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Sam & Max 204: Chariots of the Dogs

Score: 90%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: GameTap
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

While I have played all of the Sam & Max games, and each one has its own unique flair, I have to say I really enjoyed this latest episode, Chariots of the Dogs that really feels like an old school adventure game. There was more than one occasion where I felt like there was a bit of an homage to Day of the Tentacle, but that might just be purely due to the time-traveling nature of this adventure, but more on that later.

The visual style of Chariots of the Dogs keeps with the standard set by the previous games. Everyone, both old characters and new, has the same disproportioned style that makes this series so visually unique and fun. While there aren't that many new locations in this game (technically), they will look drastically different from past episodes because you will be going to them in the past and future. So you will get to see what Bosco's looked like in the 1960's, or Stinky's in the 80's or even Sam and Max's office in the far future.

Voice acting is as it has always been in this series. Sam and Max are their normal, odd selves (no matter what age they are), though I have to say, I really like Old Sam since he just rattled off random "adventure" style comments like "I don't know how to use a light bulb with that" that I'm pretty sure heark back to the original Hit the Road game back in the 90's.


Gameplay:

By the time Sam & Max 204: Chariots of the Dogs gets started, Bosco has been missing for over an episode, and Sam, Max and Flint Paper are fed up with his absence, so the trio bust into Bosco's shop to uncover just where the paranoid convenience clerk has gone. Our favorite freelance detectives eventually uncover a way to summon T.H.E.M. and also get abducted by the aliens and find Bosco in a strange half-man, half cow form. Apparently, T.H.E.M. have control over time and space, and while exploring their ship, Bosco ventured into the time elevator, caused some sort of paradox, and his punishment was his new shape.

So while our heroes have found the clerk, their mission is to go through time, fix whatever it was Bosco messed up and bring him back safely. Of course, knowing Sam and Max, any chance to play with the timeline will have to be examined carefully, but beware, the ship's A.I. is watching and any causality problems will have you summoned back to the ship before any real damage can be done.

Using a Carbon Dater gun, you will scan various characters and produce a timecard, which can be used on the elevator to go to different periods. For instance, scanning Max sends you to Stinky's in the 80's where the pair tries to warn the diner owner about his eventual murder. While there, they also run into the younger versions of themselves. You will also run into Bosco's mother in the 60's, Max's secret agent, Superball, but as a new agent at the White House during the Kennedy administration, and even a future Sam and Max, where, while things are definitely more advanced, haven't really changed all that much.

What I really enjoyed about Chariots of the Dogs is the way it starts to tie events from the previous episodes together. By the time this episode's credits role, you will once again see those three mariachi, the Bermuda Triangle and even a reference to Jurgen from the last game.


Difficulty:

Sam & Max 204: Chariots of the Dogs, like the rest of the episodic games of the series, is not meant to be a long game. Given a Saturday, or possibly just a long afternoon, you should be able to see this crazy temporal adventure from beginning to end (and various other points in history). I found I was able to progress through the game's puzzles and events quickly, but this particular game might have been a little easier than others, or it just might have been slightly more aligned to my thinking than others.

Game Mechanics:

Sam & Max 204: Chariots of the Dogs's mechanic that makes it different from other Sam and Max episodes is the time traveling twist. You will have to keep track of what events you've done, and which ones you will have to do in a whole different manner. Early in the game, you will find a bottle of wine that has turned to vinegar because it has been left uncorked. Needless to say, you will have to uncork that bottle later in the game.

These kinds of back and forth time-jumping puzzles are one of the reasons why Day of the Tentacle is still listed as one of my favorite games, and this episode really helps to bring back some of those memories. Fans of these freelance police will definitely need this episode to further the season's plot and finally figure out the mystery of T.H.E.M. I would definitely recommend this adventure.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP/Vista, 800MHz Processor (if using a video card with hardware T & L); 1.5GHz processor (if using a video card without hardware T & L), 256 MB RAM, 32MB 3D-accelerated video card
 

Test System:



Alienware Aurora m9700 Laptop, Windows XP Professional, AMD Turion 64 Mobile 2.41 GHz, 2 GB Ram, Duel NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS 256MB Video Cards, DirectX 9.0c

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