Puzzles are at the core of Adventure gameplay, they provide challenges for you to overcome with brains rather than brawn. For Action Adventures, they offer a break from the hacky-slashy-stabby-shooty element of title.
Every week I’ll bring you a new puzzle, drawn from some of the best and worst adventure or puzzle games I’ve ever played. Every once in a while I’ll even leave you one of my own for you to solve. If you do, I’ll find a way to reward you!
This week’s puzzle comes courtesy of Telltale Games’ Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse, the third season (and so far last) of the series.
The typical structure for a Sam & Max episode is multiple rooms or locales with small puzzles that drive the story forward and they happen in sequence. The second episode, The Tomb of Sammun-Mak however gives you four magical reels of film, and you have to jump back and forth between them to solve interconnected puzzles to progress to the end of each of them. It’s one giant puzzle of an episode.
The story starts with Sam & Max finding the bones of two of their ancestors, Sameth and Maximus, along with a letter and a reel of film in a weird-looking projector. What they don’t know is that the projector is one of the mystical toys in the Devil’s Toybox, the story’s central McGuffin. They pop in the reel and see just as Sameth and Maximus get riddled with bullets by none other than Kris Kringle, Mr. Santa himself! Wondering if that was the end, they find the rest of the reels and with no clue on how to go about it, they pop each in and go to work.
Each reel has a sequence of events, from the Riddle of the Sphunx—yes, Sphunx, not a typo—to the Disorient Express. There are riddles, Gypsy Mole-people, Vampires, Elves and even Baby Amelia Earhart. But the reels aren’t completely self-contained, they don’t have their sequence of puzzles and that’s it. No, instead progress in one reel gives you crucial information to move forward on another, which in turn might reveal some crucial clue to finish that first reel you saw. You keep jumping back and forth between them, as sections of the same puzzle.
If I had to choose one among the different sequences, among the mini-puzzles contained in the reels, it would have to be the main puzzle for the Disorient Express. You have to recover the stolen Toybox but to do that you need to prevent Jurgen (a recurring character in the series) from entering his anti-vampire compartment on the train. So what do you do? You turn him into a Vampire of course! To do that you need to get Baby Amelia Earhart to try out a new toy from the Vampiric Santa Elf, break a Mole Girl’s heart and then use her innocence for your own purpose. It’s a terrific chain of conversations, manipulations and inventory items, each with hilarious consequences.
But don’t worry, it’s all for the greater…ah who am I kidding.
Have you played the Telltale Sam & Max games? Do you have a favourite sequence/puzzle?
5 thoughts on “The Weekly Puzzle – Tomb Reeling”
I’ve played all the Sam & Max games that are on Steam and I think the Tomb of Sammum-Mak is probably my favourite, for exactly the reasons you describe. The film reel thing and the non-linear narrative really add to the experience. I especially like the bit where you have to get the right order of curses from the varipus mole people.
The Devil’s Playhouse is the cleverest season in puzzles and humour and Tomb is perhaps the best episode. It’s just brilliantly put together.
I just love Bany Amelia Earhart. She’s amazing.
I wish Telltale went back to this type of adventure. They did wonders with Sam & Max.
Yes they really did. I also really enjoyed the puzzles and the crazy humour in the Homestar runner series they did: Strongbad’s Cool Game for Attractive People.
I never played that one. I only know of strongbad because of Poker Night