Sam and Max are back in The Tomb of Sammun-Mak, episode 2 of new season: The Devil’s Playhouse – and things have gone all Egyptian-y!

The new psychic power introduced in the Tomb of Sammun-Mak is ‘Astral Projection’. After making a horrific discovery at the end of episode 1, Sam and Max must use this new power and a conveniently placed projector to live through the adventures of their great grandfathers, Sameth and Maximus. Along the way, procuring the Devil’s Toolbox from the titular Tomb and, back in the present, untangling the mystery of their ancestors fate.

We navigate the story of Sameth and Maximus (a talking dog with a handlebar moustache and a period clothed rabbity thing) by switching through films reels that represent different stages in their adventure to the Tomb of Sammun-Mak. One reel tells how they won the trip to Egypt, another the train journey home and so on. This is a really interesting mechanic and, similar in many ways to a time travel style of story telling, provides plenty of ‘ah’ moments as you piece together the timeline. An aspect of this unique angle in episode 2 that wasn’t capitalised upon however were the characters of Sameth and Maximus. This is particularly curious as the characters in episode 2 are all strong and funny. I would have liked it if the Sameth/Maximus dynamic had been parallel to the relationship between Sam and Max but with some period quirks – instead, Telltale opted to write them as identical to our usual protagonists.

The 'conveniently placed projector' acts a 'map' for the episode.

Puzzles take a slightly different angle in the Tomb of Sammun-Mak as well, with the emphasis on obtaining information from one film reel and applying it in another. This decision probably results directly from the nature of the timeline of the episode and how Sameth has a different inventory in each reel. Telltale back this up with some knowing, fourth wall breaking jokes about Sameth forgetting things and mysteriously remembering them again. This different approach to puzzles, as opposed to the traditional method of ‘collect an item from on area, use it in another’ – which only survives internally within film reels – does unfortunately result in a loss of depth to the puzzles. The information you collect doesn’t always have the ambiguity of an inventory item, or the possibility of combining it with something else. I found myself, after having completed a good portion of the game, feeling like a hadn’t solved a meaty puzzle.

Luckily this flaw is redeemed by the later half of the game, as the film reels develop nicely into specific locations: the train, the tomb, etc in which there are a few traditional puzzles to be solved. Secondly, Max’s (sorry, Maximus’s) psychic powers are still widely used, although ‘Future Vision’ and the teleport power from episode 1 aren’t accessible. The two new powers are both really fun, allowing Sameth and Maximus to disappear into a can o’ nuts, or project Maximus’s voice into people using a ventriloquist’s dummy toy. Although they don’t feel as powerful as episode 1’s offering, their smaller role in puzzle solving did make it all seem more varied – something due in part to the inclusion of some curses, which are cast upon the duo by a family of Moles they manage to rub up the wrong way.

Like A Christmas Carol. With Gnomes.

The Tomb of Sammun-Mak sports some great characters. The regulars from Sam and Max’s neighbourhood take a break in this episode, obviously, due to the shift in time period but this doesn’t diminish the laughs in the slightest. Baby Amelia Earhart was a particular favourite for me, with some typically excellent voice work. There is a small concern in that Telltale could have easily introduced a whole new cast of original characters, given the unique setting for the episode but the array of characters they did go with – old or new aside – provide plenty of humour. There’s also no central antagonist I can think of in The Tomb of Sammun-Mak, rather, there are a few ‘obstacle’ characters we have to navigate around; and a briefly mentioned cult, which I assume will be expanded upon in future episodes. I don’t necessarily see this as a flaw with episode 2, though. The story may not be as simple and refined, with the very distinct objectives that we saw in The Penal Zone (the pre-credits sequence for example got a little confused) but this all provides for an entirely different experience from last month – the real strength of The Tomb of Sammun-Mak and, I suppose, episodic gaming. Lets hope for even more ‘different’ in episode 3 and maybe some new characters, too.

Mark’s Score: 3plus/5 starks

Couldn’t resist giving the plus, for trying an interesting idea.

"I was just working on my memoirs."