Generally speaking, bringing a classic into a new medium isn't a good idea. When a classic movie gets remade, you just know they're going to screw something up. Likewise, bringing the classic point-and-click PC adventure series Sam & Max from the 2D screen into VR seems like a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, developer HappyGiant figured out how to do just that and still make it feel authentically excellent.
Sam & Max: This Time It's Virtual is a zany mix of escape room, crime solver, carnival games, and Job Simulator, with a penchant for sarcastic and whitty humor. It just feels like a point-and-click adventure game from the opening sequence, albeit with a lot more physicality than those games ever could have hoped for. At $30, the 5-6 hour gameplay can be completed in one session with a battery pack for Quest 2, or over a few days with short play sessions.
If that sounds up your alley, then grab your Oculus Quest 2, strap on a dollar store police badge, and get ready to join the Freelance Police squad with Sam and Max at your side.
Sam & Max: This Time It's Virtual
Bottom line: Hilarious dialog fits perfectly in the series, and the misadventures and puzzles feel right out of the classic point-and-click LucasArts PC games. In just about every way, it feels like a perfect translation of that formula — for better or worse.
- Excellent visuals
- Hilarious dialogue
- Lots of gameplay variety
- Feels like an old-school point-and-click title
- Object interaction can be finicky
- Not much replayability
Sam & Max VR: A classic in new clothing
As a kid who was born in the 80s and grew up during the golden age of point-and-click adventure titles on the PC — think King's Quest, Space Quest, of course, Sam & Max: Hit the Road — I always look forward to a new point-and-click title. Rarely, however, do we get a translation to a more modern medium that's done as well as Sam & Max: This Time It's Virtual.
Sam & Max VR, as it's more widely thought of, feels exactly like the old point-and-click adventure titles in nearly every way. Throughout the game, you're placed in situations where you're tasked with solving puzzles or completing some sort of action sequence, usually amidst some zany hijinks. After all, as a fledgling member of the Freelance Police Force and with Sam and Max as your mentors, you're bound to get into any number of ridiculous situations.
Sam & Max VR feels exactly like the old point-and-click adventure titles in nearly every way.
Sam & Max VR is played entirely from a first-person perspective in VR, and you use your hands to grab objects and solve puzzles. From escape rooms to city streets, a carnival full of mini games, and even the aisles of a convenience store, there's just as much variety in the scenes as there is in the gameplay. Among the more ridiculous puzzles are a set of heads with Mr Potatohead-like compartments that unlock as you progress in a Bop It-inspired puzzle. They're full of throwbacks to 80s and 90s culture that many of us adultfolk will love.
Just like those classic point-and-click adventure titles, you'll be expected to solve puzzles and complete tasks in a very specific order. For someone like me who loves a good list of items they can check off, this felt like the perfect translation of the formula into a more modern medium. Several puzzles — especially the escape room ones — feel like puzzles from those classic titles, as they only give you vague hints (or none at all) and expect your brain to do the heavy lifting.
Fans of these classic titles, as well as VR classics like Job Simulator, will feel right at home.
Sam & Max VR makes great use of roomscale movement, giving you the option to teleport or walk with the analog stick, as well as providing an adequate seated experience that also doubles as a "small human" mode for when the kids play. There aren't too many comfort modes needed because of the relatively slow gameplay, but a few niceties, like stick turning, are here for folks that want to use it.
Fans of these classic titles, as well as VR classics like Job Simulator or Vacation Simulator, will feel right at home here. In many ways, Sam & Max VR feels like Job Simulator got made into a full-length adventure game, albeit without the complex object interaction that makes those stationary games uniquely appealing. You go from scene to scene — often walking in between — for a total of 17 "levels" that should last around 5-6 hours.
Outside of the addicting can't-wait-to-see-what's-next gameplay, I loved the dynamic between Sam & Max. It feels like the two were never separated and that there was no real time between these adventures and the Telltale remakes so many years ago. The voiceover work is as good as I'd expect from a series with so much history, and the writing is as flashy as ever. Whitty dialogue and plenty of lines that had me, quite literally, laughing out loud as I played.
Sam & Max VR: What holds it up
Point-and-click titles were fairly niche for a reason. They're not usually packed with action — although Sam & Max VR adds considerably more varied gameplay sequences than those games did — and they're typically pretty linear. Sam & Max VR does little to change up that last part, as you'll be making your way through a story with a beginning, middle, and a proper ending sequence.
Unlike some more open-ended adventure games, there aren't branching paths, super secret collectibles, or other ways of bringing you back in once you finish the tale. I don't mind this at all, as I like to play through a game and feel a sense of accomplishment. I do recognize, however, that this formula will not appeal to all — just as the classic point-and-click formula didn't.
Environmental interaction is limited, and climbing mechanics feel too static.
Just as it channels the classic PC titles of yore, so, too, does the game channel classic VR titles like Job Simulator. There's no denying the aesthetic similarities that work so well in VR, especially on limited power hardware like the Quest family, and there's even an ode to Job Simulator's coffee filling and microwaving antics right from the get-go. It's incredibly charming, but it also means the game can feel a bit dated if you're a VR veteran.
While this didn't get in the way of my enjoyment too much, I've become accustomed to a wider variety of environmental interaction and physics modeling in VR games. The game's climbing mechanics, for instance, feel incredibly static. The second you let go, you fall, and it feels very experience-breaking. After playing games like Population: One or The Climb, I'm spoiled by more realistic body physics that keep you from insta-falling when you don't complete something perfectly.
Sam & Max VR: Should you play it?
Sam & Max: This Time It's Virtual brings classic point-and-click adventure gaming to VR in a way that feels authentic. From the excellent writing and voiceover work, to the tried-and-true puzzle mechanics, you'll be laughing at every turn throughout this game. It was a joy to play and I hope we see more Sam & Max in this form. Better yet, keep this formula going for more classic point-and-click revivals because it works incredibly well.
If you enjoy narrative-driven puzzle-adventure titles with highly varied, but linear, gameplay, this is a great way to spend a few hours and hundreds of laughs. It's a game that you could finish in a week, but one that makes you eager for the next in the series. It's obvious this one is co-designed by many of the original crew from the 1993 game, and even Steve Purcell, creator of the Sam & Max 80s comics, was on board for the writing. It's a quality family-friendly adventure that's well worth your hard-earned bucks.
Sam & Max: This Time It's Virtual
Bottom line: Point-and-click classics make their way to VR with a tried-and-true adventure-puzzle formula. Highly varied environments, gameplay tailored for VR, and hilarious dialog bring you through a 5-6 hour adventure ride that'll leave you wanting more at the end.