The first thing I noticed about Sam and Max was the revival of a subtle technique from The Last Express. Stop-motion animation has made its return, and for a videogame based on a comic book, it's a brilliant decision. I love how when walking down the street, each image is distilled, and shifts every second or so to stimulate the imagination, which fills in the blanks to create motion. It's brilliant how whenever you enter a building, you get a full minute to stare at the outside of building, soaking in the picture just like you'd soak in a particular part of a comic book. And how the game reboots your computer whenever you enter the psychotherapy place? A hilarious comment on the effects of pop psychology! Either this is the boldest, most stylized adventure game design since the genre's conception, or I need more RAM.
Despite my tech issues, I was able to get into the game a bit. I'm still not sure what exactly my objective is, probably because I can't enter the ex-tattoo parlor, but I've got a feel for how the game plays.
The interface is good, but I'm not sold yet that it's better than the one the original Sam and Max employed (the one I'm currently ripping off for my graphic adventure design document). Although it does make the gameplay much easier and more efficient, I miss the ability to attempt bizarre things, like "picking up" NPCs, and having your character tell you that said NPC is "not his type". Bizarre easter eggs are a big part of what makes graphic adventure games fun, and it'd be a shame to limit that aspect of the game, especially with Telltale giving every indication that it loves cramming easter eggs into its games. I'd propose a system that breaks the cursor down into individual commands, with each command represented by a different icon, but one that automatically shifts as it passes over an object to the "correct" action to take. You can change the command by clicking the right mouse key. If you take the cursor off that object, the action you changed to will remain, until you actually click on something, then it will go back to default.
The puzzle design? I don't know what the next puzzle is, because I don't know what I'm trying to do yet. I'll assume it's because I can't access the whatchamacallit place. But based on what it took to get out of the room, puzzle design seems pretty good so far. People are complaining that it's too easy. Eh, we'll see, but I liked the logic of getting out of the first room. Your rat wants you to get him some swiss cheese in exchange for the phone. Find the cheese, swissify it, bribe him, then shake him down for the phone. What I like about it is that it's bizarre and logical, which is what you want out of a Sam and Max game and graphic adventure design, respectively. All I'd like to see is that each individual step become more insane. Opening the closet to find the cheese? That's dull. Using Max as a cheese detector (think metal detector, only with ears and fur)? Now that'd be awesome. Swissifying the cheese is the kind of thing I'd like to see from as many of the individual steps as possible.
The true brilliance of Sam and Max seems to be the writing. I'm not talking about the storytelling, though that seems pretty good so far too, but the dialogue. It's the densest example of wordiness, silliness, wittiness and goodiness in a videogame script since, well, probably the first Sam and Max. There are some lines that fall flat, but the script moves along so quickly, it's hard to notice them. Even what might be a tired rendition of a very standard cliche, conspiracy theorist Bosco, is given character by the writing.
As for the rest... Voice acting is very good. If a small developer can land acting this good, there's hope for us all. I'd like to see a couple of adjustments made to the performances of Sam and Max. All I'd like from Sam is for his performance to exude more self-confidence. Sam always struck me as a character who thought he was a normal, reasonable guy (in comparison to Max anyway), which kept him from not noticing that he's a fairly deranged character in his own right. Max's voice is nearly perfect. It gives the impression of being an annoying voice, but it never becomes grating. All I'd like to see is for Max to go through a more normal emotional range at times, as if his sadistic, impulsive, mindless behavior is perfectly normal. I think it'd be funnier if Max delivered some of his more insane lines as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Otherwise, all the acting seems very appropriate and spot-on. Over the top without being unbelievable.
As for the rest... I really dig the music. Stylish, low-key, and relaxed. It kinda reflects the mood of the player, but it's deliciously ironic in the context of the actions of America's Favorite Psychotic Freelance PoliceTM. For the few moments that my game was running at a stable framerate, animations seem good, and the character designs seem like the exactly right interpretation of what Dog and Bunny should look like in 3D. You know the Bad News, Worse News gag? I would have liked a third stand there that said "Good News", but is in total disrepair and neglect, and has become a giant ash-tray. The car mini-game wasn't nearly as bad as I feared, and the puzzle was totally awesome. Remember how I said in the other thread that puzzle solutions should be what the characters would do? The puzzle in the car level was case in point. Great job, guys.
It's really what I was hoping it would be. It's a really solid graphic adventure game with no terribly problematic weaknesses (so far, anyway), a few truly awesome moments and reminds me a lot of why I love graphic adventure games so. Unfortunate that I'm going to have to upgrade my RAM to play this game properly, but Sam and Max Season One does seem like upgrading for. Kudos for the game, and hopefully once my computer is up to snuff, I can give a more detailed analysis for the first two episodes.