Despite being a fan of the titular crime fighting animal duo since their first PC outing, I haven't got around to playing Sam and Max Season Three: The Devil's Playhouse Episode One (The Penal Zone) yet. However, I did have the chance to skip ahead to Episode Two: The Tomb of Sammun Mak, and despite reservations at missing out on vital plot points from the first entry, I gave it a shot.
Episode Two: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak appears to be a standalone adventure - it starts briefly with the conclusion of the first episode, then jumps straight into a new plot about a mysterious chest hidden within your typical Egyptian tomb. As with most Sam and Max games, the story makes little sense and takes a back seat to the surreal humour and ‘zany' characters.
The new twist over previous seasons is Max's apparent psychic abilities, which enables him to perform feats such as projecting his voice into random objects and characters. Puzzles are generally solved by a combination of these powers and finding/combining items, but then Squee has already done a mighty fine job of describing the general structure of the new season in his review of The Penal Zone, so check that out if you haven't already.
One more interesting and bizarre twist is that the adventure is played out over various ‘reels', which can be tackled in any order. At first you might wonder why you'd possibly want to start a game at its end, a la Memento, but it soon becomes obvious that jumping through the reels is necessary to completing the game. I'll say no more, but it's a great idea, even if it is as bonkers as a rabid meerkat.
As Squee also pointed out in his review of The Penal Zone, fans of the previous episode-based seasons will be right at home here. The Tomb of Sammun Mak is just as nuts, and makes just as little sense, but also captures that unique Sam and Max humour perfectly. Some characters from the last season show up again, which will doubtlessly please long-term followers, although I have to admit that I still prefer the duo's original, feature-length adventure to these smaller episodic outings.
Die-hard adventure gamers will be right at home with this new season of Sam and Max, providing they don't mind a full 3D engine and can take the unusual sense of humour. The standalone nature so far means that this season is perfect for dipping into at any time, although the inevitable bundle come the end of the season will represent better value for money for completists.