Sammeth and Maximus: Freelance Tomb Raiders

"The Tomb of Sammun-Mak" continues the new adventure in grand style.
Author: J.D. Cohen
Published: May 25, 2010
Episode two of Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse is here, and it is easily on par with its antecedent. "The Tomb of Sammun-Mak" picks up immediately following the cliffhanger ending of "The Penal Zone" before hurtling off in a bizarre new direction without delay. The conceit of Max's psychic potential combined with a new "toy of power" (in the form of a projector with four reels of film) facilitates the delivery of a nonlinear and interactive movie-within-the-game as the meat of the experience.

The participation of Sam and Max themselves is limited to a sort of framing device, but luckily, they are practically indistinguishable from the protagonists of the film. Sammeth and Maximus are the primary subjects of this adventure, though a mustache on one and the presence of clothing on the other are the only real markers that distinguish them from Sam and Max. These clothed, mustachioed gentlemen are the great-grandfathers of our usual heroes, and their attitudes and repartee are the same, in spite of the fact that they ply their trade (whatever that may be) in the year 1901.

Yes, 1901, when toy-making elves worked for sweatshop wages in the slums of New York, and Amelia Earhart was merely a baby with a lust for adventure. Sammeth and Maximus run into plenty of odd characters as they travel by railway from New York to Cairo in search of the Devil's Toybox. None of these characters are wasted, as they all offer great comedic opportunities and are involved in puzzles along the way.

Sammeth and Maximus must negotiate riddles, curses and death traps using their wits, their inventories, and a new set of psychic powers. Maximus has an entirely different set of supernatural abilities from his great-grandson, so the puzzle-solving in "The Tomb of Sammun-Mak" feels fresh. Even fresher is the aforementioned nonlinearity. The four reels of documentary film can be explored in any order, and this must be utilized in order to piece it all together. Viewing a later event can shed light on an earlier puzzle somewhat similarly to Max's past (future) clairvoyance, but in this case it's less a hint system than it is an extra dimension of brain-twisting weirdness.

The puzzling seems a little trickier this time around, but that's a hard thing to quantify definitively, as different people have different strengths when it comes to the various types of reasoning that games of this nature require, and there is always the chance that this reviewer has simply been suffering from a case of the stupids.

This second episode of The Devil's Playhouse keeps the great momentum of the first while going off in a fun new direction. If Telltale can keep this up through the rest of the season, then this will undoubtedly be their finest work yet, and a true classic of the adventure game genre. For those who remain on the fence about subscribing to the whole season, let it be known that the first episode was not a fluke. They're two for two so far, and the new cliffhanger ending suggests that things aren't about to let up.
The Verdict

"The Tomb of Sammun-Mak" is fun, funny and smart. The Devil's Playhouse continues to impress.


It's the same as before, but with some excellent new character designs, locales and old-timey touches.


The voices and music are still brilliant, though the mixing still isn't perfect.


The more console-friendly controls still hold up.


The designers at Telltale once again demonstrate their puzzle creation chops with aplomb.