later.

    The ending though is utterly epic, way more so than even Tales of Monkey Island's finale... and this isn't even the final episode!

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