Sam & Max Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead

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 203: Night of the Raving Dead

Zombies, much like pirates and ninjas, have been bled dry by the Internet equivalent of the office joker. "LOL!" they e-scoff, as they email you a link to that Amazon-for-zombies spoof site for the millionth time. Or they make you regret ever registering at Facebook or MySpace by bombarding you with cutesy nonsense. Nothing has me hitting delete faster than the phrase "Dengar3425 has sent you a zombie bite!"

Poor Dengar3425. So behind the curve on Internet memes.

This is why I was more than a little concerned at the news that the third episode of Sam & Max Season 2 would revolve around a zombie invasion. If there's been one constant throughout the surreal duo's recent return it's the stellar writing, and a willingness to venture in surreal directions. Precious few games are genuinely funny, and Sam & Max is a member of that elite club, so a zombie spoof sounded like a major step down in terms of inspiration, particularly following the inspired lunacy of Moai Better Blues.

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