Review for Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space - A Remastered Comparison
History repeats itself. Just as Telltale Games followed up their inaugural episodic season of six Sam & Max games with a second season of five episodes, now Skunkape Games has done the same. Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space collects all five, second season Telltale episodes into a single remastered edition that takes its cues from the previously released remaster of the first. More control schemes, higher resolution graphics, and improved audio quality complement the classic gameplay and comically absurd humour of the original. And this time it’s all in one tidy package.
In Sam & Max’s sophomore season, the six-foot-tall canine shamus and hyperkinetic rabbity thing hit the road to see significantly more varied sights than in their first outing. A trip to the North Pole to deal with a hairy, bloated, pagan god gives way to a visit to Easter Island and its aboveground gaggle of Moai heads and below the sea school of sea chimps. From there it’s off to Stuttgart in Germany to deal with a rave throwing vampire. When inconvenience store owner Bosco is abducted by the mysterious T.H.E.M., it calls for traveling through time itself to solve the case. Finally, it’s down to hell to deal with Satan and his evil, corporate bosses.
As with the first remaster, the most noticeable upgrade to Beyond Time and Space is a visual one. Improved lighting and camera work abound throughout the entire season. This is immediately apparent on the Freelance Police’s visit to the North Pole in the opening minutes of the first episode. The original hinted at the outside of Santa’s workshop being a sort of stalag, with barbed wire wrapped around the buildings and distant spotlights roaming the countryside and all backlit by a glowing moon. Now the location is much darker, with a cloud shrouded sky and the distant spotlights pinpointed on Sam, casting long shadows. Add to this a light winter storm of snowflakes and the new and ominously glowing red lights on a fence surrounding the place and the effect is much more dramatic. A few other locations have also received minor design changes, such as the hole in the wall between the Freelance Police’s office and that of their neighbor, Flint Paper. The gap is much larger now (and more splintery) and better showcases Flint.
This revamp of the game’s look continues throughout its entirety. There is a much more impressive use of light and shadow than in the original incarnation. New atmospheric effects appear from time to time, such as the fog that sweeps Sam and Max’s street in the second episode or the sparkling twinkles of a disco ball flashing across the room at the vampire rave. Combining all of that with the increased resolution, higher polygon count, and more detailed textures than were seen in the previous season remaster, the world of the dog and bunny duo looks better than ever.
The episodes haven’t just improved visually. The audio front has received a boost too. This is most noticeable in the dialog, of which these Sam & Max episodes have plenty. With the passage of years and an increased access to high-speed internet, it’s no longer necessary to compress the game data nearly so much. As such, the voices have a cleaner, richer sound with fewer compression artifacts. As with the previous remaster, the voice of Bosco has been completely rerecorded. Ogie Banks continues his run as the new sound of the inconvenience store owner. In the season one re-recordings the emotional tone of his line readings didn’t always fit the scene they were given in, however with Beyond Time and Space more care has been taken to have his lines better mesh with the on-screen action.
As originally built, Beyond Time and Space was a point-and-click game through and through. That control scheme still exists, but it has been augmented by the addition of other options. You’ll now find that Sam can be directly moved about the environment via a game controller or the keyboard. Furthermore, the click-and-drag method of movement used by Telltale in such games as Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures and Tales of Monkey Island can also be used. With so many choices, there should be something to satisfy everyone’s preferred method of play.
As with the remaster of season one, Save the World, this latest reworking maintains the updated inventory method. A cardboard box icon in one corner of the screen can be clicked to display the full inventory of collected items in a close-up of the box splashed across the entire screen. I personally disliked this change to the first season and still dislike it here in the second. It was much more conducive to solving puzzles when it was possible to open the inventory and have its items display in an easily accessed line at the bottom of the current scene. While the big box harkens back to Sam & Max Hit the Road it’s one of the few changes that feels like a backwards design step, covering as much of the screen as it does.
Visuals, audio, and control schemes aside, the content of the episodes is much the same as it’s always been. There were various tweaks made to Save the World that shifted some of the humour towards being a bit safer. If such changes exist in Beyond Time and Space they don’t stand out nearly so much. A few alterations even add new laughs into the game, such as the vampire Jurgen now keeping his house keys on one of his nipple rings. Other changes make playing the game a touch better, including a wall poster that shows how many decals there are to win for the Freelance Police’s car in the racing mini games strewn throughout the episodes. And of course, there’s the long wished-for improvement of having all the episodes launchable from within a single application. With the benefit of playing the originals, I put in twelve hours of play time. For those who’ve yet to experience Sam and Max’s second season, expect that time to be even higher.
The remaster of Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space does much the same for season two as the season one remaster did for those episodes. It improves on the visuals and audio, introduces new control schemes, and adds a few other small improvements here and there. The content and humour is largely unchanged from the initial episode releases over a decade ago. This is a great follow-up to the previous remaster and as it contains some minor spoilers for that first season, is definitely recommended playing after its predecessor. Whether you’re a fan of irreverent and whacky humour or just looking to complete your Sam & Max collection, you can’t go wrong with this updated classic.