Sam & Max Episode 201: Ice Station Santa

Telltale has new episodic series for E3

Graphs going up with 1 million sales so far.

Telltale Inc. plans to unveil a new adventure series at E3, following the million-episode-selling success of Sam & Max, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People and Wallace and Gromit.

Sam & Max Season 2

Sam & Max Season 2

Episode five and the season as a whole.

And so the second episodic adventure with Sam & Max comes to a close. The final episode - What's New, Beelzebub? - is very much of a piece with the previous entries in this season. That's to say that it's exquisitely written, packed with some of the best humour ever seen in games, but curiously disappointing as an actual game.

There's no faulting the presentation, the only persistent technical grumble is some sluggish loading times, but the criticisms have become wearily familiar over the past few months. Once again the action revolves around the same old street, with a few remote locations to jaunt between. This time it's Hell, with the Freelance Police entering the underworld to rescue the souls of all the characters who have died during the season. Of course, this means that pretty much everyone to have crossed their path gets to come back, including Hugh Bliss, Brady Culture and Santa Claus, and there are also some brief excursions to miniaturised locations from episodes past.

What is more troublesome is how routine the actual gameplay has become. With that in mind, rather than simply reiterating the same praise and criticism for the final episode, consider this a look back at the season as a whole, how the episodic format is working out, and the implications it has for gameplay.

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Sam & Max: Ice Station Santa

Sam & Max: Ice Station Santa

Wrapped up in blue.

So here it is, Merry Christmas. Everybody's having fun. No wait. That was last year. Did you have fun, or were you too busy lying in bed with Man Flu (like me, sigh) to be festive? Anyway, just because it's 2008, that doesn't mean games that fell through the cracks can get away without a thorough cavity inspection in the barren wasteland of January. Step forward Ice Station Santa, the first episode in the 'eagerly awaited' second series of Sam & Max adventures.

Eagerly awaited? Hmm, really? As much as the first season was a welcome comeback for the dog/rabbit freelance police after so long in the wilderness, after six episodes (or roughly 12-15 hours), the formulaic routine wore a bit thin. Paranoid Bosco's latest 'disguise'. Sybil's ever-changing occupations. The irritating Soda Poppers. Hugh Bliss' voice. Yet, in among the hit and miss first season, the presence of the dry double act at the core was still more than entertaining enough to carry you through when boredom set in.

And so it proves once again. Acknowledging the need to move on from the familiar surrounds that dominated season one, Ice Station Santa kicks off with the beloved duo trying to stop a giant robot destroying their home town. Of course, being Sam & Max, this particular giant robot has an amusing penchant for ancient pop lyrics, resulting in the kind of surreal nonsense out of which all fans of ageing adventure games will get a kick.

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Sam & Max names, dates

Season two ends in April.

Telltale Games has listed the names and release dates for the next three episodes in the second season of Sam & Max adventure games.

Sam & Max S2E1 released

Demo available.

Telltale Games has released the first episode of Sam & Max: Season Two, Ice Station Santa, and of course there's a demo to go along with it.