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Sam & Max Season Two, Episode 1: Ice Station Santa - first look

Some of those ways aren't so subtle. The environments you'll explore are a little bigger and a lot more interesting than before, with even more weird stuff to gawp at than usual. They're also better animated than last season's backdrops, and you'll be able to see them all in whatever insane widescreen resolutions your monitor can support. More entertainingly, you'll now be able to play around with all sorts of seemingly useless background objects, like trampolines, plunked down for no real reason other than that they're cool.

Sam & Max's version of the North Pole has the look of those old Rankin/Bass animated specials that air every Christmas, with Santa and his elves all rendered in a squat, round-headed style. Santa didn't really talk when we saw him (he now prefers to speak in the universal language of bullets, apparently), but his bald, expressionless elves were more than happy to chat at length about their unhappy little lifestyles under Santa's boot.



The frozen North isn't the only new place you'll visit; Sam and Max's decrepit, sleazy New York neighborhood has expanded as well. For the first time, you'll be able to walk across the street from Bosco's Inconvenience and check out Stinky's Diner, which up until now has been just a fixture in the background. Stinky's turns out to be a well-lit dive run by Stinky, a statuesque, green-haired waitress who also manages an insanely easy trivia contest that you can play against other characters. Specifically, you can compete with jill-of-all-trades Sybil Pandemik, who's actually left her office for a lunch date with the giant stone head of Abraham Lincoln (don't ask).

Sybil's displaced from her usual storefront office for a reason - now that they've got a big, ever-expanding cast of established faces to play around with, the developers at Telltale decided to portray them as slightly more realistic. "[The characters] were a little bit superfluous last season," said Dave Grossman, Telltale's design director. "We wanted to beef 'em up a little bit, make them more interesting and let them move around the world a little more."

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