Owing to Episode 4’s lacklustre experience, I was somewhat hesitant to venture into this, the final chapter of Sam & Max Season 3. The good news is that I needn’t have been; The City That Dares Not Sleep proved to be a good ending to an overall enjoyable season.
At the end of Episode 4 Max was turned into a towering beast-rabbit from the Dark Dimension who then proceeded to tear apart New York and feed off the psychic energy of the populous’ nightmares by releasing thousands of hypnotic, flaming Max-head spores. Pretty straightforward really. Naturally, Episode 5 is all about saving the city and (hopefully) saving Max in the process. In order to do this, Sam has to assemble a brave taskforce, disguise the trusty DeSoto as a three metre corn dog, and travel inside beast-rabbit-Max in the hopes of finding a way to reverse the transformation. It’s climactic Sam & Max insanity, but fortunately the puzzles make sense once again.
With Max out of action, this episode has a slightly different feel to it. Those concerned that the usual banter between Sam and Max might be missing need not fret as Telltale conveniently works Max’s dialogue into each scene, even though Max himself is busy wreaking havoc on Manhattan. There are also no Toys of Power to use, so the once-prevalent mechanics of Ventriloquism, Future Vision, Rhinoplasty etc. are nowhere to be seen in this last chapter. The result is that Episode 5 feels more like a classic point-and-click than any of the season’s earlier instalments. There is still very little inventory interaction and there is (sadly) no item combining at all. Having to solely rely on your immediate surroundings for answers rather than an always available suite of powers or expanded inventory, makes the experience somewhat compacted.
On the whole, The Devil’s Playhouse is a good season, and not just for fans of Sam & Max in general. If you’re into adventure games, or you’re young enough to be curious about this “point-and-click” genre that old-school gamers keep harping on about, then Season 3 is well worth dipping into. The Toys of Power make for a clever new mechanic and create some brilliant puzzles that will keep veteran adventure gamers’ brains pumping think-juice. If you’ve been putting off Season 3 until all the episodes have been released, then you’ve got a good fifteen to twenty hours of hilarity to look forward to – possibly more depending on how stupid thorough you are.