We’ve reached episode 4 out of the 5 episodes in season 3 and by reading this review you are obviously wanting to know if this episode reaches the heights of episode two or if it tries something different just like the interrogation at the start of episode 3 and shows signs of a mid season slump. With each episode so far, you are thrown into a strange situation that explains itself as the episode develops and episode 4 is no different. Sam & Max are running away from doppelgangers, essentially loads of clones of Sam to be more precise. Where did they come from, what do they want? There is only one way to find out, let’s play the episode.
As we’ve all come to expect from a Sam & Max episode, you are faced with puzzles that require solving and characters to interact with with amusing results most of the time. This episode does not disappoint and is one of the better episodes from season 3. With Beyond the Valley of the Dolls being the fourth episode you will not be surprised to read that the game mechanics, graphics and sound quality, including voice acting, are of a high quality and amongst the best in the genre of point and click adventures. In fact the cosmetic qualities of the episodes have remained similar throughout the season but to avoid repetition too much, here are the links to the reviews for the previous 3 episodes. (Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three). The game reeks of love and attention by the development team and TellTale Games have not lowered the bar in respects of the all round quality of the series for this season (except for the interrogation beginning to episode 3). It has to be said that even though the review PC used for reviewing is a high end machine, Sam & Max season three scales well and is very playable even on a mid range laptop.
PC System Requirements:
- Operating system: Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7
- Processor: 2.0 GHz + (3 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent rec.)
- Memory: 1GB Sound: DirectX 8.1 sound device
- Video: 128MB DirectX 8.1-compliant video card (256MB rec.)
- DirectX Version 9.0c or better
To write this review without spoiling the surprises within the story or the fun ways to solve some of the puzzles is almost impossible for this fourth episode, even mentioning some of the characters who return could spoil your enjoyment and give the game away as to why they feature this time around. Along the way you will find out the origin of the Power Toys that have been the constant throughout the season and the cause of Max’s powers, and the unveiling of the clone master is a highlight to the episode. Players will mostly be pleased to see the return of characters throughout episode four, although there were times when it seemed like TellTale could not come up with a new character and simply recycled a current one. As each episode has brought previous characters back it is beyond any shadow of a doubt we will be treated to more reappearances when the season comes to a finale in the next episode.
Criticism of the episode can be aimed at the lack of new locations and occasional repetition of one-liner jokes throughout the episode, especially with the use of the word doppelgangers. There are minor bugs, like spelling mistakes in subtitles but these do not spoil the enjoyment of the game or slow the pace too much. When you do actually get to the final scene in episode four you will be pleased that you did as it is easily one of the best set pieces in the entire season and you will be left wanting episode five immediately.
Mark’s final say: Episode four returns Sam & Max back to what they do best, puzzle solving and wise crack gags. Hardened veterans of point and click adventures will complete the game in a single session of 2-4 hours, while casual gamers will get a week of nightly puzzle solving from this episode. TellTale Games have set the season up nicely for a grand finale in episode five due to be released next month (HINT: watch the credits until the end). If you have not picked up the season yet, then jump right over to http://www.telltalegames.com/store/samandmax-thedevilsplayhouse and click BUY. You will not be disappointed.