Review: Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse Episode 1 - The Penal Zone
Written by Josh Rai
Published at 2010-04-20 05:35:59
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1-player Adventure for the PS3 Digital.
Developed by TellTale Games. Published by TellTale Games.
Released 2010-04-15. Rated RP (Rating Pending).
Saved game data is copy-protected.

A little history lesson for all the new initiates into the Sam and Max universe: Sam and Max was originally a comic book series parodying American society. Eventually the series was turned into a classic point and click video game by LucasArts, after they hired series creator Steve Prucell. Sam and Max Hit the Road became a cult classic known for its humour and characters.

Thirteen years after Hit the Road released, Telltale brought back the duo with an episodic season; Save the World was successful enough to justify a second season, titled Beyond Time and Space. Now the third season, The Devil's Playhouse, has landed with the first episode: The Penal Zone.

The Penal Zone launches right into the middle of the action with General Skunkape, a space gorilla, invading Earth. Our heroes are imprisoned by Skunkape and the player is quickly introduced to Max's new psychic powers. Once you beat Skunkape you are greeted by a Twilight Zone type narrator who sends you back to the beginning of the story and sets you fourth to find out how Sam and Max arrived to being captured by Skunkape.

The controls have been translated quite well to the PS3 controller. The right stick controls your movement, the left stick highlights objects, R1 and L1 allow you to toggle through intractable objects, and R2 shows every intractable object. It was smartly designed with a controller in mind, and you will not miss your mouse with this game.

The key here is that you will never need to furiously pixel-hunt to find the items you need. The game also features a slider for hints, allowing you to adjust just how frequently Max will tell you where you should head. These two features mean you will rarely feel stuck, and keeps the story moving at a good pace.

The story and unique characters are the defining uniqueness of the game. The Penal Zone stands by itself, and does not require playing the previous seasons, though there is the odd inside joke here and there. The best thing about this series is that it is genuinely funny. The main purpose of the franchise is to have as many laughs per minute as possible, and The Penal Zone provides a ton of laughs.

That being said, some jokes just won't be funny to some people. A few jokes will go over people's heads, while others may be deemed as groaners. If you are willing to engross yourself into this universe, you will fall in love with the bizarreness of Sam, Max, and the rest of the cast.

The adventure will take most people 5 to 6 hours depending on how many dialogue options you go through. This may not look like a large amount at first, but given that this is the first of five episodes, you will most likely get around 25 hours out of your season pass. And if Telltale can keep up with this quality, then that is a hell of a deal.

The Penal Zone is a great season opener that is chock full of humour. If you need a break from the seriousness of Heavy Rain, God of War 3, and Final Fantasy XIII, then The Penal Zone is a great fit. The main problem right now is that you will have to gamble on the full season, because you can not buy episodes individually. However if you are a fan of the genre or of Sam and Max you can not go wrong by picking up The Penal Zone.


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Having never played this game I'm still left wondering what the 'game' part is. Is this basically a funny Don Bluth type game?

Point and click adventure, think Grim Fandango or Monkey Island. There is a demo available on PSN as well as PC.

So I downloaded the demo. I couldn't get past the awful synching of the animation and the voices. It bugged me so much that I couldn't even give the story a fair shake.
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