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Sam & Max on the Apple iPad: The Penal Zone

Updated on November 6, 2012

Sam & Max are two vigilanty crime detectives that operate outside of the law to attempt to solve crimes often causing more problems than solving them. These comic heroes have walkthrough the comics books to videos games and recently to the iPad. check out this review to get an eyeful of the performance of this game on iPad and hopefully better things ahead.

Who is Sam & Max

Sam and Max are vigilante police investigators that solve crimes from an office in New York City. The pair started it out as comic book heroes but migrated to video games with the help of LucasArts and later to the iPad when TellGate games continued the development of the characters. The success of the characters are largely based on their maniacal crime solving skills around perodies of American culture from a 1960 deSoto cadillac. The six foot Sam, decked out in a suit and fedora solves crimes in exotic locations with a partner in arms Max, who is funny looking rabbit.

The Game on iPad

The characters moved on to the iPad in a series of games based on episodes. In the Penal Zone, our heroes are battling General Skun-ka'pe in a galactic adventure aboard an aircraft and the vicinity of a spacecraft. The pair rely on the seemingly endless supply of tools to help them battle the gorilla skunkape which they have a hard time getting. It is the gamer's role to help them locate the tools they need to escape the gorilla. Colorful characters and a depilated brain that continuously chimes them add to the mix.

The TellGate Games version of the Sam & Max franchise is currently at episode 1, which is called the Penal Zone, or Sam & Max Episode 1: The Penal Zone. The games are organized into episodes. The game provides excellent graphics and true fidelity of the famed Sam & Max characters and the usual assortment of tools to help them solve crimes and fight vilians.

The Sam & Max: the Penal Zone iPad game in iTunes App Store
The Sam & Max: the Penal Zone iPad game in iTunes App Store | Source

What are the reviews

Despite the success of the storyline, the reviews for the episodes have been less than favorable. Almost all users who have bought the game on the iPad complain of very low frame rates and requiring a iPad complete reboot about every five minutes as the game grinds to a halt.

The game exhibits serious memory leaks requiring a fresh reboot of the device every 5 minutes or so. Of all the reviews for the game in iTunes, none have said that the game runs well. They all said that the game had a lot of promise and is faitful to the actual SAM & MAX storyline and is quite funny.

Others have reported that the their iPad either froze, crashed or went into sleep mode while playing the game. It would seem that the game was ported from another system, like possibly PSP or the WII As-Is without actually rebuilding it from scratch for the iPad using the devices APIs. They aren't obviously using any the Cocoa Touch great graphic APIs like the Quartz Framework or Core Graphics or aven the Accelerate Framework which have been designed for advanced graphic performance. In the end Tellgate Games is only hurting their reputation and the overall brand name. Unless, of course, the game was designed for iPad 2 and no regression testing has be done. If the game was designed for the new iPad, their documentation should say so.

Until a patch release is available, it is not recommended to purchase this game in its present incarnation unless you want to experience the same issues as the others who have purchased this version of the game if you have an iPad.

Reviews for iPad 2 faired better, saying the game performed as expected and the overall game experience was funny and entertaining. It would be interesting to see if the game worked even better on the Retina version of iPad. Also Tellgate hasn't released any second episodes. Maybe they are working on a native version of the app, rather than a rehashed version as in episode 1.

Up to you to decide. If you have iPad 2 with or without retina, it might be worth the 6.99 cost, otherwise, I would suggest trying another game or upgrade your iPad, at least the OS, to see if it improved performance and memory management.

Do you have the Sam & Max: The Penal Zone game for iPad

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    • klanguedoc profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Languedoc 

      5 years ago from Canada

      They have released a quite a few more and the reviews have improved as well.

    • timtalkstech profile image


      5 years ago

      This brings back memories. I used to play an older Sam & Max game on the Amiga. Glad to see they're still making games for Sam & Max.

    • klanguedoc profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Languedoc 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Hi KDuBarry03

      Please let me know if you do. Seeing all the bad reviews kinda threw me off, even if its only 6.99.

      I have seen these comics before, but haven't read them. My son and one of his friends are in to comics books, especially the ones that are related to video games. :)

      Thanks for the feedback

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hmm...I never heard of this game before. I'll definitely have to give it a try! Very interesting, Klanguedoc!


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