UPDATE: following our review the dialogue issues surrounding Bosco have been patched, meaning that the revised experience should now be much more consistent.
The Walking Dead by Telltale Games is widely regarded as the title which revived point-and-click games, morphing it into something better described as a graphic adventure in the process, but before they were making masterpieces like The Walking Dead, this little studio was cutting its teeth on more traditional examples of the genre like Sam & Max Save the World.
I love point-and-click adventures. There’s something charming about the way games play out, requiring ingenuity and outside-the-box thinking from the best of gamers (and a handy walkthrough for the rest of us). Sam and Max of the Sam & Max franchise take this idea of being charming and throw it out the window like last week’s leftovers, replacing it with a joyous mix of anarchy and puerile humour.
Our titular characters are freelance police officers, doling out their curious brand of justice with little to no regard for law, order or anything in-between. Sam, a sentient dog in a detective suit, has a calm, caring demeanour. Max, on the other hand, is a hyperkinetic rabbity thing and the embodiment of at least three of the deadly sins. Where Sam is happy to talk things out, Max is more of the shoot first, lick second, what-were-we-doing-again kind of detective. Sam is the Ying to Max’s Yang.
With such a unique take on both the point-and-click and detective genres (and a string of zany adventures in comic book form), it’s little surprise that Sam & Max have a fond place in people’s hearts. Unfortunately, the pair’s latest remaster drags the game into a slightly fuzzy spotlight, which makes you wonder if you’re better off leaving the rose-tinted nostalgia specs where they were.
Sam and Max Save the World is the successor to LucasArts’ Sam and Max Hit the Road. Released 13 years later, Telltale’s attempt at reviving the LucasArts classic was met with reasonable success. Broken down into six episodes, we see our freelance heroes embark on a series of adventures linked by a common theme — an evil villain trying to hypnotise people into doing their bidding. The game was well received, with Sam and Max’s pithy and childish senses of humour striking a chord with the audience.
Since its initial release on PC, it has been ported to the Wii, the Xbox 360 and now the Nintendo Switch in its remastered form, featuring improved audio, new dialogue and touchscreen controls. Although the game still stands up as a fun little romp, this port has left me a little disappointed.
The major changes are that the graphics have been overhauled and some of the voice lines have been re-recorded for a modern audience. Freed of the 4:3 aspect ratio and 1024×768 maximum resolution, the remaster offers smoother HD graphics than ever before, not to mention the improved lighting and textures. However, in order to make use of the one new feature the game offers — touchscreen controls — you need to play handheld, where the graphics are disappointingly fuzzy.
The audio has its own problems. Although, on the whole, the audio is less compressed than it used to be, the writing has raised a few eyebrows this time around.
The writers made a few slight changes to the dialogue, cutting some of the lazy cultural stereotypes and editing the jokes they were uncomfortable repeating in 2020. By and large, these edits are so slight that the devs forgot they even made them. However, this prompted a wave of vitriol from the denizens of the internet crying foul about censorship and video game ethics. The usual.
The issue is that one of the characters, Bosco, has been entirely re-recorded. The reason for this was that the original voice actor was a white man playing a black man, while the script leant on lazy stereotypes like adding “foo’” to the end of lines. Getting the iconic Ogie Banks in to record this version was a good call.
Unfortunately, the edits to Bosco’s lines aren’t always reflected in Sam’s or Max’s lines. Case in point: when Bosco disguises himself as a Frenchman, instead of calling himself “Jean-Francois Sissypants, the cowardly French anarchist,” he calls himself “Jean-Francois Bonde-A-Part, the new wave French anarchist.” Although it’s nice that they dropped the arguably racist joke, the characters whose lines weren’t rewritten then refer to him as Mssr Sissypants, negating the edit to Bosco’s line.
I totally appreciate the desire to edit the dialogue to make it more appropriate in a couple of places — some of the old lines were in pretty poor taste, and the changes are slight. It’s just a shame that it’s done so half-heartedly it makes the dialogue feel disjointed. Do it or don’t do it — just don’t half-arse it.