Monday, December 15, 2014

Sam & Max: Bright Side of the Moon Review

After a slow start, Telltale's first foray into the world of Sam & Max began picking up steam by the middle of the first season.  The first season finale wraps things up in spectacular fashion.

The episode picks up right where the final episode left off, with Sam finally piecing together who is behind the events of the season.  As it was revealed in the final shot of the penultimate episode, Telltale lets Sam go through a whole complicated, nonsensical reasoning as to who the villain could be when the clues are quite obvious. This dialog is the closest Telltale has ever gotten to the feel of the conversations in the comics, in my opinion.  However, although the hint towards the identity of the villain is supposed to be obvious, as it’s a mnemonic device that’s often taught in schools. If you don’t know it, Sam’s reasoning as to who the villain could be could be seen as too nonsensical.

In this episode, the duo travel to the moon, and experience one of the most bizarre, yet fun adventures of their career.  Their journey to the moon is not explained.  However, as Sam & Max often go through time and space without explanations in the comics, this fits perfectly in their universe.  This isn't their first journey to the moon, since these games are based on the comic universe. If you still wonder how they got to the moon after playing this episode, I suggest reading the comic (or watching the television episode based on the comic) Bad Day on the Moon (which was foreshadowed throughout the entire season by a picture from that comic story in the office).  I don’t personally feel that this explanation is necessary though (since explanations are often not given in the Sam & Max universe), and feel it worked fine as shown in the episode. Since the duo already know how to get there, having Max just point to the moon at the end of the credit sequence actually worked well, and was a fun little deviation from the norm.

The new environments on the moon are all done really well, and have a lot of personality to them. This is the furthest that Sam & Max have ever gone towards mysticism in the games, so the environments and puzzles don't conform to real world logic.  The puzzles are really fun, however, especially the puzzles involving the magical talismans and those involving Max.  The puzzles aren’t for everybody, because they don’t follow real life logic at all, but I felt they followed the logic of the Sam & Max universe well. Plus, it let the Telltale team think outside of the box, and get really creative. I personally thought they were all really enjoyable.

There are no new characters, but the returning cast is used well. I especially like the fact that Harry Moleman’s character is fleshed out here since we didn’t get to know him very well in his previous episode. The people that follow the cult of the villain are an unusual mix, but they’re reasons for being there all fit their personality. I especially liked Superball, as the dialog contrasts with his personality wonderfully. Sybil’s job here is the best of the season. It’s so off-the-wall, but it fits the absurdity of the Sam & Max universe perfectly. I liked Bosco the best here this season too. The deployment of his invention was among the funniest of the season.  The villain of the season was perfect as well. I like how Telltale did a bait-and-switch by having the first episode have a different villain than the rest of the season, but there are still clues throughout all the episodes as to who the real villain is. I always liked that character, but even more so as a villain.

The humor here is also really great, and the characters get a chance to be portrayed in a way they hadn't been before.  All of the voice actors were able to shine, voicing their characters in multiple ways.  William Kasten in particular did a great job doing subtly different voices of Max.  The music was equally excellent, including a superb end credits song that actually continued the plot of the game into the credits. The War Song may be my favorite musical number of the season, but World of Max is my favorite song. Jared Emerson-Johnson and Bay Area Sound did a great job with all of the music in this season, and they finished it off wonderfully in this episode.

Bright Side of the Moon is my favorite episode of the first season.  The quality of the episodes in Season One kept improving since episode 4, and that trend continued here. The puzzles were fun, and the new environments were fantastic.  The characters were the funniest they had been all season, thanks in no small part to the multi-layered portrayal by the voice actors.  The music was also fantastic, fitting into the plot of the game seamlessly.  This episode was an excellent way to end the season.

Final Verdict:

4½ out of 5

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