By Marty Mulrooney
Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space Remastered (aka Sam & Max Season Two) is a five-episode point-and-click adventure game (collected here as a complete package) starring everyone’s favourite six-foot-tall canine detective in a suit and his hyperkinetic rabbity-thing sidekick. Following on from last year’s stellar remaster of Sam & Max Save the World, the Skunkape Games team has once again taken a classic from the Telltale Games archives and given it a fresh lick of modern paint.
Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space Remastered starts with an episode called Ice Station Santa – perfect for a game released in December. Like most of the episodes in Season One, Sam and Max start Season Two in their beautifully lit office (flick the light switch off to check out the gorgeous new lighting system in all its glory); however, it isn’t long before they’ve driven to the North Pole to investigate why Santa is trying to kill them with a giant robot that talks in quotes from “hideously middle-of-the-road” pop songs.
Those who played the original release of Beyond Time and Space way back in 2007/2008 will immediately appreciate the visual upgrade brought about by this remastered edition. The North Pole now has a beautiful falling snow weather effect that adds a shovel-load of atmosphere to this mysterious and creepy location. Another great example of improved weather effects appears in Episode 3: Night of the Raving Dead when Sam and Max visit Stuttgart during a thunderstorm; the torrential rain effect is miles beyond what was originally shown back in the day.
In a year where Rockstar Games released remasters of the three main PlayStation 2 Grand Theft Auto games to widespread critical and fan derision, Skunkape Games deserves a massive round of applause. Beyond Time and Space Remastered probably looks exactly how you remember it; but take a quick look at some footage of the original release and you’ll quickly realise that there has been some stellar remastering work done here. This is far from a mere cash-grab; the cartooney 3D visuals never look anything less than utterly gorgeous.
Improvements have also been made to the cutscenes, characters models and music; eight new tracks have been introduced (which all sound right at home) while existing tracks have been embellished. Fans of composer Jared Emerson-Johnson will no doubt find themselves humming long after exiting to their desktop. However, one thing that hasn’t changed at all – for better or worse – is the puzzle design.
The majority of the puzzles are a delight despite their inherent ‘moon logic’, but some puzzles are just downright obtuse, requiring the player to click randomly until something happens. This seemed to occur less in Season One than it does throughout Season Two, which is a shame. As there isn’t a hints system per se (Max does sometimes pipe up to nudge you in the right direction), I would recommend not feeling ashamed if you need to take a quick peek at an online walkthrough to avoid frustration and keep moving forward.
The humour hasn’t changed either, but thankfully this is mostly a good thing. Admittedly, some Tourettes-related jokes haven’t aged too well in the intervening years, but the majority of the puns are an absolute riot. With impeccable voice acting and weighty character animations, the jokes come thick and fast, with most of them hitting their mark and earning enormous belly laughs in the process.
The imaginative set-ups for each episode only further add to the zany humour, with Sam and Max (in episodic order): trying to remove an evil spirit from Santa; travelling to Easter Island via a Bermuda Triangle portal to stop a volcano from erupting; fighting a Eurotrash vampire who has been turning people into zombies; being abducted by a UFO and using a portal to travel through time and space; and descending into hell to get Satan fired and save local shop owner Bosco’s soul.
Some frustration caused by obtuse puzzle solutions is unavoidable due to the source material, but everything else has been polished to a fine shine. Skunkape Games has done an incredible job of bringing this classic collection of Sam & Max adventures bang up to date and they’ve never looked or sounded better.
For adventure game lovers Beyond Time and Space Remastered is an easy recommendation, but for Sam & Max fans it’s like Christmas has come early. If a remaster of Season Three follows next year, I see no reason why Skunkape Games couldn’t – or shouldn’t – make a brand new Sam & Max adventure. These beloved characters are in safe hands.
8 OUT OF 10