|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: Nov. 8, 2007||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
A giant destructive robot with a penchant for singing 80's pop tunes, a shambling corporate presence, demonic possession, and an unruly Santa with a machine gun are only a meager selection of some of the marvelous antics players can expect from the latest in Telltale Games' wacky episodic adventure series featuring the anthropomorphic "freelance" police duo Sam & Max. Injecting a much needed dose of sarcasm and dark humor into the point-and-click adventure genre, the canine detective and his rabbit-like sidekick have consistently delivered a bang-up performance in their series of short episode titles released over the past year. Following the success of season one, which culminated in a retail release containing all six episodes, it was no surprise when Telltale announced a follow-up season was in the works.
With the holidays fast approaching, what better way to kick off the second season premiere of Sam & Max than with an appropriately timed Christmas satire. Trouble is brewing at the North Pole in Sam & Max Episode 201: Ice Station Santa. When a whopper of a Christmas present arrives full-force on the duo's doorstep, they follow the trail to Santa's workshop where all hell is breaking loose. By following leads, interrogating bystanders, and solving puzzles, Sam & Max will get to the bottom of what has Santa's knickers in a bunch and hopefully unravel the unholy forces at work to destroy Christmas.
If it's humanly possible, Ice Station Santa packs even more of a punch to the funny bone than any of its predecessors, and that's saying something. The series' unique brand of humor was thoroughly developed and explored throughout each of the previous episodes which feature a range of bizarre cases including run-ins with the toy mafia, washed-up former child actors, sentient videogames, and the president of the United States. Already, season two is showcasing a more refined, super-saturated version of this wit. The laughs will come more frequently as Sam & Max deal with a range of increasingly ridiculous situations partially set in an icy winter wonderland. How they manage to drive their Desoto to the North Pole is a complete mystery.
Players will control Sam & Max using the same point-and-click interface as in past episodes. Practically everything in each location can be examined and doing so will typically elicit some sort of pun from Sam or Max, or both. You'll run into many familiar locales from the past games in addition to some slick new areas. Places like the office, the streetscape, and Bosco's Inconvenience would seem like old hat had the developers not taken the time to spruce things up a bit. The extra touches are much appreciated. Puzzles in Ice Station Santa have also been cranked up a notch, requiring a bit more thought than those in some of the past games. They're also quite clever in design and how they tie into humorous aspects of the game. There are a few noticeable improvements in terms of gameplay. Load times are significantly shorter this time around which is something anyone who's played Season One will appreciate. If slowly meandering across the screen seemed to grow too tedious in past episodes you can now double click to make Sam & Max run faster. Also, players can switch on a new hint system which will have Max providing clues from time-to-time on where to go next. You can turn it off and on, or even manually adjust the frequency of hints to your personal liking. All of the puzzles can be solved with a little time and extra patience, but the hints are a big help if you get stuck for an extended time when a particular solution escapes you. The few improvements, though minor, are certainly noticeable in a good way.