Sam & Max: Episode 201 – Ice Station Santa

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I still have a hard time sticking to my double weekly blog schedule, but I still try. It’s not just to get into a rhythm with writing, it’s also my way to stay up-to-date with certain topics on which I need to know stuff if want to write about it.

As I announced on the blog, I started playing the newest episode of Sam & Max Season 2 the moment after it was released. I should repeat, I’ve played the whole first season and liked it very much. It’s fresh air for the whole genre of adventures and has proven that there is a way to market computer games like tv shows, in smaller bits and more accessible to the casual gamer. So here I’d like to do a little review for you without spoiling too much .

The Story

Our two self-assigned officers from the “Freelance Police” also known as the dry-humoured, gun-wearing dog Sam and his not-democratically-elected, sadist-bunnyesque colleague Max, are attacked by a giant robot which they manage to crack right AFTER it’s made dramatical changes to the Neighbourhood. Buildingwise.
However, they trace the special “gift” back to someone who is prominent because of his unique way to give presents to anybody around the planet given that they believe in him. So they go off to the north pole to visit: Santa Claus.

Unfortuneately Santa is not really in christmas mood, instead he seems to have gone all crazy and is shooting around wildly. The Freelance Police now has to give evil Santa their special treatment…

The last season had a complete story arc wrapping up all 6 episodes. Some fans remarked that the episodes should be longer and more self contained. Well, Telltale heard you: The story has more twists and turns than previous ones and as a whole takes about an hour longer to complete. You’ll encounter many known characters – known of course only if you played Season 1 – in different places and also new characters. The story has two very unexspected turn this time which improves the game experience a lot because when it seems like you’re done it suddenly engages you again. Many patterns from the first seasons are broken to not make the games too repetitive and even the quests are more difficult, because many players found the previous puzzles too easy to solve. However, if you’re stuck at some place for too long, Max will help you with small hints but you can control how quickly this happens and it’s even possible to completely turn off this new feature.

For newbies there is a cool tutorial in the beginning so that they can get started more easily.

Graphics, Sound and Control

Well, there are improvements but only small ones. I was happy to see that the game now asks for your resolution before it actually starts. In the previous season you had to wait for the whole opening scene to take place before you could raise the resolution. And I was happy to see that the game now supports resolutions higher than 1024×786 so that I could play in the standard 1280×1024. The quality of the picture was always good and completely goes with the comic-like style, there were no visible upgrades I recognized, but they are not needed imho.

The sound is great, the dialogue is again at its best and the music (with a new theme song) by Jared Emerson-Johnson just gets better every time. Actually I’d like to have surround sound in some places to give a better feeling of the space and to create a more filled environment because you often ask yourself whether there are really just that few people on the streets and while I understand you cannot make them visible easily it would be cool to experience their noise. But that’s probably not too important.

The game is played like any next generation adventure by point and click with the mouse. You can take and interact with stuff around you and talk to people by clicking at them. And you carry a large inventory with you at all times.
There are some minigames like the well-known car-chase which was changed a little bit and the boxing where controls are different but it’s very easy to grasp nonetheless.
As usual you can’t really loose, as you can always try again and you can’t die by any means so if you’re really stuck just try everything out.

Characters ‘n’ stuff

Well, Sam and Max are pretty much not the only wackos in this game world so you’ll encounter other wacky figures. Some of which like the Soda Poppers or Bosco you’ll already know, others like Santa or Stinky are introduced to the series with this episode. They all live up to the promise of totally messed up existences. That’s what makes the dialogue so interesting and funny, obscenely funny actually, which of course is the main point in any adventure and even more in a Sam & Max Game.
Even if dialogue is not important for proceding in the game it’s great fun to try out all options.

So after completing this episode I’d give it thumbs up because it’s beautifully executed and I can hardly imagine how the Telltale guys are going to top that performance with the next episode which is to be released January 11th, 2008.

Well, where can you obtain this masterpiece of adventurous gaming? (I hope at least some of you ask that question now)

Easy! Head over to and download the free demo of “Ice Station Santa”. If you like it you can go back there and buy the individual episode at 8.95 $ or the entire season at 34,95 $ (paying through Paypal or by credit card). If you happen to have a Gametap account you can feel lucky: Sam and Max are already there, even a day earlier than for the rest of us!

M’kay little buddies, go grab you’re “Ice Station Santa” today before some extremely dissatisfied rabbit comes around and punches you into submission…

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