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PSN Review – Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse Episode 1 – The Penal Zone

April 19, 2010 Written by Dan Massi

It’s been 17 years since the video game debut of Sam & Max, the story about an anthropomorphic dog and his “hyperkinetic rabbity thing” sidekick, who are part of the New York City Freelance Police. The series has been released for various platforms, such as Windows, DOS, Mac OS, Xbox 360, and even the Wii. Now, Sam & Max makes its welcomed debut for the PlayStation 3, with Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse Episode 1 – The Penal Zone.

Sam & Max games have been known for their point-and-click gameplay, ever since its SCUMM debut back in 1993. However, the PlayStation 3 version has been rid of the gameplay familiarity, and instead uses a free-roaming scheme of sorts. Players are able to move Sam around freely on-screen although the character hits an invisible wall at points. For consoles, this gameplay scheme is far better than the point-and-click gameplay seen in the last titles. The previous Sam & Max title, Beyond Space and Time, used a point-and-click scheme for it’s Xbox Live Arcade version, which essentially slowed down gameplay, as it was far easier to do on PC. With the removal of point-and-click on PS3, the game is a much faster paced, and makes it easy to get around.

In The Devil’s Playhouse, you play as two characters – Sam, and Max. While playing as Sam, the player will be able to move freely around, look at objects, or take them. Max, on the other hand, is not able to move around in the game by the player. Instead, Telltale Games has introduced an interesting concept – the addition of psychic powers for our furry rabbit friend. These powers range from a Teleportation Telephone, to Future Vision, a device that allows the player to click on a person, or object, and see the future of it/her/him. When selecting as Max to play, players will be given the option of what device to use in a colorful first-person view. The devices used in the game can help substantially with puzzles, some even needed to complete them. As said previously, you cannot move around with Max, but depending on where Sam is standing can help what objects or persons can be used with the help of your devices. Like all of the Sam & Max titles, the game features a numerous amount of puzzles you will need to complete to move forward. With these puzzles is also the inclusion of a hint system, with characters “hinting” at what to do next. Overall, the puzzles are just right for the average gamer. You will need to think hard at some points, as the puzzles get increasingly difficult over time. However, when you’ve finished those puzzles, there will probably be a small laugh, and an “That makes sense, why didn’t I think of that before?” feeling afterward.

The story in Sam & Max is incredibly ridiculous, but don’t let that turn you off from the game. The story is extreme exaggerated and comedy-filled, so this is not a story to be taken seriously. Chuck Jordan, who wrote the episode, does not disappoint with the hysterical, entertaining, and clever adventure that he’s put together. Unlike most PlayStation Network games, Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse features many zany and unique characters, such as Grandpa Stinky, General Skunkape, and even Sam & Max themselves. All the characters have terrific voice actors behind them, adding a range of fun personalities to them. The dialogue and story in the episode are certainly the highlight of the entire episode.

Graphics in The Devil’s Playhouse are what you’d expect from the series. They are not fantastic, but are acceptable nonetheless. Character models do look great with a moderate amount of polish, but on the other hand some environments look quite bland. At the beginning of the game, there was notice of some slow-down as well, something that does not frequently happen, but does occur from time to time. Overall the visual presentation is nothing to write home about but they’re good enough to give the game a sense of direction and atmosphere.

Sound, as probably expect, are pretty much what any Sam & Max fan would expect. The music is catchy, and sometimes even mysterious, which helps ride along with the corresponding ‘vibe’ of the game. Voice-acting, as said before, is terrific in the game, and is surprisingly better than some retail games. The mixture of the soundtrack and voice-acting make for good experience which fits the series appropriately.

With the debut of Sam & Max on PlayStation Network, the duo have seemingly taken charge of the best series on the platform. It is one of the best titles on PSN yet, greatly surpassing many of the titles which are available.

Overall, Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse brings an amusing story, with great writing, and mixes that together with some terrific gameplay. This debut of Sam & Max on the PlayStation Store is a definite success and a great addition to the library.In conclusion, buy this game, because you will not be disappointed. The second episode comes in May, and the wait will certainly be agonizing.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score


Great range of puzzles and characters.

Voice work is some of the best on PSN, and even beats some retail titles.

Amusing story with dozens of great moments.

9 out of 10