In a surprising turn of events, Sam & Max return to the gaming world in a virtual reality adventure. Developer Happy Giant has tackled the iconic duo and released the game on the Oculus Quest, with other platforms to follow. Here’s what we thought.
Some videogame announcements get you excited just on the basis of your personal history with the franchise alone. Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual! is one such title, as the original 1993 Lucasarts adventure fills a lot of older gamers with nostalgia. It was one of the first adventure games to use the (then new) medium of CD-ROM technology to bring cartoon-like visuals to life, with voiceovers and hilarious writing creating an instant classic.
It’s been almost 30 years though, and I assume that even the episodic Telltale adventures of the duo are too old for younger gamers to really resonate with in 2021. Perhaps that’s a good thing though, because Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual doesn’t really play like those classic adventure games when you zoom in on the gameplay. Luckily, there is one consistency, and it’s Sam & Max and the fact that they’re still extremely funny – brought to life once more by the voice actors David Boat and David Nowlin.
This new Sam & Max is less about crime solving and stopping some villain from committing a dastardly and far-fetched crime and feels more like VR outing for a duo that’s already established itself elsewhere. This is immediately established, when you encounter Sam & Max fighting a huge alien in the street. Playing out from a first person perspective, you’re handed a rocket launcher, and after your successful dispatch of the menace you join Sam & Max as part of the Freelance Police. This doesn’t set up a brand new story though, but feels more like a series of events that play out like loosely connected cases to solve with minigames tucked in between.
As you’d expect, these minigames all rely on familiar VR concepts like dodging, climbing and the occasional shooting gallery. They can be replayed after you wrap up the 4 hour story as well, but with the exception of a fun escape room they’re all rather formulaic and won’t hold much lasting appeal.
The cases are more fun to play than the minigames, mostly because they let Sam & Max do what they do best – provide banter between the two, which now includes you as well! If you get stuck in a scenario, they’ll often give helpful hints to make sure you don’t get or remain stuck for long – useful because (as in the original games) the solutions don’t always make sense.
Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual lacks a bit of polish outside of the incredibly funny writing though, as glitches pop up here and there – sometimes game-breaking ones. Items can clip through part of the environment, and we had two restarts in areas where items we needed just weren’t available anymore without loading up an earlier checkpoint.
At a budget price point, this is a Sam & Max experience that fans won’t want to miss. Don’t expect a standout VR experience though – we’ve seen much better over the years. Few (if any) VR games are this hilarious though, so if you’re fond of the Sam & Max brand of humor it’s certainly worth playing through a few otherwise mostly formulaic VR tropes for a few hours.