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Sam and Max Season Two: Episode Four: Chariots of the Dogs Review

by Gunther Schmidl

Chariot of the Dogs is easily the funniest episode of the second season of Sam & Max so far; no mean feat considering it is really the middle episode of, well, a trilogy. Whether this means the third season (which, I would think, cannot possibly not happen) will have similar cliffhangers to episodes 203-205 remains to be seen, but I would hope so. Critics might decry that it would no longer be able to start playing at any episode, but let's be honest: unlike TV, every episode is available to purchase at any given moment; it's never really been possible anyway; and I, for one, have long preferred on-going story arcs to "reset-to-start" TV shows.

Where was I? Oh, yes, The Wire. No, Sam & Max.

Doing time travel in a game is never easy, and it needs the player to have a certain willingness to forgive paradoxa—or, of course, the designers to inject enough humor that the player doesn't actually care. For many, including myself, the last game that did this right was Day of the Tentacle; and while this episode won't replace DotT, it shines as an example of time-travel puzzles done right, much like the earlier second episode showed how to do Portal-esque puzzles right.

During the course of the game, Sam & Max encounter new locations, old locations in a new light, old locations in a slightly older light, and several brand-new characters from various timezones as well as the obligatory younger and older versions of themselves. And all that because of Bosco's obsession with T.H.E.M. and Max being his faTEMPORAL ANOMALY DETECTED

Where was I? Oh, yes, The Wire. No, Sam & Max.

Doing time travel in a game is never easy, but Sam & Max pulls it off seemingly effortlessly. The episode also reveals a few secrets of Season 2's on-going overarching plot, furthers a few in-jokes from both seasons and ends abruptly enough to leave the player with no clue as to what will happen, and a desire for whatever it is to happen sooner than next month aargh. Now where's that time machiTEMPORAL ANOMALY DETECTED

Where was I? Oh, yes, The Wire. No, Sam & Max.

One thing I've not mentioned in any review so far is the quality of the background music. I don't usually pay a lot of attention to background music other than turning it off when it gets on my nerves (I'm looking at you, Planescape: Torment fight music), but I really am a fan of Sam & Max's pleasant jazzy tunes, starting with the intro which so cleverly riffs on the original game's music. I can't think of many other games I'll pause just for the music (Loom comes to mind, but that's pretty much it), but this entire series (both seasons) has a remarkably good soundtrack that makes me hang around doing nothing just to continue listening. Certainly not because of Max's hints, no Sir and/or Madam.

Oh, and there's no minigame. Hooray!

This article copyright © 2008, Gunther Schmidl

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