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Given Telltale's record for producing excellent games, returning fans shouldn't even think twice about picking up this first chapter for Chapter 3. But if you are a first-time adopter, a demo of the game might be worth checking out, if not just to see if its type of humor is up your alley. Phew, I made it through the review without making a wisecrack about The Penal Zone! Oh wait... *sigh*
The first episode of The Devil’s Playhouse is a triumphant one, a truly delightful mixture of humour and puzzle solving. Max’s new powers certainly add something to the game, and whilst many of the puzzles aren’t too difficult, for those exhausted with the use of walkthroughs in similar games, The Penal Zone’s easier solutions will likely be most welcome. I’m certainly yearning for more from the detective duo, and thus the first episode of Sam & Max Season 3 is one that has its many successes.
Whether or not you played the classic LucasArts adventure Sam & Max Hit the Road that propelled the duo to stardom, and regardless of your previous experience or lack thereof with their newer episodic capers, "The Penal Zone" is absolutely worth playing. When Telltale first hit the scene with their initial Sam & Max season, part of their success could have been attributed to nostalgia, but now that they've been at it for this long, it's clear that their games stand alone on the merits of their design and writing skills. These people know what they're doing, and hopefully they'll keep doing it on the PlayStation 3.
Overall, Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse brings an amusing story, with great writing, and mixes that together with some terrific gameplay. This debut of Sam & Max on the PlayStation Store is a definite success and a great addition to the library.In conclusion, buy this game, because you will not be disappointed. The second episode comes in May, and the wait will certainly be agonizing.
Not that the other games in the series were slouches when it came to their style, but the new season blows them all out of the water, with enhanced graphics and gameplay improvements that move the series in a wonderful direction. The game shines on the PlayStation 3, and despite some issues with strange loading times, it transferred perfectly to the console. It's apparent that they've pulled out all of the stops this time around, putting together an introductory episode that should prove as a great opening for newcomers, and a fantastic follow-up for those who have been following the series for some time now. After a handful of entertaining hours, it comes to a close with a bang, paying off in a big way and guaranteeing some interesting follow-up episodes.
What hasn't changed are the constant moments of sharp wit, stellar voice acting across the board, and purposefully illogical puzzles that must be solved along the hilarious way. Episode One opens in its own closing moments (well, kind of) before rewinding time and forcing players to find the proper path to the final scenes. To complete this task, players can also take control of Max -- who, since Season One, has been President of the United States, by the way -- and utilize his new psychic abilities, such as peering into the future and instant teleportation. If The Penal Zone is any indication, Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse promises to be another fantastic installment in the world of the Freelance Police that no adventure fan should miss.
As an introduction to the season, The Penal Zone does a good job of setting the stage for more zaniness to come. Unfortunately, the story elements here are a bit thin but at least the episode focuses on one truly interesting new character in the cast. The send ups of the classic paranormal shows and movies are starting to ramp up and promise to deliver even more as the season progresses.
Cheat Code Central
Is Sam & Max worth playing? Yes and no. While it's enjoyable to solve puzzles and uncover a story in a genre that doesn't receive a lot of mileage these days, it's a little unfortunate that the themes and humor borrow from this ancient Looney Tunes-meets-90s-attitude rather than create a new world and identity all its own. So on the one hand, Max's psychic powers add a very, very interesting dynamic to gameplay, but on the other hand, Max is a "psychotic bunny" - get it? If you think that's funny, don't worry... Sam & Max have a million of 'em! In fact, the jokes never seem to end...
Telltale Games have created a charming little adventure – a rare low budget gem tucked away amongst the PSN dross. It’s like Broken Sword meets Ratchet and Clank meets the Carry On films, and it’s as playable as it is hilarious. The short lifespan is a bit of a dampener, but if you’re looking for a refreshingly original title to get the grey matter ticking over and your funny bone tingling, then you could do a lot worse than having a good old play with the Penal Zone. Ahem. Roll on Episode 2.
I'd say as far as a comparison to Telltale's previous handlings of either Sam and Max or their other properties, this one manages to hold its own well enough that I think it's definitely worth checking out. You can easily jump in without having played a Sam and Max title before, and still get the majority of the humor, which is a big plus. However, if you have the option to play it on the PC instead of the PS3, then I absolutely suggest doing so. Unless a patch makes its way over to the system soon, I'd definitely avoid this port and stick with something a little less buggy.