Ah, Sam and Max, the dynamic point-and-click adventure duo. I have no doubt that the pair may be unfamiliar to some gamers. After all, their last *new* adventure came out back in 2010, with last year’s Sam and Max Save The World Remastered a re-release of an entry in the series that came out even further back. Despite this, fans of the point-and-click adventure genre remember them fondly, with the anthropomorphic pair a part of some highly entertaining escapades in their time. In their latest adventure, they’re taking an intriguing turn, with Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual marking the virtual reality debut for the franchise.
It makes for a fun experience too, even if it relies a little too heavily on some simplified virtual reality mini-games as opposed to the puzzling that made the Sam and Max series so beloved to begin with.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual sees the player join Sam and Max as part of the Freelance Police after helping rescue them from a giant alien creature on the streets. That’s one heck of a recruitment process, right? From there, they’ll partake in a selection of fun activities with the two, all whilst completing puzzling cases in-between that progress the story forward.
One of the best things about the series has always been its humour, so I’m happy to report that Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual delivers there. The game is packed to the brim with jokes and silly scenarios, whilst Max is his usual hyperactive self and causing all sorts of chaos. The best way to describe the humour would be like the kind of stuff you’d see on Cartoon Network in the 90s, and hey, that can only be a GOOD thing. I was genuinely chuckling out loud at times, with the game’s narrative and writing certainly hitting the spot through its roughly four-hour runtime.
How does the gameplay hold up, though? Well, whilst the other entries in the series have typically been point-and-click adventures, Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual feels more like a mini-game collection with some puzzles thrown in for good measure.
The mini-games are fine. There’s nothing here that gamers with virtual reality headsets wouldn’t have seen before, with tasks like shooting targets, hitting baseballs, and climbing obstacles on offer. You know… the sort of things players would have done a lot of in virtual reality already. Everything is well-presented in the game’s theme park setting and they certainly embrace the zaniness of the Sam and Max franchise as a whole (there are some really bizarre tasks to complete), and there’s no doubting that they’re fun little endeavours – they just lack a bit of originality from a gameplay perspective.
“The game is packed to the brim with jokes and silly scenarios, whilst Max is his usual hyperactive self and causing all sorts of chaos.”
The puzzling sequences when out on cases are a lot more innovative though, with the player having to solve an array of tricky enigmas across some vibrant environments. These feel more like the classic Sam and Max formula, with players having to use the items around them as a means to complete tasks. Some of these tasks are obvious, with both Sam and Max commentating on each situation to give you a clue as to what you need to do. Others though? There’ll be a fair bit of experimentation before you work out what you need to do. It’s nowhere near as obtuse as point-and-click adventures can be, but it’s still puzzling.
That’s not a complaint by any means though, and I enjoyed solving Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual’s different conundrums. Players who get stuck can check the hint system too, so there’s no need to take off your Oculus Quest headset to look at a walkthrough if you find yourself stumped. Similar tasks to those that you complete across the mini-games will show up in some of the cases too, which shows that the game embraces all elements of its design across the board.
“The mini-games are decent enough but lack originality, whilst the puzzles are fun to solve but are a lot simpler and more condensed when compared to those found across other entries in the series.”
I guess the main problem with Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual’s gameplay is that it doesn’t really excel with either its mini-games or puzzles. The mini-games are decent enough but lack originality, whilst the puzzles are fun to solve but are a lot simpler and more condensed when compared to those found across other entries in the series. I would have preferred it if it was a typical point-and-click adventure taking place in virtual reality (cryptic puzzles and all), but instead it feels like it’s trying to embrace the ideas seen in a lot of other virtual reality titles. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does feel like a bit of a wasted opportunity to innovate the genre most associated with the duo.
Still, I had a lot of fun playing Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual,so I can’t complain too much. The world itself is colourful and charming too, whilst there’s something so satisfying about seeing the pair up close and personal – even if I DID feel a bit nervous standing so close to Max! There’s support for both teleportation and free movement too, so players can work with what suits them.
Whilst well-presented, I’d be remiss not to mention some of the bugs I encountered in the game. From audio cutting out to items seemingly disappearing, it’s clear that Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual has a few issues that need ironing out. Nothing was game-breaking (though I did have to restart one section) and a lot of the time it was a case of visual oddities, but it could have done with a bit more fine-tuning before release. (UPDATE 20/07/21: The developer has since issued a patch that has fixed the audio issues along with many other bugs.)
Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual is certainly an enjoyable and funny game, but it doesn’t embrace the source material as well as it could have. I associate the duo with clever (and often erratic) puzzle-solving, so spending most of my time playing mini-games was a little underwhelming – especially since the puzzle-orientated sections of the game were a lot of fun. The game is guilty of being a bit buggy too, with one issue seeing me have to restart an entire section.
Whilst flawed though, there’s enough on offer here to keep fans of the franchise happy. It might not be the classic point-and-click formula that some gamers might have been hoping for, but Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual still features a worthwhile adventure starring gaming’s best rabbit and dog duo.
Publisher: Big Sugar
Platform(s): Oculus Quest 2 (Reviewed), Oculus Quest