Sam & Max 301: The Penal Zone is the first episode of the third Sam & Max season named Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse. In the beginning of the game Max finds a toy which causes a vision of the future: Sam & Max defeat an evil space gorilla by banishing him to the so-called "Penal Zone". After the vision ends the gorilla's spaceship land on the street and he pretends to trade his advanced technology for an artifact - of course the one Max found. Only Sam & Max know his true intentions and they need to stop him...
The main new feature are Max's psychic powers which can be activated by clicking an icon on the upper right corner. Then the game switches to a first person where Max chooses and uses one of these powers. Besides the tutorial there are two available: teleport to a known phone (mostly used to save walking time) and predicting the future. When using the last power on a person or item a short clip gets played which shows the near future. This mostly results in a more or less obvious puzzle hint. During the episode Sam & Max also get access to a "crime computer": they need to feed it two related pieces of evidence to get a new location.
The rest of the gameplay is similar to the former seasons: the player walks through the levels, collects items and uses them to solve puzzles. Dialogues are a ring menu similar to Mass Effect where the player only chooses the topic instead of the whole sentence. Unlike traditional adventure games the movement of Sam is not controlled by point & click but by holding the left mouse button and dragging the mouse in the desired direction (or alternatively with the keyboard keys). Interactions with items or persons are carried out with a single mouse button.
Like the Tales of Monkey Island series single episodes weren't available for purchase at the initial release. Users were required to buy the five episodes as a whole as they are released on a monthly basis.