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Review | Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse – Episode 4

Night of the Living Sam

Format: PC/iPad/PS3 | Genre: Adventure | Publisher: Telltale | Developer: Telltale | Release Date: 20/07/2010 | RRP: $35/season

Jennifer Allen solves the mystery of the alley of the dolls in the fourth episode of SAM & MAX: THE DEVIL’S PLAYHOUSE.

EPISODE FOUR of The Devil’s Playhouse feels like a step backwards compared to the ingenious dramatic devices used in the past two episodes. That’s not to say that episode four isn’t enjoyable, it certainly is. It just doesn’t feel as fresh and exciting as the brilliant earlier instalments. This time round it’s a return to solid point and click territory, albeit with the typically zany Sam & Max twist.

Beyond the Alley of the Dolls starts where They Stole Max’s Brain left proceedings. Sam & Max are being chased by a cavalcade of dogglegangers – zombie like clones of Sam. It’s not a pretty sight, not least of all because these clones are only wearing white underpants. Nobody deserves to see a naked Sam! The crazy duo must track down exactly why these clones were created, so begins a tale that brings together various psychic toys as well as re-introduces various familiar characters from the rest of the season. So far, so very predictable. Therein lies the tale on the whole. Familiarity rather than innovation.

There are some great uses of the psychic toys. In particular a memorably entertaining sequence of events involving a seance, Harry Moleman and Max’s ability to throw his voice via Charlie Ho-Tep and to read minds using the newly acquired mind reading cards. There’s also an element of film noir once more with a sequence where Flint Paper questions Stinky. It’s calmer than the times that a very frustrated Sam tried it in the previous episode but it brought a smile to my face to see. It also benefits nicely from a twist to the usual format whereby this time round Sam & Max must help Stinky evade Flint’s questioning in order to progress.

Keep on playing, Sam.

Everything is nicely interlinked with previous episodes but it lacks that certain spark to make it any more than simply good. While it’s certainly more enjoyable than the first episode – offering more detailed storytelling – it still feels a bit of a disappointment after the heady heights of the last two episodes. These episodes felt like a stunning new direction for the series and one that I hoped to see continued. Beyond the Alley of the Dolls sticks to more familiar territory rather than taking any risks.

That’s not to say that it isn’t enjoyable, it certainly is. The puzzles are pitched perfectly while never being frustrating nor too simple, as was the case with previous episodes. It’ll still evoke many a smile amongst its players and is worthy of a place in this season. However it’s simply not one of the strongest of episodes individually. Hopefully this is merely a small lull in the season’s content and the next episode will be a cut above the rest once more.


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