I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s HUGE! A ‘Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse – The City That Dares Not Sleep’ Review

It’s a familiar tale. A monster attacks New York City, and it’s up to a group of unlikely heroes to bring the foe to justice. Approaching a genre that’s rather played out, Telltale Games has managed to add a whole new edge to the concept by making that monster a character you’ve grown to know and love for three seasons. In the finale of ‘Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse‘ Sam must do all he can in order to bring back his little buddy. Do you have what it takes to help him succeed?

(Warning: this review contains spoilers to Episode 4 ‘Beyond the Alley of the Dolls’)

The City That Dares Not Sleep‘ feels like that song at the end of an album that brings the best sections from each previous track together to achieve a zen like sense of amazement that makes you immediately want to listen to the whole thing again. Yes, that insanely positive and slightly pretentious sentence may make you a tad skeptical, but I can assure you that this final episode wraps up the series so well that deserves any and all commendations. Fan favorite characters from all previous seasons return to assist in a threat that players are actually emotionally invested in. The medium of episodic gaming really helps to add resonance to the series in ways traditional titles cannot achieve. You may sink 40 hours into Mass Effect 2 in a month, but when a series releases over the course of 5 months, you’re connected with the experience much longer which really helps add weight to decisions you have to make.

At the end of the previous episode ‘Beyond the Alley of the Dolls‘ the majority of the psychic toys of power that you’ve used throughout the series were destroyed. This causes Max to transform from the lovable little lagomorph into a giant hulking behemoth that trots off to terrorize New York. ‘The City That Dares Not Sleep‘ picks up days later, with Sam and the ensemble cast of a scientist, COPS, a television star, and the newly appointed President of the United States of America all planning on how to rid the city of the monster menace. With everyone else decided that a tactical military strike is the way to go, Sam must team up with some old friends in order to save Max without destroying him. This is where the episode pulls in a lot of it’s fan service, reintroducing characters that have been suspiciously absent for this season. It’s also cool to see how they handle the fact Max is not with you for the entire episode (in normal form at least). The image below should give you a good indication.

It’s cool that these games have evolved beyond being strictly comedy now. ‘The City That Dares Not Sleep‘ continues the trend I first noticed in Tales of Monkey Island where the story resonates on a deeper level, where actual danger exists. Just because it’s a funny game doesn’t mean it will be all chuckles and laughs. The ending of the episode is rather moving actually. I watched the credits roll in silence, just taking in what all had happened. These comical characters have come such a long way, and grown into so much more while managing to retain the reason we love them in the first place.

The Devil’s Playhouse is a delightfully diverse, and creatively consistent gaming adventure. While each episode feels completely different from the last, the story told throughout is one you really should experience. The psychic toys managed to drastically change the game enough that newcomers feel welcome, while also giving seasoned adventure game veterans a whole new toolset to get familiar with. As a third season of Sam & Max it exceeded my expectations in every way. I cannot recommend the series enough.

Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse – Episode 5: ‘The City That Dares Not Sleep’ will be available on PSN, PC, Mac, and the Apple iPad soon. You can get a copy of your own right here: Telltale Store.

The Season Review’s:

Episode 1 – The Penal Zone

Episode 2 – The Tomb of Sammun-Mak

Episode 3 – They Stole Max’s Brain!

Episode 4 – Beyond the Alley of the Dolls

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