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Family Friendly Gaming Hall of Fame

Sam and Max The Devils Playhouse





Sam and Max The Devils Playhouse 


The third episode in the latest season of Sam & Max continues the ongoing saga of this detective duo. This time around, Max’s brain has been stolen and Sam is hot on the trail of the perpetrator. This adventure is full of classic Sam & Max humor which sadly includes some foul language, suggestive phrases, and a substantial amount of idolatry.

Graphically the game looks very nice. The locales are very detailed and give you a sense of immersion in the game. Each area is given just the right amount of detail without making it too cluttered but still providing you with plenty to look at. At times the camera angles can be a bit frustrating as you can’t see everything you want to look at. Other times the camera will shift at awkward moments making movement confusing when the angle changes. There are some negative graphical items parents and potential players should be aware of going into this game. Cartoon violence is quite prevalent in Episode 3. Early on the player will be required to use aggressive interrogation techniques which exhibit the player performing violent acts. Throughout the game there are several violent confrontations with other characters. While these encounters stop short of portraying blood and gore, the message of violence is still conveyed quite clearly. Max’s de-brained body, which Sam totes around for a while, is also a bit disturbing. Again no gory details are shown, but the body is quite corpse-like in appearance. Idol imagery is common in this game as well as a few mildly suggestive signs in the background as Sam is driving around the city.

Sam & Max is heavily a dialog-driven adventure game. The writing in the game is superb and full of great humor. The voice acting is outstanding and reinforces the wit behind the writing. Unfortunately the game often dives unnecessarily into mild innuendo and sacrilegious remarks. Repeatedly the main villain of the story promotes himself as lord and forces the people of the world to bow and worship him. At one point he even goes as far as to refer to himself as the “holy of holies”. For me this was going way too far. The point was made sufficiently without the need to beat a dead horse with these repetitious remarks. In addition to this type of offensive dialog, our Lord’s name is taken in vain on occasion as well as mild profanity thrown about here and there. These things would definitely weigh heavily into my decision on purchasing this game and its future installments.

As for replay value, this type of game really offers no extra incentives to replay. Aside from the negative things mentioned above, I would replay it just to relive the humorous story and witty dialog. Fans of the Sam & Max series will likely enjoy playing the game through more than once, but for casual gamers there are no unlockables or bonuses earned by playing through again. The Devil’s Playhouse series is released in episodes and is thus less expensive making it a decent value. Players should expect an abbreviated gaming experience, as this is typical of episodic releases.

Gameplay in They Stole Max’s Brain will be familiar to players who have journeyed through the first two episodes. Sam & Max is basically a point and click 3D adventure game. The control system works well giving players multiple control options utilizing the mouse, keyboard, or gamepad. I personally found using the mouse to click items on screen and choose dialog options while using the keyboard to control character movement was a winning combination. Players can also use the mouse to move the character around, but the movement is not a fluid as when using the keyboard. The game also features an adjustable hint system which is a great feature. Increasing the hint level will provide more direct hints to your character while playing the game. The enjoyable thing about this system is that the hints are built into the dialog making it all part of the story. Players looking for a challenge and not wanting assistance can slide the hint system all the way left to figure things out on their own. Gameplay is fun as you try to sleuth out what to do next. Examining objects or talking with characters usually results in an informative yet entertaining exchange. During gameplay there are some unethical acts that must be committed to progress. Many times you will be required to provoke a conflict between other characters in the game getting them to argue or attack one another. Players are also responsible for choosing to take violent or immoral actions against characters in the game to obtain information or advance the story. As I said before, the violent imagery is kept to a minimum but the spirit behind the acts is quite clear.

As you may have guessed by now, this game will not rate too well in the family friendly category. Let me begin by saying that the remaining two episodes of this series would be vastly more enjoyable without the unnecessary offensive content found in this episode. The story and presentation can certainly stand well on its own without the idolatry and offensive language. Much of the content of this game will be offensive to believers especially due to the virtually blasphemous conduct of the villain and his followers. There are some slight demonic references as well as the necessity to gamble in order to complete an objective. On the surface these may sound like minor things, but still things players should be aware of when making the decision on whether or not to invest in this series. Currently the Telltale Games website lists Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse series as “RP E10+” (Rating Pending, Everyone 10 and up). Based on the content found in this episode, I would not want a 10 year old child exposed to these themes, particularly in a video game. Hopefully the ESRB will come to the same conclusion.
- Roger


Graphics: 53%
Sound: 54%
Replay/Extras: 62%
Gameplay: 77%
Family Friendly Factor: 43%
System: Playstation 3/Personal Computer
Publisher: Telltale Games
Rating: 'E10+' for Everyone 10+
{Alcohol Reference, Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, Mild Language}

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