Beyond the Alley of the Dolls.
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t played other episodes in the series and don’t want to know what happens next, stop reading right now.
â€œWhat in the name of Betty Crockerâ€™s knickers do you want now?â€
After finally slotting Maxâ€™s brain back into the brain shaped hole in his head at the end of the last episode, Sam and Max are now on the run from hoards of scantily clad, dangerously handsome yet slightly portly Samuelacras!
Made to be the spitting image of the body conscious canine, hundreds of Sam clones are storming the city in the search of Toys meaning someone else wants to get their hands on the Devilâ€™s Toybox. What else can the Freelance Police do but barricade themselves up in Stinkyâ€™s diner and try to work out who is behind the creation of these gold hot-pants wearing dogglegangers.
Starting in the diner, Samâ€™s first duty is to find a way out without being groped to death by throngs of himself. As in the previous point and click episodes, a thorough searching of the scene for clues as to what you have to do next is in order, followed by more grilling of the fabulous characters, in this case, hard as nails Grandpa Stinky and the attitude fuelled girl Stinky. Once again the dialogue is tongue in cheek, observational and brilliantly laugh-out-loud funny with some exceptionally bizarre new words and phrases from Max plus more of Samâ€™s noir musings â€“ some of the best out of the whole series so far â€œpoking and buzzing impotently, just like she left my heartâ€. The good news about having Maxâ€™s brain being safely back where it should be means the relationship and conversations between the dog and the rabbity thingy and those they investigate is once again the focus and is the best element of this episode, plus having Max back means you can always talk to him for a hint as to what to do next if you get stumped.
As for navigating Sam, I occasionally had the same problems as I have in other series where the mouse option – although allowing him to move more freely in any direction – is sometimes unwieldy and tricky to use (especially when in confined spaces) so I tended to use the keyboard for getting about and the mouse for everything else. This time when it comes to investigating, there are three more toys at your disposal, though the novelty of this soon wears off as the more psychic powers Max has, especially the mind reading ability, the quicker and easier it is to solve puzzles or glean information and move on. Iâ€™m not saying I enjoy being frustratingly stuck on a game for hours on end but after the initial mix of challenges in previous episodes, this time the story rapidly unfolds simply by using the Toys in various combinations, followed by repeatedly visiting characters and scenes(though not as much as experienced in the opening of the last episode). I couldnâ€™t help feeling that this episode just isnâ€™t as thrilling or engaging as previous ones. Perhaps because weâ€™re building up to an almighty climatic finale this is the calm before the storm and not because TellTale have run out of ideas.
The aesthetics on the whole are great and again, the detail and expressions of the characters in both the visual and vocal delivery are excellent.Â On a couple of occasions, I found that the dialogue soundtrack didnâ€™t quite match up with the mouth formations when characters were talking but there were no other glitches or disappearing fingers this time.
Overall, despite the feeling that this episode is a little thin on real brain twisting puzzles or surprising storylines, you cannot escape the fact that a Sam and Max game is never dull. The script is awesomely clever and witty and itâ€™s all heading towards what should be a fantastic finale in â€œThe City That Dares Not Sleepâ€, out later this year.