PSN Review – Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse Episode 5 – The City That Dares Not Sleep

When Telltale Games revived the Sam & Max series a few years ago, not only did they bring back two of the quirkiest, most lovable video game characters of the early 90s, but they revived the entire point-and-click genre. With the third season of Sam & Max, titled The Devil’s Playhouse, now complete, it’s clear that Telltale wasn’t content to simply resuscitate a dead franchise or put adventure games back in the spotlight; they wanted to move point-and-click games forward, making them suitable for console gamers in the current generation. The development team took a lot of risks in season three, introducing a new control scheme, psychic powers, and gameplay mechanics that varied from episode to episode. Ultimately, the risks paid off, and The City That Dares Not Sleep is a fitting climax to another highly enjoyable season.

The Devil’s Playhouse has taken the dynamic freelance police duo across the city and even the world as they acquired magical toys that provided psychotic lagomorph Max with psychic powers. At the end of the previous episode, though, Max was transformed into a giant Cthulu-esque beast, who is now rampaging through the city and posing a threat to all of humanity. Once again, the developers have changed the gameplay, eliminating Max as a helpful psychic sidekick and providing a new challenge: getting inside the giant Max and fixing him from the inside.

As expected, The City That Dares Not Sleep is chock full of the humorous, tongue-in-cheek dialogue that’s a staple of all good adventure games. Inside Max’s body, there are many references to previous adventures, including some subtle nods to 1993 LucasArts title Sam & Max Hit the Road. While these won’t alienate gamers new to the franchise in season three, they certainly made an old-school fan like me pleased. The puzzles are also cleverly designed, whether it’s turning the DeSoto into a giant corndog, convincing a very pregnant Sybil that Sam understands the pains of parenthood, or hunting down General Skun-ka’pe in metallic gold underwear. There’s been so much variety in this season that solving these wacky quandaries never gets old.

The one complaint I had about The City That Dares Not Sleep, however, is that the episode relied too heavily on dialogue at times, making for an endless stream of talking and not enough puzzle-solving. Talking to characters and choosing the correct things to say is a big part of adventure gaming, but when Sam has to talk to a handful of characters before leaving a room, the game can feel a little slow. Thankfully, the technical issues that were present in earlier episodes in the season appear to have been fixed, and I didn’t encounter a single bug or hiccup, though load times are still a little long.

Telltale has done an impressive job on Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse from start to finish. The worst part about completing The City That Dares Not Sleep is knowing that it will probably be a long time before we see Sam and Max again, and that’s a shame. I feel spoiled having gotten a new adventure every few weeks for the last five months, and it’s going to be hard to fill that void. The Devil’s Playhouse may be over, but hopefully the freelance police have plenty of adventures to come.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Varied gameplay keeps the series from ever getting stale.

Dialogue-heavy episode feels a bit lacking in action at times.

A great conclusion to another wonderful season of Sam & Max.

9 out of 10