STAFF REVIEW of Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space - Remastered (Xbox One)

Wednesday, December 8, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space - Remastered Box art I was quite saddened when Telltale games closed its doors back in 2018, as they’ve made some of my most memorable gaming experiences over the years. One of the earliest games that I fell in love with of theirs was the Sam & Max series, a point and click adventure filled with tons of humor, jokes and unique characters. Thankfully, some of the original development team acquired the rights to the Sam & Max games, and with the help of some former Telltale developers they’ve been hard at work at remastering the classic episodic seasons for us original fans and new ones alike.

I reviewed the first Season, Sam & Max Save the World, and came away more than impressed with how much effort went into the Remaster, as it was more than your typical coat of paint. Naturally, I expected the same treatment with Season Two, Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space - Remastered, and again, was pleasantly surprised with all of the improvements over the original I played roughly 20 years ago. Sam & Max has been around for quite some time, not just in videogame form, but eventually spawned comics and even a TV series. I’ve been a long time Sam & Max fan, as I even have some original artwork signed hung up on my wall, so I’ve been more than excited when the classic games were getting the Remastered treatment.

For those that aren’t up to date with Sam & Max, Sam is a six-foot talking dog detective, and Max is a hyper rabbit that doesn’t shy away from chaos, mayhem and/or violence when needed, in a humorous way. Created by Steve Purcell, the duo are Freelance Police who get themselves involved into some truly odd and interesting cases and situations that only they could solve. Season Two, Beyond Time and Space, is no different, as you’ll control Sam & Max on their journey to the North Pole, to Space and even down to Hell.

Like the previous season, Beyond Time and Space is broken up into 5 episodic chapters, each directly leading into the next. While you’re not forced to play them in order, the story wouldn’t make much sense otherwise and you’ll miss a lot of the ‘in’ jokes. Pay attention and you’ll notice items you collected or references from previous episodes and seasons which was a nice touch.

I don’t want to spoil the story at all, as it’s the highlight of Sam & Max’s weird adventures, but I’m not even exaggerating when I say that you’ll face off against Santa, stop a volcano from erupting, have run ins with a mariachi band, help someone named Stinky, have zombies dancing on a disco floor, deal with Satan, of course have to help the local store owner Bosco and even have to handle a nipple pierced vampire. It’s definitely more ‘out there’ than the first season, and is better for it, completely suiting the Sam & Max style of comedy. Just make sure no one says that it’s their BIRTHDAY!

Just like the first Season Remaster, developers Skunkape went above and beyond to improve this release as well, taking the time to make this release special. Every episode has been given quite an overhaul, and for a longtime fan like myself that has played through the games more than once, seeing the improvements was exciting as you could tell they put a lot of work into the smaller details, not to mention having Steve Purcell’s blessing.

Gaming back in 2006 when it originally released was quite different from now. For starters, 4:3 was a common aspect ratio and resolutions were nowhere near the common 4K quality of today. First and foremost, Sam & Max Save the World now supports your standard 16:9 ratio, 4K resolution, HDR and much more, so it’s going to look much more modern. There’s a few other major improvements, much coming from dynamic lighting, shadows and improved lip sync. Given that there’s quite a lot of dialogue across the episodes, this was quite noticeable compared to the original release. The audio has also been remastered so that it doesn’t sound as compressed, another major improvement that is noticeable due to the heavy dialogue that takes place throughout their adventure.

There’s some really cool smaller additions and changes too that will please older fans like myself. For example, kid versions of Sam & Max look more like their comic counterparts. And while it wasn’t "appropriate" back in 2008, vampire Jurgen now has car keys hanging off his nipple ring; totally worth it for the Remaster alone. I didn’t even realize that the original game had no falling snow in the North Pole chapter due to engine limitations, which of course is no longer an issue these days, so it was added for the Remaster.

As outlined in my Sam & Max Save the World Remastered review, the voice actor for reoccurring character Bosco was recast for specific reasons, which meant a complete rerecording of his lines, and that is the same in this Season as well. While there were no new lines recorded for this Season, you may notice some small changes compared to the original because of this. Even the soundtrack audio was improved, adding eight completely new tracks with live musicians, along with sprucing up the original OST.

Puzzles were left unchanged this time, though the decal system for your DeSoto car has been updated. Back then, it wasn’t common to have games remember your choices and carry over to the next chapter, episode or game, but this system was the groundwork for how later Telltale games, like The Walking Dead, would remember your specific choices. Back then you were unable to go back and collect any decals you missed, forcing you to 100% complete an episode before moving on. They’ve even added a poster to cleverly show you which ones you’ve unlocked or missing.

Like previous Sam & Max games, the point-and-click gameplay is unchanged here with plenty of puzzles to solve along the way. You mainly control Sam as you explore and interact with objects in each scene. Walking to certain objects will have Sam place it in his inventory, generally meaning you’re going to need it to solve some certain puzzle later on. Each episode lasts at least one to three hours, depending on your detective work or use of a walkthrough, though prepare to become stumped on more than a handful of occasions. Certain puzzles can be quite obtuse, almost forcing you to brute forcing a solution by trying to use every item with every object when you can’t figure out what to do. Because of how over the top Sam & Max can be, sometimes the solutions are too completely ‘out there’ and you’ll have tons of trial and error. The game will give you subtle hints when it detects you’re stuck, able to change the frequency depending on the challenge you want.

Just like Season One, you can expect a handful of minigames along the way, though most will be required to play in your trusty DeSoto convertible, ranging from running over bagpipes to create music, shooting rats and other wacky games. There’s a handful of optional objectives you can choose to do in these sections as well, which is how you earn your decals. Collect all the decals for a really cool surprise at the end.

There really is no duo quite like Sam & Max, completely opposite yet perfectly paired. More than a handful of times I would range from a cheeky smirk to a full of snort laugh at the hilarious lines coming out of Max’s mouth. The writing all these years later still holds up, though some of the pop culture references are obviously dated and will go over younger players’ heads.

Just like the first Season, it’s clear that a lot of love and care went into making Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space - Remastered the best game it could possibly be without changing what made it so great and memorable in the first place. While I truly enjoyed my trip down memory lane, I hope that these Remasters help find a new audience for the Sam & Max series, as their humor is perfectly on point throughout.

**Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space – Remastered was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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