Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, Episode 4 -- "Beyond the Alley of the Dolls" (PC)

Sounds Convoluted and Absurd. I Like It!

by Jonathan H. Cooper

Telltale has been moving the current season of Sam & Max along fairly quickly, with each episode trying to go bigger than the one before it, with non-stop cliffhangers and massive plot twists. That said, there have been some minor troubles brewing over the last few episodes, with more and more bugs popping up amidst an otherwise stellar package. They haven't gotten in the way of gameplay, but the quality has been slipping slightly. Luckily, this seems to be addressed in the latest episode, which picks up right at the end of the last and delivers thrills for the entirety of the game. Where we last left Sam & Max... wait, where did we last leave them? Right. They had just finished saving the world for the third time this season when they were attacked by a horde of Sam clones wearing tinfoil pants.

Beyond the Alley of the Dolls is a much more traditional episode of Sam & Max. Thus far, each installment has had interesting gameplay mechanics added atop the already unorthodox psychic powers, be it allowing the duo to time travel or interrogate enemies. Episode 4 doesn't have any of that, and, instead, finally gives Max a full inventory of toys to play with, meaning he'll need to use all of them in order to help find out the cause of the outbreak of Sam clones. While it's still a bit more varied than the last two seasons, it's tame by Season 3 standards, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The puzzles are still extremely strong and plentiful, and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in the couple of hours spent pointing and clicking. Even when compared to other episodes, it's chock full of pop-culture references and contemporary jokes that wouldn't be possible without the episodic content model.

It's also a much cleaner episode than the past two. Both The Tomb of Sammun-Mak and They Stole Max's Brain! were great fun, but had a number of distracting glitches that took away from presentation. There are still some occasional graphical problems in Beyond the Alley of the Dolls, but they're hardly as detrimental, and are much, much less frequent.

To make things better, the episode has what is likely the best conclusion in the history of the series. While each episode has left me wanting more, this one had a cliff-hanger so fantastic that I was literally laughing when the credits began to roll, howling at what it meant for the season finale. All in all, Beyond the Alley of the Dolls is not the absolute best episode in the season, but Telltale has kept the quality level high, and delivered an extremely well put together experience that should lead to the most thrilling conclusion in the series' history. Here's hoping.

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  • Sarah

    This season has been fantastic. Downloaded this episode on the PS3 last night, can't wait to go home today and play it.


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