As is the nature with episodic gaming, it is difficult to discuss the newest instalment without a few spoilers for previous episodes creeping in. That would be the case if Episode 3 was subtitled anything else. But would you look at that, it isn’t. So by now you’ll know (whether you’ve played it or not) that Episode 2 ends with Sam discovering that somebody really has stolen Max’s brain. There is something a little endearing (in a macabre sort of way) in seeing Max’s lifeless body flopped on the floor with his cranium wide open. He looks, so… peaceful and cute with his tongue lolling to the side and his one eye twitching. Naturally, Sam doesn’t feel the same way and seeing his partner’s corpse sends him into a fit of rage – a fit of rage that drags his gasping psyche ever deeper into the swirling torrents of despair, filling him with a cynicism steeped in angst and self-loathing. Was that suitably noir enough for you? Yes? Well, the opening scenes of Episode 3 are a hilarious take on the noir film genre complete with anger-fuelled interrogations, persistent rain and moody narration by Sam. Sadly, it doesn’t last for very long and before you know it the game reverts back to the classic Sam & Max tone, which is not a bad thing but the diversion was welcome nonetheless.
After spending the opening scenes discovering who stole Max’s brain, the remainder of the episode sees Sam trying to rescue Max’s brain to reunite it with Max’s (cute but dead) body. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and in the ensuing chaos the two manage to usher in an alternate reality, destroy the American credit card and banking system, and expunge all toasters from existence just so that Max can satiate his lust for snack time goodies (“all your corndogs are belong to Max”). Along the way they interact with a loveably loyal, six-foot cockroach security guard called Sal, form an alliance with a rebel group known as the Anti Sammun-Mak Society and Croquet League of West Nigeria (the acronym for which I’ll leave to you to ascertain), and discuss the ninja prowess of Milla Jovovich. I love these games; they are so unabashedly quirky that you can’t help giving sanity the finger for a few hours.
In episodic gaming it is natural to compare one episode to the other; as far as the puzzles in Episode 3 are concerned, they are not as good as those found in Episode 2 with its clever use of the film reel. The somewhat uninspired puzzles aside, this is still a good episode and the inclusion of the noir vibe at the beginning adds an additional layer to the humour. Voice-acting remains impeccable and the controls, while occasionally clunky, get the job done in a mostly unobtrusive manner.