Zombies can improve anything - anything - and the Sam & Max series is no exception. As the second season's third episode opens, the walking dead have swarmed Sam and Max's run-down neighborhood - and strangely, that's a good thing. Frankly, the addition of a few shambling corpses makes the place livelier than it's ever been, threat of brain-eating or no. Of course, there's an evil plot behind their sudden appearance, and it once again falls to cheerfully violent freelance police officers Sam and Max to put a stop to it.
Gameplay-wise, there are few surprises here if you've been following the series. Once again, you play as canine shamus Sam, pointing and clicking your way through 3D environments while being goaded along with occasional hints from your rabbity pal Max. Probably the biggest improvement is to the inevitable driving portion of the game, which has switched from a now-boring chase-cam perspective to an isometric view that's similar to the old Paperboy games - appropriate, given that your time on the road is spent thwacking zombies with promotional CDs for an online service.
Things get really interesting when the duo trace the source of the zombies back to Stuttgart, Germany, to a gothy electronica club run by a haughty Eurotrash vampire named Jurgen. Decked out in nipple rings and emo-goth pretensions that just barely hide a cheerfully flamboyant personality, Jurgen's probably the single most entertaining villain the series has created so far.
Unfortunately, he's also planning to conquer the world with a zombie army held in thrall by his mopey style, meaning Sam and Max will need to take drastic measures to repeatedly embarrass him in front of his legions of the night. Highlights include a goth-poetry slam that echoes a classic scene from Grim Fandango, a bunch of fairly clever Resident Evil references and a working DJ booth that's used to solve puzzles. There's also more violence here than in any other Sam & Max episode to date - including an appearance by berserk private eye Flint Paper in full zombie-killing mode - although seeing as most of the zombies are actually impervious to harm, it's all in fun.
There's not a whole lot else we can say about it; like previous entries in the series, Sam & Max Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead is a lot of fun for the few hours it lasts. It's also cheap - $8.95 from its publisher's website, or free with a GameTap subscription - so assuming you don't have a strong aversion to seeing vampires walk around with their thumbs dangling lazily from their nipple rings, you can't really go wrong with this.
Feb 12, 2008