Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space (Switch) Review
A rundown shoebox of an office. On one wall sits a big door, adorned with the name of the detective agency. The opposite is home to a family of freeloading rats. Trophies from past cases and various knickknacks litter the room between. An off-brand Chia Pet here, a president’s severed head there. And at the centre is a dog wearing an oversized suit and a buck naked rabbit with a crazed grin on his face. Meet Sam and Max: the freelance police set to venture beyond time and space.
Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space stars Sam the hardboiled dog detective and his partner Max, the manically rabbid rabbit as they go about solving increasingly bizarre cases. Initially created by comic book artist Steve Purcell, Sam and Max soon broke onto the video game scene as the leads in LucasArts’ Sam & Max Hit the Road in 1993, following the release of adventure game classics such as The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. Sam and Max disappeared not long after, until being resurrected by modern point-and-click legends Telltale Games for a trio of releases in the late 2000s. And now the second of these games, 2007’s Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space has been remastered by the nice folks at Skunkape Games, a studio formed of former Telltale employees (rest in peace Telltale Games).
As is the style with Telltale Games, Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space is a serialised adventure, made up of five interconnected episodes. The episodes cover all sorts of wacky antics that Sam and Max get caught up in, ranging from gooey Christmas demons, to emo vampires running zombie nightclubs, to traversing the fiery pits of hell! There’s some real nice episode variety, between the settings and the puzzles themselves, and each episode somehow manages to one-up the one before. The episodes are the perfect length too, never overstaying their welcome and wrapping things up neatly – if destroying half the street can be considered neat. They’re easily completable in about two to three hours if you’re a top-notch sleuth and haven’t got stuck wondering what to do with the ‘red-oozing snail’ in your inventory (I say from experience).
As a direct continuation of Sam & Max Save the World, you might want to brush up on the duo’s adventures before touching on this sequel – be it with the 2006 original or last year’s remaster. There are a buttload of callbacks and in-jokes that’ll fly right over your head if you’re lacking the know-how, and the game will be all the more entertaining if you know the familiar faces and recurring wisecracks. The game doesn’t rely solely on these references however, so if for some ungodly reason you want to jump in here, then knock yourself out.
The gameplay itself is quite simple in theory, but challenging in practice. By controlling Sam, you’ll freely walk around environments, chatting with the locals, examining points of interest, and pocketing key items. Yet all of this is very context-sensitive, and figuring out what to do when and where can often cause genuine head-scratching, requiring you to really exercise your lateral thinking skills. Especially so if you’re unversed in the classic point-and-click formula. And if you find yourself stumped, there’s a subtle hint system – frequency adjustable in the options menu – plus a bevy of minigames to distract you while your subconscious does the work (hopefully) so don’t fret.
Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space suffers from the age-old shortcomings of these kinds of adventure games. It’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but if you don’t have the patience, you’re bad with cryptic clues, or you play the game in short sessions a few days apart, you may be saying “Where the heck do I use this bowling ball!?” more often than most would care to admit. Oh, and beware of red herrings, a.k.a. the bowling ball.
The writing, however is what makes Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space the charmer that it is. The game is loaded with witty banter, snappy comebacks, non-sequiturs and dated references. It’s a matter of individual taste and pop-culture knowledge, as is always the case with heavily referential media, but if you like your games rich with dry humour and corny parodies, you’ll dig this!
In terms of the remaster, Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space ticks just about all the boxes. The game has had a complete graphical overhaul, looking particularly flashy when compared to the 2007 release. Controlling the game with the Joy-Cons instead of a mouse also feels quite natural, which is more than you can say for some ports and remasters which fail to branch the gap between computer and console. For new additions, there’s now the option to play with touchscreen controls in the Switch’s handheld mode, just about emulating that aforementioned mouse control. And the audio is great too, remaining mostly untouched, aside from some brand-new musical tracks.
Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space is an exceptional throwback to the glory days of Telltale Games. Foiling schemers and scammers’ deviously stupid schemes and saving the world has never been so entertaining. The game was hilarious in 2007 and holds up far too well today, frankly. Along with added touchscreen support on the Nintendo Switch, Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space is a first-rate remaster of an adventure classic.
+ Knee-slappingly entertaining
+ Fun and intuitive puzzle-solving action almost all of the time
+ Touchscreen in handheld works brilliantly
- Solutions to puzzles can be frustratingly obtuse
- Some of the jokes and references will go over player’s heads