Sam and Max Save the World Remastered – PS4 Review

Of all the enduring franchises from my youth, Sam and Max must be one of the most unlikely properties to stand the test of time. Originating as a comic book from 1987, the Freelance Police duo has been transcending media, from the comics to the original DOS game, then to the Fox Kids TV Show before heading back to games again with Telltales episodic games from 2006. Somehow, this surreal crime fighting duo has managed to do it all, whereas multiple other similar candidates have languished and disappeared over the years.


While there is a clear love for the franchise, there is a semblance of disbelief here as the Sam and Max setup is anything but conventional. For those who don’t know, the series centres around our titular heroes, Sam being the flat-footed hound dog and Max, who is self-styled as a ‘hyperkinetic rabbity-thing’. As freelance police, it is their job to solve the mystery of the week at the behest of their faceless commissioner, usually ending up at a location and having to solve illogical puzzles with the application of the seemingly illogical tools at their disposal.


This is a fine setup and maybe one you have seen before, but where it really kicks off is in the delivery. Whereas you would typically have a straight man next to the insanity in most comedies. Both Sam and Max are practically gleeful in the absurdity of the situations they find themselves in. Equally, the frantic ramblings of cartoonishly violent imagery that Max conjures in dialogue is often met with approval by Sam, who seems just as happy to partake in the surrealism as anyone. It’s an odd thing, as this removes almost any stakes from their adventures, they don’t seem at all concerned with anything that happens to them and to me, that makes them both hilarious and oddly heart-warming at the same time due to the main characters unbreaking friendship.

Secondly, the jokes and dialogue come at viewers a mile a minute, with Sam being startlingly verbose, describing the goings-on with needlessly in-depth ramblings, usually with a joke or two at the expense of a B-list celebrity, either current or lapsed from the past few decades. It’s a hell of a mix, but when it comes together, there aren’t many comedies like it. The series has a habit of making you feel smarter for having consumed it, even if you don’t understand fully what is being said or referenced all the time. Whereas the rest of the humour comes from the sheer audacity of it, whether that be Max feeding the deed of the USA to a previously captured foe as a means of cartoonish torture, despite that being a political and ethical no-no for most.


It’s impressive then, that despite being a franchise that started in the 80’s, it is one that has stood the test of time on its own formula. With each comic, game or cartoon keeping the tone and humour consistent. This is no less true for Sam and Max Save the World, which originally came out in 2006 on Xbox 360, Wii, PS3 and PC. Back before Telltale games cut their teeth on projects such as The Walking Dead, Batman and Tales of the Borderlands, they would instead work on simpler projects such as this, Puzzle Agent and Tales of Monkey Island, far more simple affairs that didn’t rely on moral ambiguity or stressful choices.


As the first season of the series, Sam and Max Saves the World feels like a far simpler adventure game and a suitable introduction to the wacky world of the Freelance police. Each episode is built on a specific formula, where the titular heroes take the phone call, investigate the issue at hand and then use their powers of deduction and brute force to find a resolution. Across the season, Sam and Max find themselves taking down a toy-based mafia ring, running for president and venturing to the moon to investigate a self-help guru’s secret retreat. As the season progresses, there is an overarching plot that ties together nicely, concerning a plot around mind control and the effect it is having on the various missions the duo undertakes.

It all ties together brilliantly and where likeable characters are introduced, they tend to stick around. A particular favourite of mine being the C.O.P.S, a group of old computers that attempt to transcend their own obsolescence by creating new AI. Another favourite being the hapless shopkeep of Bosco’s Inconvenience store, who is paranoid about anything and just so happens to have a gadget cooked up behind his counter that will conveniently assist in each episode’s case. Bosco, like many other characters in the Sam and Max world fills more of that straight man role, but with a hint of his own absurdity, keeping things neat with the craziness of the main characters.


There are a couple of things to consider when going in though. As these games are episodic and based on the point ‘n’ click mould of old. Firstly, there is a degree of repetition to consider, these are episodic games that strictly follow the mystery of the week formula. As a result, you end up doing a lot of similar tasks, such as visiting Bosco for an invention, or checking in on Sybil to exploit her new profession for your convenient gain. You must consider that these episodes were once released months apart, so the repetition wasn’t as strong and references to previous episodes were more palpable when played this way.


Secondly, there is a ton of backtracking. Some missions take you to a different location, which you need to visit first, talk to someone to get a clue or item, then drive back to the main street to exploit that item. When played a second time or for the first time with brute force tactics, this can get tiresome quick. However, I will say that there is a balance to this. The games do a lot with the little they initially present themselves with. Useless scenery in one episode may be a vital puzzle solver in the next, some items that were useful in previous episodes may also be used logically the same way in the a few episodes later and so on. Nothing feels wasted as a result.

Of course, with this being a 2020 release (2022 if you are on PlayStation) we are talking about a remastered effort and this comes from Skunkape games, who have ventured into the Telltale vaults to bring the series back to life. This has been done lovingly, with a new graphical overhaul that provides a widescreen, cel-shaded visual upgrade, improved voice work and subtly different item placements to keep veteran players on their toes. This has been done beautifully by the team and makes the games worth venturing into all over again.


However, there is a caveat here. As a result of time and the socio-political climate over the past few years, some of the humour has been censored. One of the jokes that came to mind is in relation to once of Bosco’s inventions, a self-made tear gas grenade launcher (naturally, this being a gun that shoots onions). Originally, there was a reference to this being capable of clearing out a room of protesting students. However, this reference has been removed and I can only think of issues such as the Hong Kong riots and the general worldwide unease as a culprit for this removal. It’s a shame that we are in an age where original media cannot be represented in the form it originally came. However, thankfully this is one joke in a game that is packed full of them, and the overall tone and style does not suffer as a result of this script cutting.


All-in-all, Sam and Max Save the World has never looked, played or sounded better. The presentation has received a major overhaul for the better and there has never been a better time to jump into the world of the freelance police. If you have ever been a fan of point ‘n’ click games, surreal humour or just laughing in general, then this is a great pickup.

Sam and Max Save The World Remastered
8 Overall
+ The graphical upgrade gives the game a welcome facelift with a great cartoony pop
+ The new voice cast fits right into the old
+ The reduced loading times make the backtracking far easier to handle
+ Just a great game overall, one of Telltales finest.
- Some of the jokes don’t land as well as they used to
- Censorship rears its ugly head
- Repetition is an issue, especially when played one episode after the other
A great opportunity to revisit a Telltale classic, before their days of ambiguous moral choices and ceaseless licensed titles. The Freelance Police have never looked better, with Sam and Max Save the World being a brilliant foray into the world of point ‘n’ click adventuring with joke a minute humour, tenuously logical puzzles and fantastic presentation.  

About Grizz

Grizz writes for us because Sonic Country hasn't been invented. He likes his retro, his indie and his full retail.

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