Telltale’s hilarious point-and-click crime solvers arrive on Switch
Note: A patch has added the ability to skip dialogue with the B button. Since the patch was applied before launch but after the review was written, the score has been adjusted to reflect this update.
It’s easy to think of the story, writing, and puzzles as the primary features that determine whether a point-and-click adventure game is successful, but playability has to be considered as well. Sam & Max Save the World, originally released episodically between 2006 and 2007, brings together freelance detectives Sam, a laidback, dry-witted dog, and Max, a mischievous and violent rabbit thing. The two make for a very likeable pair and play off each other quite well. Save the World features six episodes in total, each lasting about two hours and comprising six chapters. While fans of the characters will enjoy hitting the road with Sam & Max on Switch, it’s hard to overlook the frustrating controls and unskippable dialogue.
The story of the first episode, Culture Shock, involves a group of former child stars who are hypnotized into doing the bidding of a past rival. The hypnotism and manipulation plot continues throughout the six episodes, lending the package a nice narrative thread. Since all of the dialogue is spoken, you’re treated to the excellent voice work for all of the hilarious banter between Sam and Max, and then also with side characters like convenience store owner Bosco. The writing very much holds up, and it’s worth being thorough and clicking on every object you can to hear Sam’s observations and Max’s follow-ups.
The puzzles range from okay to obtuse, and trial and error seems the primary way to push through most of them. Point-and-click veterans may have an easier time, but I definitely had to look up a few solutions for the more obscure puzzles. You do have an inventory of items to build up and choose from, including Max’s comically large pistol. There are even light driving segments where you may be chasing after another car and need to shoot out their tires; these add some needed variety to the proceedings. One major impediment to enjoying the puzzles, and the game in general, is that dialogue cannot be skipped, so if you’re trying to go back and re-check items or recycle conversations in the hopes of picking up a new clue or trying a different response, it can take a long time to make just a little bit of progress.
On the control front, you move Sam with the left stick and have the option of holding down ZL to run. By pressing the L button, you can bring up all of the objects and background elements that can be interacted with. The right stick can be used to cycle through what you can interact with, but the two actions don’t always play nice with each other. For example, if you’re holding down L to display all of the options (almost like a constellation of dots), pushing the right stick won’t always move your focus to the object you want to pick up or look at. Overall, the representation of pointing and clicking just isn’t very intuitive or satisfying on Switch. Fortunately, touch controls are an option, and I would recommend them for those that don’t mind playing handheld.
While the gameplay of Sam & Max Save the World might not hold up incredibly well almost 15 years later, the cartoon visuals still do, especially in their remastered form. There’s also no denying that the humor is still incredibly effective. Still, playing the game on Switch is likely to leave you longing for a mouse as the experience just isn’t great on a controller. Anyone looking for a strong dose of comedy with their adventure is likely to find it here, but it would have been nice to see the remaster do a little more heavy lifting.