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Sam & Max 304: Beyond the Alley of Dolls
Sam and Max 304:
Beyond the Alley of Dolls
Developer:Telltale Games
Publisher:Telltale Games
Release Date:July 2010
Article Posted:August 2010
System Requirements

Editorial Note: Quite shockingly, when Adventure Lantern took a two-year hiatus, the gaming world did not stop. Among the many games we did not get to cover during our long absence were the first three episodes from the current Sam & Max season, called The Devil's Playhouse. When the fourth episode, Beyond the Alley of the Dolls became available, Dona took it upon herself to get us caught up on Sam & Max's latest adventures. Rather than a formal review of episode four, what follows is Dona's survey of the current season with a focus on the latest episode.

The Devilís Toybox has gone missing and Toys of Power are scattered throughout the universe... They grant great power to those that possess them and some are prepared to go great lengths to obtain them. The third season of the Sam & Max series starts with our protagonists trapped on the space ship of General Skun-ka'pe, the space gorilla, who managed to collect several Toys of Power. Max responds to the Toys quite well and uses his newly acquired psychic powers to kick the General into the Penal Zone, a prison-like dimension far away from the world we know (pun very much intended).

Truth to be told, I was not very thrilled with this season. Similar to the previous two seasons, each episode introduced a new gameplay concept, something to keep the players entertained and the game fresh. However, it all came down to one thing - using Maxís newly acquired powers. He usually had about three. It would get tiring very fast. Perhaps it is just me, but the humor wasnít as good as it had been previously either. I am not saying the episodes werenít funny - they were - but I did feel like something was missing.

Telltale took a rather brave approach by combining sci-fi and ancient fantasy in one game. The downside is that it took the first two episodes to show the both 'worlds' that come together rather clumsily in the third one. Another thing thatís new to the series is that the current season plays more like a movie cut into several parts. Events are tightly connected and continue with each new game. This wasnít the case with the old series - while all of the episodes had a common plot, the events were often a few months apart and there was a lot more freedom for something completely random and fresh to happen.

Most of the old characters are gone. Those that do make a comeback, however, have been given a nice little make-over. The graphics software has been updated, introducing real-time shadows. Donít worry if your computer is a bit old though, the options menu allows you to fine-tune it so even old machines can run the game.

Episode four, Beyond the Alley of the Dolls, starts with an attack of Sam clones. They chase our heroes in zombie mob fashion, before Sam & Max find refuge in Stinkyís Diner. The camera becomes shaky, imitating zombie outbreak movies, while Grandpa Stinky and Max do their best to fight off the clones with guns. It is up to Sam to find a way out. The first half of the game isnít much different from the previous episodes, but then things start to heat up. With only one more episode left everything works towards what may be the most amazing finale ever. Beyond the Alley of Dolls gets epic.

I donít want to give much away, but there is this 'trend' where every fourth episode in a Sam & Max season has a musical number. It is not quite Good For You nor a Birthday Mariachi song, but something completely new and fun and interactive. Playing through felt very intuitive and rewarding and left me eager to see more. There is much to look forward to finding out what lies in The City That Dares Not Sleep.


PC System Requirements:
Windows XPģ / Vista / 7
2.0 GHz CPU
128 MB DirectX 8.1-compliant video card
DirectX 8.1 compatible sound device
DirectX version 9.0c or better