It took 13 years, a high-profile cancellation and a corporate schism that ended with the formation of developer Telltale Games, but bizarre crimefighting team Sam & Max have finally returned to computer screens. In Sam & Max Episode 1: Culture Shock, the dog-and-rabbit detective duo hit the pavement in their festering New York neighborhood, this time to shut down an incredibly chintzy world-domination plot.
Like 1993's Sam & Max Hit the Road (and Telltale's earlier Bone games), Culture Shock is an old-school, point-and-click adventure that brings the crazed duo back in brilliantly animated 3D. As canine detective Sam (Max the rabbit tends to follow you aimlessly until you either talk to him or swat him out of the way), you'll wander around solving puzzles, engaging the locals in conversation and picking up whatever isn't nailed down. The plot is suitably weird, centering on former child stars, an idiotic fitness craze and mind-control rays, and the script - while infuriatingly tame by the lunatic standards of the Sam & Max comics - is pretty clever for what's essentially a pilot episode.
That said, Culture Shock is a pretty simple game. Everything you can interact with lights up when you mouse over it, and while the puzzles are clever, they're not exactly difficult - at least not if you're paying attention. Culture Shock rewards random poking around and experimentation, so if you spend some time just examining the stuff around you or chatting up other characters, you'll usually net some blatant hints. And if talking your way through things fails, you can always whip out Sam's very huge revolver and see if shooting stuff helps.