Episode 2 of Season 2 of Sam & Max starts off right where the first
episode left off: Sam and Max are back from the North Pole, Christmas
is almost saved, Max is still president, and Santa is
hell dead. The setup wizard from the first episode is gone,
but at least you get to choose the options before the game proper
Once again, the game does not waste any time thrusting you into the action, with a mysterious triangle chasing Sybil through the street (yes, singular) of New York. It quickly turns out to be the Bermuda Triangle acting as a portal to Easter Island, which not only houses the originators of the portal but also talking stone(d) heads, Noah's Ark, the Fountain of Youth, and a cunningly hidden secret cave of mysterious mystery. Oh, and more portals. They are blue-ish and yellow-ish, so unless you've lived under a rock for the past few months, you probably know what this is parodying.
In case you have been living under a rock, the portals allow Sam to stick his hand (or an item) through a triangle of one color and have it come out the other. This is brilliantly integrated into the puzzle design and used several times. The designers also added enough potential portal pop-up places to keep the puzzles non-obvious and, as in all good adventure gaming, there's a twist later that requires some lateral thinking to apply previous knowledge of portal physics to bend them to your own nefarious schemes.
Much less well integrated (and indeed as superfluous as it was in the first episode) is yet another driving minigame, which lamely parodies Guitar Hero, is no challenge at all, and overall feels like one of those Fifteen puzzles that designers throw in to artificially lengthen a game. This is the only sour note in an otherwise excellent instalment of Sam & Max, but if there are three more episodes with driving minigames, they'll get older more quickly than Sam after drinking from the Reverse Fountain of Youth (that was a lie).
Speaking of getting old, this new episode de-emphasizes the well-known characters in favor of a host of new NPCs to speak to, from the aforementioned stone heads to famous missing persons addicted to the Fountain of Youth. Furthermore, most of the episode takes place either on Easter Island or in the newly-introduced NYC locations of Season 2. There is one more minigame aside from Bagpipe Obliteration Ultimate (told you!), which I could handle quickly enough to not get annoyed at it.
Other than that, there's not too much I can say about this episode without giving away all its secrets. Aside from the unfortunate Guitar Hero parody, the game is thoroughly enjoyable, funny, and definitely not too easy, and I'm looking forward to the third episode already. Fortunately, this time around, it's only a one-month wait.
This article copyright © 2007, Gunther Schmidl