|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Telltale Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Telltale Games / Gametap||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 10, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
With such a strong second season of episodic, insanity-fueled detective cases, Sam & Max fans have amassed high hopes for the season's conclusion. The series has injected a much-needed dose of humor into the point-and-click adventure game genre, and it's proven the episodic format to be successful. Fortunately, even after two full seasons, Telltale Games' dark creative forces have yet to run out of unholy steam.
Sam & Max Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub? wraps up the latest batch of misfit capers with an hysterical romp through the bowels of Hades for a fiery finale. A confrontation with the Dark One reveals an even greater malevolence at work. What forces could be more insidious and baleful than the great unholy Satan himself? The answer is both vile and amusing. You'll see for yourself once all hell breaks loose.
Narrowly escaping total annihilation from a freak encounter with "T-H-E-M" in the previous episode, the season finale finds our favorite anthropomorphic freelance police unceremoniously dumped on the doorstep of hell. It turns out the River Styx is conveniently located in the sewers beneath Sam and Max's office, and the duo finds themselves hitching a ride on the soul-train to the dark abyss in hopes of reclaiming Bosco's soul and returning their pal to the realm of the living.
The series' humor is one of its major strengths, and it's also something we've seen refined and improved with nearly every episode. From the subtle pop-culture references sprinkled throughout much of season two, to the completely ridiculous situations Sam and Max find themselves in, the humor is often well-timed and abundant. It's also always terribly amusing when the story throws a new twist at you, treading humorous territory you may not have anticipated. It's a frequent occurrence in most episodes, and What's New, Beelzebub? is no different.
With a fire-and-brimstone themed finale, you could expect to find a multitude of situations awaiting Sam and Max upon their arrival in hell. In typical fashion, Telltale delivers a lair of eternal damnation that will trump just about anything you'd have anticipated by re-imagining it as a bastion of corporate American culture. Hell - or Hell, LLC, as the catchy corporate logo in the entryway reads - is a land of cubicles, quotas, and office productivity where everyday is Monday and the clock perpetually reads 4:59 p.m. The place is decorated with odd posters depicting the seven deadly sins, and it's staffed by a medley of villains from both seasons who offer some new gags, despite being re-hashed content. Satan himself is blasé about his rule over the domain, with more concern about employee efficiency and managing the underworld than Sam and Max's presence. In fact, the detectives have an entire wing of hell constructed in their honor as thanks "for a lifetime of generous donations of souls both evil and led astray." It even features enormous "Sam the Devourer" and "Max the Destroyer" statues.
The giant warehouse is stocked to the ceiling with shelves full of small dioramas containing the souls of folks locked in scenes of their own personal hell. Much like the elevator in Chariots of the Dogs, the dioramas of a handful of recent arrivals serve as an interesting opportunity to dish out some additional puzzles. Sam and Max can jump in and out of scenes where key characters are being tormented by demonic forces. Solving the puzzle in each scene will free the soul of the corresponding character and reduce the efficiency of hell. As always, the episode's other puzzles are clever and entertaining, since many of them revolve around trying to wreak enough havoc to get Satan's attention. By the time this is accomplished, the plot pleasantly twists again and you'll be sent on another round of unusual errands.