The point-and-click genre of video games came pretty early in the history of the pastime. The mechanic that the genre is named after was born out of the fact that these games were built for PCs of the era and the mechanic was an easy way to control the onscreen action. While not quite as old as the genre is, one such game from the early 1990s that saw new games in the series in the early oughts has been remastered and released on the Switch. Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space Remastered is a return to 2007 and the developers at the now defunct and then raised-from-the-dead (see what I did there? wink wink) Telltale Games. This remaster is from game studio Skunkape Games, who, funny as it may seem, is comprised of former Telltale Games employees.
If you are into the point and click genre of games then you will absolutely love this game. It encompasses the thrill of the hunt as you investigate every nook and cranny in the claustrophobic environments that Sam & Max find themselves in. If you are new to the genre and have never played this type of game before, you may not enjoy it as well.
Some fans of the series will be happy to finally be able to play this version. Those fans will undoubtedly be the diehard S&M fans of the past. However, newcomers to the genre will find it hard to get into and frustrating when meeting up to some of the games very obscure puzzles.
Gameplay in Sam & Max consists of areas where in order to progress forward, you must interact with just about every item, person or thing in that area in order to figure out how to proceed. You can move the left joystick to highlight the name of the item you are focusing on or place two fingers on the screen of the Switch to highlight everything and then you simply touch the item name that you wish to interact with. Sam and/or Max will give their description or opinion and you need to use that info in determining how that information will allow you to figure out the puzzle.
Most puzzles are solved simply by interacting with or speaking to people in a particular order. On the other hand, many of the puzzles that the game offers are so obscure that it quickly became not-so-fun to play because you are speaking to everyone multiple times only to hear the same responses. There is a system in place to give you hints but many of those hints are also very obscure that it only further confuses the puzzle.
The visuals in this remaster are very vibrant and bright and was actually one of the high points of the game for me. The cool early twentieth century cartoon style fits perfect with the theme and will definitely attract a younger audience to make the decision to buy this game. I previewed the game on the new Switch OLED and I was simply amazed at how the games set-pieces seemed to jump off of the screen.
Whether this is due to the fidelity of the games code or just pure benefit from the technology behind the OLED screen is anyone’s guess; I think that it has to be a little of both. The character designs are fantastic and makes looking at the game a reason to keep playing just to see what the developers are visually going to throw at you next.
The soundtrack was also another aspect of this game that actually was enjoyable to experience. From the 1950’s doo-wop music playing on the jukebox in Stinky’s Diner to the smooth jazz ambience of the main game world, the music becomes one of the characters of the game. It’s not just there to give your ears something to do while you struggle through the puzzles.
There is such good variety of different types of music that I never got tired of hearing any specific song. And if I’m being totally fair, the voice actors do a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life. David Nowlin and Andrew Chalkin voice the titular Sam and Max respectively and they really come with their A-game to bring the characters to life.
Point-and-click as a game mechanic leaves a lot to be desired in a gaming world where fast-twitch gameplay has become the norm. While it is good to slow down and play games that require a more methodical approach, this game bored me to tears. And as I’ve mentioned before, the puzzle mechanics were either too easy or too difficult and there was nothing in between. Bad game balance aside, you need to remember that this is a fourteen year old game that plays like it. If you keep that in mind, you might stand a chance of getting through this one.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Some things are best left in the past.
+ Great soundtrack and voice acting is superb
+ Visuals are bright and fun
– No balance in the puzzle difficulty
– Game mechanic is severely dated and boring
– Hint system creates more confusion than it helps