Sam & Max: Beyond Time & Space Xbox Live Review
Point and click adventures are enjoying something of a revival at the moment, especially with the much-loved classic Monkey Island. Personally I always preferred the Sam & Max games, and Xbox Live Arcade has given me the perfect chance to embrace my love for the oft misunderstood duo.
For those of you not familiar with the dog and rabbit partnership, they are the freelance police, and as such end up in some absolutely ridiculous situations. It’s all in a good cause though, you get to save Christmas, stop hordes of zombies and give the Devil a good seeing to. Those of you familiar with the freelance police will not be surprised to see such characters as a gun-toting Santa, Abraham Lincoln’s marble head, and Jimmy Hoffa in a nappy. That’s the great thing about this series, it’s got an incredibly off the wall sense of humour. It doesn’t matter if the stories don’t make much sense, they’re not meant to, they’re just funny, and that’s all that matters. That’s not to say the idiosyncrasies of the game’s humour impede the logical nature of such games puzzles – everything is still perfectly logical, you just have to get used to what is logical in the mad world of Sam and Max.
The story is split into five episodes, each with their own separate yet interlinked story. The first of these starts off in typical Sam & Max fashion in the offices of the freelance police, under siege by a giant robot. This is a good introduction to the game’s main locations: Straight Street, made up of Sam and Max’s offices, Bosco’s inconvenience store, Sybil’s office, Stink’s diner and a garage run by a conglomerate of out of date artificial intelligences. You’ll be visiting at least a couple of these locations, if not all, in every episode, so best get used to them at the beginning. There are plenty of objects to collect and interact with that you’ll find useful, it’s just a matter of finding them and spotting the connections. There are of course plenty of other locations to visit at least one new one each episode, sometimes more, and as the title suggests, you’ll be travelling through time as well as space, so expect to see some of the locations in a different context.
Not everyone is a fan of it, but personally I love time travel as a plot device, and it’s been used well here with a good number of the puzzles being at least a little reliant on past events influencing current, or future, predicaments. In fact one episode is centred around a time machine, and you’ll be jumping between points in time and space, changing history, righting wrongs, and generally causing havoc as is to be expected from the game’s chaotic stars. There’s plenty of other locations to explore in the present though; havoc at the north pole to contend with, Easter Island has an amusing, and a surprisingly logical, cast of characters, you’ll even visit eastern Europe to deal with the undead, in all its incarnations. There’s an absolute plethora of locations and characters in this game, each more insane and comical than the last, and every single one has had every ounce of comical potential milked out of it.
As an interactive cartoon/comic they don’t come much better than this, but that’s not to say there are no problems. The biggest of which is the game’s framerate, which is fine most if the time, but when it comes to changing location, or triggering a cutscene, will leave you staring at a motionless screen for a second or two. It’s a bit on the strange side, and this is a straight port of a PC game that doesn’t suffer from this problem, so why does the Xbox 360 version have it? Next up is the game’s interface… a joystick and button is never going to match up to keyboard and mouse, so it isn’t a big issue, and should be expected considering the platform. Small faults aside though it does what it is meant to, you get some serious laughs, plus numerous puzzles that will stretch your grey matter to its limits without getting too frustrating.
If you like your point and click adventures there really is only one reason why you shouldn’t buy this, and that is if you already bought it on PC. Otherwise this is a great addition to Xbox Live Arcade’s selection of point and click adventures. You won’t find many games funnier than this.