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Video Game / Sam & Max: Freelance Police

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That's Sam on the left and Max on the right. Don't get them mi... what do you mean we did that joke already?

Sam: Random but innocuous comment.
Max: Irreverent reply which hints at mental instability!
Sam: You crack me up, little buddy!

A long-awaited sequel to Sam & Max Hit the Road was announced by LucasArts in 2002, but in March of 2004 the project was unceremoniously canceled. Fans were incensed, as were several members of the LucasArts team, who left to found their own game company: Telltale Games. In 2005, Telltale announced they would be working with Steve Purcell to produce an episodic Sam & Max adventure game, and in late 2006, the first episode of Sam & Max: Season One was released.

Over the course of six episodes (the final one released in May of 2007), our heroes matched wits with former child stars, a bossy talk show host, the Toy Mafia, the U.S. government, the Internet, and a cult leader in order to foil a series of mass-hypnosis plots. Sam & Max: Season 2 (running from November 2007 to April 2008) had the Freelance Police facing demonic possession in Santa's workshop, the Bermuda Triangle, a Goth vampire and his army of club-hopping zombies, a sinister cabal known only as T-H-E-M, and the forces of Hell. The complete Season 1 for Wii was released in 2008. In 2009, Telltale announced that Seasons 1 and 2 would be on Xbox Live Arcade, under different names (Sam & Max Save the World and Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space, respectively). Most other places that sell the games online, like Steam and Telltale's official site, have switched to those names, as well.

The third season, Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, has its own page.

Following the closure of Telltale Games, the rights to the episodic series has been acquired by members of the development team, now Skunkape Games. The first season, Sam & Max Save the World, received a remastered release for PC and the Nintendo Switch in December 2020, with Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space in December 2021, and Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse coming sometime in 2024.

See also Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual!, a 2021 project which may or may not be in the same continuity. It's complicated.

Contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: The deaths of both Momma Bosco and Grandpa Stinky are unintentional collateral from Chariot of the Dogs, and neither is revealed to be the case until the following episode - the former is because Bosco blew open the roof of a building while having no idea that she was upstairs, and the latter is because their Time Travel antics caused an invention that would have saved his life to disappear from the timeline.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Bosco's Inconvenience.
    Bosco: Look, all I know is, I keep making up the most ridiculous price I can think of, and you keep payin' it! So I ask you, who's the foo'?
  • Adventure Duo:
    • In the episode "Abe Lincoln Must Die!", a relationship quiz the two take says the person they are most compatible with... are each other. (Of course, the quiz was given by Sybil, and Sam and Max seem to be the only people she knows... and she doesn't exactly try to hide the fact that she's neither using a computer nor making an effort.)
    • And then there's Max's reaction in "Reality 2.0" when Sybil describes him and Sam as "Luddites"...
      Max: We're just very good friends!
  • Affably Evil:
  • Afterlife Express: In What's New, Beelzebub?
  • Aggressive Negotiations: Evoked for laughs as Max, President Evil of the United States, uses his Peacemaker (gun) to ensure successful Peace Summits. In the end, when Hell literally freezes over, Max is awarded the Nobel Prize For Peace!
  • Ambiguously Gay: Jurgen ("I never knew vampires were so... fruity.")
    • Hugh Bliss turns into a rainbow and has a calendar with "Gaypril" as a month (although it might just be in the sense of the superlative like all of the calendar's other months). Then again, he's really a sentient colony of space bacteria and probably has no preference one way or the other.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In Sam & Max Save the World Remastered several instances of backtracking are shortened by removing in between areas like the outside of the White House.
  • Arc Villain: Each episode has its own Big Bad:
    • Season 1 deals with antagonists all having Mass Hypnosis as apart of their scheme.
      • Culture Shock has Brady Culture, washed out celebrity who uses his rivals The Soda Poppers to spread his brainwashing messages to the city.
      • Situation: Comedy has Myra Stump, a TV talk-show host, who has taken her audience captive.
      • The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball has the Toy Mafia, lead by Don Ted E. Bear aka Harry Moleman.
      • Abe Lincoln Must Die! has Agent Chuckles and Abraham Lincoln, the former having been apart of the Toy Mafia to keep a tab on the brainwashing teddy bears, who then awakens Lincoln when Sam and Max destroy the brainwashing president puppet to ensure control of the U.S.
      • Reality 2.0 has The Internet itself, taking beta testers hostage in an MMO called Reality 2.0.
      • Bright Side of the Moon has Hugh Bliss, as well as being the mastermind of all of Season 1, being behind all the Mass Hypnosis schemes in order to hypnotize the world and feed on their bliss.
    • Season 2 deals with antagonists all being part of a conspiracy involving T.H.E.M., time travel, and hell.
      • Ice Station Santa has Shambling Corporate Presence, a demon that was shipped to Santa and attacks the workshop.
      • Moai Better Blues has the spirit of Mr. Spatula, Sam and Max's pet goldfish, in a scheme involving an erupting volcano to signal T.H.E.M., destroy Easter Island, and get revenge on Sam and Max.
      • Night of the Raving Dead has Jurgen, a vampire that creates an army of zombies to collect their souls.
      • Chariots of the Dogs has Pedro, or T.H.E.M., a group of time and space faring mariachis that perform soul crushing with hell to pay for their space ship.
      • What's New, Beelzebub? has The Soda Poppers, who through the Power Of Hate, become demons and take over hell, having masterminded the second season to increase Hell's productivity and oust Satan.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Hell turns out not to be what Max expected, he asks where the carnivorous beetle pits, acid baths, and karaoke bars are.
  • Art Evolution: The remastered versions of Save the World and Beyond Time and Space feature slight tweaks to Sam & Max's character designs to bring them more in line with more recent depictions of the characters. Notable among these changes are Sam's longer ears and baggier clothes and making Max's bellybutton more distinct. More striking, however, are the updated lighting and shading- comparing screenshots of both versions is like comparing night and day. It ends up being most noticeable with the true form of Hugh Bliss, who is now bioluminecent and has particles rising off him to emphasise how he's a colony of bacteria.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Parodied with Tic Tac Doom in Bright Side of the Moon. It's a Tic-Tac-Toe game by the C.O.P.S, but the AI is so braindead that the challenge of the puzzle is trying to lose.
  • Artistic License – Politics: The plot of "Abe Lincoln Must Die!" throws away almost everything about how the U.S. government works (as does Max's entire presidency) in service to the Rule of Funny. If the President of the United States dies or is otherwise incapacitated, the Vice President takes over, and there is an extended line of succession if the VP is not available (going through the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and then various cabinet Secretaries); there is no special election.note 
  • As You Know: Admirably few blatant examples of this in the Telltale games, considering how much continuity piles up.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: The list of items Sam asks Bosco for includes:
    Weasels on a stick, two-handed broadswords, vegetables in the shape of famous naturalists, candy-pink Fatboys, exiled political dissidents, weapons of mass destruction, complimentary fresh garlic, fine leather jackets, gumballs the size of your head, +2 Plate Armor of Limitless Squeezeability, PEZ dispensers with the head of infamous Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, stray tufts of sasquatch hair, hats in the shape of a cow udder, rubber chickens with a pulley in the middle, amulets of protection against greater hypnosis, potatoes in the likeness of Catholic saints, souvenir snowglobes from the Mystery Vortex, Lobstah Fahts-brand cereal, Tagalog rhyming dictionaries (abridged), wiener cozies, Navajo blankets, dual core processors with 512-megabyte cache, chimpanzee-sized diapers, barbecue plankton chips, keychains with a +8 modifier to Dexterity, self-respect, Lembas, bulletproof edible underwear, lords-a-leaping and/or maids-a-milking, inflatable arms capable of being used as replacements for your real arms, passive-aggressive payback disguised as an innocuous customer inquiry, Honey Bunches of Pumice brand cereal, stim-packs and radiation chems, zombie repellent, powdered drink mix, three-day-old rigatoni stuffed with marshmallow peeps in an orange soda reduction with a hint of cilantro, eyeglass repair kits, and chainsaw gasoline.
    • Subverted in the final episode of season 1, where they ask for the hard-to-obtain and stupidest things they've needed to solve puzzles throughout the series thus far... and Bosco has all of them. Except for Hugh Bliss tied up behind the counter.
    • It is heavily implied during Season Two that Sam is doing this specifically to annoy Bosco. Note that the last instance comes when Bosco is trapped in his own personal hell.
      Bosco: Boy, I am standing buck naked on a stage thousands of miles below the surface of the Earth! Does it LOOK like I have anything?!
      Sam: Do you have any chainsaw gasoline?
      Bosco: I really am in hell.
  • Asshole Victim: The majority of Sam and Max's victims tend to be this. In "Culture Shock", for example, they specifically raise the money for one of Bosco's inventions by giving a hefty ticket to some rich jerk in a neighborhood known for white-collar crime.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Maimtron 9000 and Giant statue Abraham Lincoln both had their moments ravaging around a city.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning:
    • Max is elected President of the United States in Season 1, and maintains that office throughout the series (so far). "Max Impeachment Weekly" is apparently a bestselling periodical, however.
    • Spoofed in "Moai Better Blues" when Max becomes priest of the Sea Chimps: Sam crowns Max with a Sock Crown.
  • Bad Santa: In "Ice Station Santa". It turns out to be a misunderstanding at first, Sam and Max thinking he's been possessed by a demon. Turns out the demon was in fact possessing an elf instead, but at the end of the episode, Santa gets possessed for real.
    • Of course, "What's New Beelzebub?" makes him a full-on Jerkass Child Hater - hence why he took the Santa job, so that he'd have minimal contact with them. He also loves recalling toys.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In "The Mole, The Mob and the Meatball", you're supposed to search for an informant with the code phrase "Does the carpet match the drapes?". You can ask this to practically everyone (even Sybil), but literally none of them react as if it means what it usually does.
  • Bat Deduction: In the final episode of Season 1, after discovering the alias of the Big Bad, Sam tries to figure out who it could be. Sam comes to the correct conclusion that it's Hugh Bliss, albeit going by an overly complicated deduction that has nothing to do with the alias.
  • Becoming the Mask: Harry Moleman, the former Toy Mafia mole.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: Appears in Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space, though here it is a triangular portal through space. In Moai Better Blues, it takes the duo to Easter Island.
  • Berserk Button: Sam has several (including a hidden one when trying to fix the past): Try to harm Max, call him Fat or try to give him pink bellies, for example. You usually are pretty much screwed. Then, in Episode 204 (Chariot of the Dogs), in the 80's, when Sam and Max find their young versions playing the Bluster Blaster, Sam tries to convince either young Sam or young Max to leave the videogame and go play outside. He shows signs of repugnance when looking at them, and is able to comment to Max about "how we were nerdier in the 80's".
    • Max also isn't too fond of losing his partner, either through one of them dying or through others trying to replace him as Sam's best friend. In Episode 205, a demonic tormentor in Hell learns this the hard way when Max violently murders the demon and tears out his kidneys.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Sam in the Season 1 finale, after the Big Bad does something unspeakably appalling to Max.
    • In the same episode, by Wrathful Max when his hand gets lopped off.
  • The Big Bad Shuffle: T.H.E.M is set up to be the Big Bad of Season 2, until its revealed that they're delivering souls to Hell, switching the Big Bad role to Satan. Then its revealed that Satan has recently been demoted and that Hell is truly led by The Soda Poppers.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Sam's reaction to know Brady Culture is happy in hell but first paraphrasing about how his mouth is too parched to do a spit-take.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Sam & Max are Unscrupulous Heroes while the antagonists tend to be card-carrying villains.
  • Blackground: Upon inputting a virus that shuts down Reality 2.0, Sam & Max find themselves transported to a black void with nothing but text to interact with.
  • Blatant Lies: Girl Stinky's understanding of history. Which makes it slightly odd that she's aware how nonsensical it is for Abraham Lincoln to be trying to pay his tab in Confederate money. This is subverted if asked about Easter Island, where her absurd claims turn out to be accurate.
  • Book Ends: Season 1 ends with the whole world behaving like Max due to mass hypnosis. As the credits begin to roll, Sybil quotes Max's very first line from the first episode of season 1.
  • Born Lucky: Sam and Max.
  • Bound and Gagged: Leonard Steakcharmer must have set some kind of record for this. Sam and Max first tie him up in the third episode of season 1 to interrogate him, then gag him and leave him in their closet as a souvenir of the adventure. He remains there until sometime in season 2, just over a year later in-universe, until he dies and goes to the Sam and Max wing of Hell, where he's damned to more of the same. Sam does get the hint after this and frees Leonard after restoring him to life.
  • Bowdlerise: The 2020 remaster of Save the World cut out a few jokes that the developers though were in particularly bad taste or otherwise hadn't aged well; jokes about college radicals, skinheads, catfishing, "special needs" children, and sex changes were either rewritten or cut completely. This upset some fans, because Skunkape Games had promised not to cut any dialogue.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: It's not as frequent as it was in Hit the Road, but it still happens from time to time.
    • One notable example being Max complaining about losing their "All ages" rating after getting Jurgen to drink a bottle of whiskey.
    • After playing the trial version of the XBLA release of Save the World, Sam and Max go over all the features of the game, including the awards it got. If you let it sit there, they wait for you to unlock the full game.
      Sam: So, you think they're going for their wallet or did they just pass out from the excitement?
      Max: Who says they have to be mutually exclusive?
      Sam: They're still just sitting there, Max. Think they want to buy?
      (Max stares right at the camera.)
      Max: We're detectives, Sam, not mind-readers!
  • Brick Joke:
    • Played brilliantly at the end of Season 2 where, first, our heroes find themselves in a very familiar burning hellscape and are immediately saved by their own past selves in a repeat of a scene from a puzzle from 4 episodes before. Then, after the final credits, the Bermuda triangle that collected the volcanic eruption in "Moai Better Blues", 3 episodes before, suddenly appears and destroys the *censored* Poppers, interrupting their We Will Meet Again speech.
    • The best one is the ink ribbon that you find in Jurgen's castle in Episode 203. The player tries desperately to fit it to one of the puzzles of the episode, only to find out in the next one that it's just garbage that's Sam threw through a temporal portal.
      • It's actually a double brick joke, as a line of dialogue in Episode 202 refers to something being as useful as a typewriter ribbon in a haunted castle.
  • Broken Aesop: In the Show Within a Show Midtown Cowboys, the other characters hold an intervention for Mr. Featherly but the object of his addiction is used for blatant Product Placement.
  • Call-Forward: The remastered version added two new items to Sam & Max's closet in the future seen in "Chariots of the Dogs", items that would only been seen in The Devil's Playhouse; Sameth's skull and the bust of Sammun-Mak.
  • Came Back Wrong: The DeSoto after its return from Hell.
  • Casino Episode: "The Mole, The Mob, and the Meatball" in Season 1, where Sam and Max go to Ted E. Bear's Mafia-Free Playland and Casino, a casino/Suck E. Cheese's designed as a rather half-assed front for The Mafia.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: A memorable one opens the game "Night of the Raving Dead", when we see the duo trapped inside a deadly contraption, its maw closing in:
    Sam: Well, looks like this is it, little buddy. My whole life is flashing before my eyes. ...I wondered where I'd left my wallet.
    Max: I can't even remember how we got here!
    Sam: Come on, Max. Remember, we were back in the office, just back from Easter Island...
    Max: Wait wait, do the whole thing with the music and all that!
  • Catchphrase:
    • Sam: You crack me up little buddy!
    • Bosco: It'll work! Trust me on this, trust me!
    • Hugh Bliss: Hi! I'm Hugh Bliss! (Exaggerated when the entire world is brainwashed into being like him, to the point where Sybil and Bosco say that every time you talk to them.)
    • In-universe and out, The Soda Poppers.
      Specs: You made me mess up!
      Whizzer: Time out for number one!
      Peepers: I can see you!
  • Censored for Comedy:
    • When Myra is interviewing the Soda Poppers in "Situation: Comedy", their answers have many words arbitrarily bleeped out, resulting in moments like Specs admitting that he regrets not having *bleep*ed his brother.
    • In "What's New, Beelzebub?", Hugh Bliss works as a *bleep*er. Specifically, he applies Sound Effects Bleeps to any and all profanity. Even innocuous stuff like "doo-doo", "freakin'", "peacock", and the name "Dick". Eventually, his list of swears gets replaced with Satan's grocery list, causing him to start bleeping words like "vanilla" and "soda". And yes, this does cause the Soda Poppers to be referred to as the "*bleep* Poppers" for the rest of the game.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Sorta, in "Chariots of the Dogs". The Mariachis and Bosco's paranoia are both explained, although the revelation itself is pretty funny.
  • Chair Reveal: Used to reveal that the Big Bad of Season 2 were the Soda Poppers; spoofed in the Season 2 DVD extras, with other characters; up to and including Homestar Runner.
    "And so ends our deadly game of cat and mouse! ... and dog... and rabbit... thingy."
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Almost every game in Seasons 1 & 2 introduces a variety of items that will become important in a later episode. There are also references to the story arc of Season 2 towards the end of Season 1.
    • Never mind that generally things that are even merely said offhand in earlier episodes often come true in later ones, even if it was a complete fabrication of the characters at the time... For example, Bosco claims in the very first episode that EVERYONE is after him, like the mob and the government and aliens... and he's right on every single count.
    • Inverted in the last episode of Season 1, when Sam finally asks Bosco for things that would have solved every previous puzzle. He had all of them all along! In "Chariots of the Dogs", you get to go behind Bosco's counter, and apparently they were all right behind the damn lotto tickets.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Not as egregious as with the Monkey Island series, but, Telltale being Telltale, certain puzzle solutions do boomerang on occasion. For example, the knowledge that Bermuda Triangles freeze in place when fed a red octagon is needed again for the very last puzzle of "Moai Better Blues".
  • Christmas Episode: Season 2 opener "Ice Station Santa", as well as the Machinima version of it produced by Telltale, Sam & Max Nearly Save Christmas. Played with in that the Christmas Past they have to save was in fact initially destroyed by that very attempt to save it. And that the entire episode actually takes place in November.
  • The Chosen Ones: "We appear in so many prophecies that we should start charging royalties!"
  • Church of Happyology: The Church of Prismatology in Season 1. Emetics parodies Dianetics, for instance. It gets most obvious in episode 106, where Prismatology is the focus of the episode. An exclusive club for the highest members of Prismatology, a parody of the E-meter, a connection to outer space... it's all there.
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Philo Pennyworth in "Situation: Comedy", a Shakespearean actor playing a sitcom landlord. Unlike most instances of this trope, he doesn't complain that the work is beneath him, having apparently decided that professionalism means doing one's best in the role whatever the role happens to be, but he does complain about the inferiority of his co-stars at the drop of a hat.
  • Cluster Bleep-Bomb: Timmy Two-Teeth has "terminal Tourette's Syndrome", which results in most of his dialogue being bleeped out. But it turns out Censored for Comedy and the Scunthorpe Problem are in effect with the censorship—all of his bleeped dialogue is an inch deep in the kiddy pool section of profanity at worst. Uncensoring him is needed to continue on, as he reveals Peepers' real name - Dick Peacock.
  • Colon Cancer: Sam & Max: Season One: Save the World: Episode Two: Situation: Comedy. They were actually trying for this before the season got named Save the World.
  • Colony Drop: Bosco's "Earthquake Generator" in "Bright Side of the Moon".
  • Comically Small Bribe
    Sam: Maybe a few...Washingtons will help change your mind?
    Max: Or maybe a few...Lincolns?
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Bosco.
    • Properly Paranoid: After Bosco builds a Missile Defense System, it turns out his shop really is being targeted by government ICBMs.
    • The Toy Mafia are also after him, and an alien cult leader set up shop outside his store. It's looking more and more like Bosco isn't as crazy as he appears. Though he isn't that bright.
    • And let's not forget T.H.E.M.
      • And his mother. In fact, she was, inadvertently, the one who caused Bosco to fall under surveillance in the first place.
  • Continuity Porn: Over time, Sam and Max's office becomes utterly, utterly littered with memorabilia of their past cases. In the first season of the Telltale games, it's mostly limited to their closet, but after that it just comes spilling out all over the place.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: A lot in the newer games. It seems no one can undergo normal torment when they could instead be interrogated with "yo momma" jokes, subjected to (literally) soul-crushingly boring stories, or put through several magic-trick themed torture devices.
  • Couch Gag: Telltale continues the tradition of bogus "based on" jokes in Seasons 2, and later on 3:
    Based on the heretical Apocrypha, "Sam & Max Meet a Guy Who Sucks" ("Night of the Raving Dead")
  • Crapsack World: Assuming all the little bits we hear about Max's reign as President are accurate, the country cannot be in a good state. Dakota is at WAR with itself, due to a feud about Mount Rushmore, a war that President Max provoked. His response to the crisis: Provide giant battle robots to all sides and whoever wins, claim the US backed them all along.
  • Crossover:
    • Sam's revolver and a combo of Max's Luger and supposed head severed at the upper jaw (used as the obligatory hat of the set) were given as gifts to players of Team Fortress 2 who bought The Devil's Playhouse season the first 2 weeks, or pre-ordered. In exchange, a BLU Dispenser appears in "Beyond the Alley of the Dolls" and the RED Heavy Weapons Guy is one of the opponents in Poker Night at the Inventory (which features Max). Max's buy-in item is his gun and badge (which is really Sam's badge).
    • Sam appears in the sequel, alongside Brock Samson, Ashley "Ash" Williams, Claptrap, and GLaDOS. Sam's buy-in item is his hat, as well as a costume Max head for Borderlands 2 players.
  • Crying Indian: Parodied in "Chariot of the Dogs":
    Mariachi: You can't just throw litter through the time vortex!
    Max: Yes Sam! Somewhere a time traveling Native Indian is crying!
  • Cue Card: You need to do mudslinging in the election in "Abe Lincoln Must Die!", and the easiest way to do it is to switch which cue card Abe Lincoln reads from when you ask him questions.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: Sam and Max literally freeze Hell over in the Season 2 finale; the rest stems from there. The results include Sam letting Max answer the phone, Max winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and Sybil inviting Max to not only attend her wedding, but officiate it.
  • Cure Your Gays: Played with in "Chariot of the Dogs". While Max is never stated to be gay, he is visibly and expressly uncomfortable with Momma Bosco's advances, and, in order to save Bosco and fix the timeline, the player must go back to his childhood to make him "like girls". Possibly lampshaded/deconstructed, as Sam comments that he "doesn't like [Max] like this".
  • Darker and Edgier: Beyond Time And Space has more mean-spirited and darker humor than the first season, and the Comedic Sociopathy gets kicked up a major notch.
  • Deal with the Devil: In a dangerously Genre Blind move, Sam, to get Satan to relinquish ownership of some souls, signs a contract about three seconds after Satan whips it out.
  • Death by De-aging: In "Moai Better Blues", Sam & Max encounter various people who had gone missing years ago that have turned into babies from drinking from the Fountain of Youth. Among them is Jimmy Hoffa, who blocks the way into a cave they need to access. In order to get rid of him, Sam & Max have to trick him into drinking more water from the Fountain, causing him to vanish.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Even though a number of characters do die for real over the course of the series, a lot of casualties get better somehow. It helps that Sam and Max live right above the gates of hell and Momma Bosco has an advanced cloning machine. The list of deaths that didn't count: Animatronic Abe Lincoln (his head survived), Santa Claus and one of his elves, Grandpa Stinky, the DeSoto, Bosco, Timmy Two-Teeth, Sam (all brought back from hell), Momma Bosco (lived on as a ghost, later cloned a new body for herself) and Max (replaced by himself from an alternate timeline.) In addition, Brady Culture, Hugh Bliss and Jürgen have found steady employment in hell and seem happy enough.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Sybil, in Season 1.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: A literal instance is Lampshaded by the devil himself:
    Beelzebub: You keep asking me to help you, Sam. I don't believe you understand: I'm kind of a bad guy.
  • The Devil Is a Loser: In the Season 2 finale, the Devil is seen desperately trying to increase workplace productivity until ultimately being fired by former child stars and living out of a box of possessions (such as his grocery list) out on the street.
  • Developer's Foresight:
  • Did You Get a New Haircut?: When Bosco is turned into a cow due to screwing with the timestream, Sam and Max mention that there's something different about him, and ask if he got a new haircut.
    Bosco: Are you fools done?
    Max: Yeah, that's all we got.
  • Discontinuity Nod: Several, inserted as TakeThats to LucasArts.
    • In Season 1, there is a box labeled "03-03-04", the date on which Sam & Max: Freelance Police was canceled, in Sam and Max's office. When examined, Sam only mentions that it was "a particularly gruesome case." In the remastered version of Save the World, this box was updated to add a label reading "09-21-18", the date when most of the staff working at Telltale at the time were let go, effectively marking the end of the original Telltale's existence.
    • Max mentions, when playing a tape made in Episode 2 later in Season 1 that he hates the sound of his voice on tape and that it "never sounds like [him]". Out of all the characters, Max's voice was the one that shifted around the most in the early episodes (even switching voice actors between Episodes 1 and 2), and it was most gratingly over the edge in William Kasten's first performance (which happened to be when said tape was filmed).
  • Do Androids Dream?: When Curt restarts, he asks, "Will I dream?"
  • Don't Explain the Joke: This is one of the many things Peepers does in Sam's personal hell where Peepers is his partner instead of Max.
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: The very last puzzle in "Culture Shock" revolves around completing a gambit like this. "Worship me!" "No, me! ME! Worship me!" "Attack me!" "No, attack ME! Att— wait..."
  • Easter Egg: In the remastered version of "Night of the Raving Dead", you have a random chance of passing by Clementine's house from The Walking Dead: Season One while doing the driving minigame. If you shoot a CD at the house, you'll get a vocal cameo from Clementine herself, who seems to be a fan of Sam & Max.
  • Emotion Eater: At the end of "Bright Side of the Moon", this turns out to be the dark secret behind the Church of Prismatology: Hugh Bliss wants everybody to be happy so that he can feed on their happiness.
  • Epic Fail: In "Abe Lincoln Must Die!", Max will ask to blow up Planet Krypton due to its utopian Crystal Spires and Togas society. Actually do so, and the war systems will reveal that the time of impact for the missile they send to that planet is "26 million years", much to Max's chagrin.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Leonard Stakecharmer in "The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball".
  • Evil Laugh: Lampshaded, both with Brady Culture and Jurgen, the latter when Sam loses a bet with Max in which he bet Jurgen would not make it. If you keep him going long enough, the Season 1 Big Bad will run out of evil laughter and switch to saying "Evil Laugh", "Evil Chuckle", ...
  • Evolving Title Screen: In at least season 1, not only does the color of the intro sequence change from episode-to-episode, so does the gestures Sam and Max do at the end of it.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • The Bermuda Triangle and the Sea Chimps.
    • Double Subverted with the Zombie Factory of "Night of the Raving Dead". We expected an actual factory of zombies, only to find a rave disco inside a castle named The Zombie Factory. Jurgen still makes zombies inside, so it's still a Zombie Factory in the literal sense at the same time.
  • Fan Disservice: Turns out the stripper at Abe Lincoln's bachelor party is Jurgen's Monster.
  • Felony Misdemeanor:
    Max: I know you're the source of all evil, but wasting office supply for personal use... That's just wrong!
  • Fission Mailed: In "Night of the Raving Dead", right after the deathtrap Sam and Max were in at the beginning of the adventure finishes its dirty work. The screen dissolves to the words "You Are Dead" in a creepy font... .. then dissolves again to outside the castle, as the duo come back as zombies to continue their quest.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: All of the descriptions that didn't change between Episodes 101 and 102 had to be re-recorded with William Kasten as the voice of Max.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Sam and Max acquire massively inflating amounts of money that they casually drop on Bosco for 'inventions' that experience has already shown will be a lame household item. A billion dollars for a snot rag? Sure, here you go! Specifically, you give him money from a driver whose taillight you busted, prize money from a game show, tokens from Ted E. Bear's Mafia-Free Playland And Casino, a government check from the Presidential Discretionary Budget, the online bank account of "Mr. Biv" through money laundering, and Canadian dollars given to you by Sybil in trade for the US.
  • Fountain of Youth: Featured and taken to its logical conclusion in "Moai Better Blues"; all the island's inhabitants are babies because they were so addicted to the fountain water.
  • Fragile Speedster: Auntie Biotic plays this role during the turn-based battle in "Reality 2.0". Her dexterity score is over 400, but when Sam bonks her once with a blade just one attack point over her defense, that puts an end to her game.
  • Freeware Game: The episode "Abe Lincoln Must Die!", regarded by many as the best episode of Season 1.
  • Frustrating Lie: In "The Mole, The Mob, and The Meatball", Sam and Max meet a lying cheat named Leonard Steakcharmer who challenges them to "Indian Poker" in which he cheats by looking at a mirror to see his card. After being beaten, Leonard steals the Toy Mafia's meatball sub which Sam and Max become tasked to find, running into Leonard who threatens to shoot the two of them if they move. Of course, they only show to be slightly annoyed with his bluff after Max points out that Leonard is threatening them with a cap gun before tying him up.
    Max: Excuse me. Are you chance holding us at gunpoint with a harmless cap gun?
    Sam: Once a cheat, always a cheat. Eh, Leonard?
  • Funny Background Event: Before the last showdown with Jurgen in Night of the Raving Dead, you're given the option to explore the room as Jurgen adopts a crane stance. If you take too long, he'll lose his balance or pointedly take a look at his wrist.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The Computer Obsolescence Prevention Society who are introduced in "Reality 2.0".
    • Also there's THEM, the Temporal Headquarters of Enlightened Mariachis.
  • Genre Savvy: Hugh Bliss, seeing as his entire operation is based on forcing the spread of unending joy and happiness Max is the closest character to representing a Chosen One to defeat him. Turns out not only did the villain know this in advance, but was waiting for the two to show so he could dispose of Max as fast as he could.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • Mr Featherly, actually (in-universe). Germans treat him as the protagonist of his show, Midtown Cowboys, rather than the antagonist, since his existence is one of frustration and suffering. Anything endorsed on the show instantly becomes a top seller in Germany. This proves to be Jurgen's downfall.
    • The boys start a trend all on their own - they toss a brain up into a gargoyle's bowl to distract some zombies. Later, when they can understand them, one of the zombies thanks them for the brain and says getting it was so much fun, now they'll only eat brains American style - somewhere high up where you have to climb to get it.
  • Giggling Villain: The Big Bad of Season 1, Hugh Bliss. There's something both hilarious and disturbing about a person who giggles while saying "I'll just torture him mercilessly until he begs me to shoot him with his own gun!" According to Jared Emerson-Johnson and Julian Kwasneski, the recording sessions for this character were down right creepy: David Boyll is a very physical actor, and he ACTS EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME THEY RECORD HIS VOICE.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: Inverted. Sam's personal Hell is undone by being too realistic. It's a perfect recreation of the Office, right down to the hole that was recently blown in the wall by the Maimtron. Sam uses this to communicate with Max, and then tosses him a key card so he can enter.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Timmy Two-Teeth, once the bleeps are removed.
  • Goth: Jurgen the vampire from "Night of the Raving Dead"
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The camera doesn't show Max pummeling the poor demon who tried to take his place as Sam's partner, though Max states that he ripped out his kidneys.
  • Gratuitous Mariachi Band: Whenever a character in Season 2 mentioned it was their birthday, a mariachi would inexplicably appear to play them a song. This is explained in Chariots of the Dogs. Pedro, the mariachi in question, made a Deal with the Devil to help him send souls to hell in exchange for a time-travelling spaceship which would allow him (and two younger versions of himself from the past) to play birthdays all throughout time and space.
  • The Great Whodini: Sam starts referring to himself as "the Great Samini" after he masters the pull-a-rodent-out-of-a-hat trick in "The Bright Side of the Moon".
  • G-Rated Drug: Played straight with Whizzer and his soda addiction, but averted when Bosco's truth serum turns out to be vodka.
  • Gravity Is Only a Theory: Max claims not to believe in the existence of magnetism, insisting it's 'only a theory'.
    Max: "There's just one thing I believe in!" *pulls out his Luger. His Luger is immediately pulled to the strongly magnetic North Pole* "Okay, make that two things."
  • Guns Are Worthless:
    • Most frequently use of Sam's gun is dismissed offhand, though in some episodes it gains some unorthodox Mundane Utility. Those rare times Sam and Max gleefully open fire with violent intent result in not much more than noise and their satisfaction or frustration; the plot and puzzles remain bulletproof.
    • The justifications as to why a problem can't be solved with a gun occasionally border on lampshading. At one point, you're confronted by some guards blocking a doorway. What happens if you try to use your gun on them? "Hey, I'll give you this cool gun if you let me in!"
  • Gut Feeling: Sam and Max have never openly disliked a character that hasn't later turned out to be truly evil. This includes Hugh Bliss, The Soda Poppers, and Girl Stinky. Even if a character is intended to be a villain, if Sam and Max seem comfortable or friendly with them, then there's a good chance they'll pull a Heel–Face Turn later on. Oh, let's see if we can drum up a few examples... Satan, Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln, the Mariachis... Sam seems to be a bit better judge of character, though, since Max was such a Psycho Supporter of Hugh Bliss.
  • Hand Guns: Santa Claus, in "Ice Station Santa", wields a Red Ridder semi-automatic. Sam's and Max's trademark guns actually get used in this adaptation, compared to Hit the Road and the cartoon.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the final puzzle of "Night of the Raving Dead", the only way to kill Jurgen is to possess the monster he created and use the stakes that he keeps in his lab as trophies of the vampire hunters he's killed.
  • Holy Water: In "Night of the Raving Dead", Sam and Max challenge the vampire Jurgen to a rap battle. However, every time they perform, Jurgen bites Max and copies the routine which results in him winning. To prevent this, the duo have to take some bottle water, turn it into holy water, and have Max drink it before performing. Upon doing this, Jurgen experiences stomach craps once he bites Max which results in him losing the rap battle and some of his popularity with the zombies.
  • How We Got Here: The first half of "Night of the Raving Dead". Subverted in "The Penal Zone"
  • Hypnotic Head: When Sam is hypnotized in "Culture Shock".
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Max has constantly given Sam a hard time, mocking him even back when they were children, but he won't stand for anyone else doing the same. It's apparent that he only teases him because he thinks he's too shy and wants him to come out of his shell, though, and wants to get a reaction from the usually reserved Sam.
  • I Am Not Spock: In-universe example with Philo Pennyworth, who Sam and Max refer to by "Mr. Featherly", the character he plays on TV. Subverted in Season 2, where he eventually gives up and legally changes his name to Mr. Featherly just so that he doesn't have to correct them anymore. And to make license contracts with Germany easier.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Almost all the episode titles in the second and third seasons are a variation on the title of a movie. Of a B-Movie, if we may be frank.
  • I Know Your True Name:
    • Girl Stinky/The Cake of the Damned and Peepers/Dick Peacock are both defeated in this way in Episode 205.
    • This is also a part of the exorcism of Shambling Corporate Presence in Episode 201.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: Lampshaded and used as a Continuity Nod but not normally said in the game (one might suspect this is because the engine in the Telltale games doesn't actually let you use two items in your inventory together):
    • In "Chariots of the Dogs", it's one of the mumblings that senile future Sam says. Also, when you meet Past Sam, he wanders around looking at items talking to himself saying things like "I can't shoot Future Me!", "That doesn't need to be made radioactive," and "It's the Time Elevator" as if he was under control of a player. Sam even comments on it, asking Max if he's always acting that weird when they are working a case.
    • Jurgen uses this in the rap-off if you fail twice.
  • Insistent Terminology: Max finds terms like "bunny" personally offensive, and will always correct them by reminding them that the proper term is lagomorph. Look it up.
  • Interface with a Familiar Face: In Reality 2.0, Sam and Max encounter computer programs with interfaces modeled on Myra and Hugh Bliss. The avatar used for the Internet itself resembles the unnamed Director from WARP.
  • Irony: For some reason "Reality 2.0" doesn't work on certain computers note  the starting issue within the episode is about computers not working right.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Brady Culture, which causes his downfall.
    • Max, always.
  • Jenny's Number:
    • Maimatron tells Sam this is his manufacturing code, who then calls him out.
      Sam: Now tell us your manufacturing code.
      Maimtron: 867-5309.
      Max: Oh! Well that was nice and helpful of- Hey wait a minute!
    • In Episode 104, the amount of money that Bosco wants for his truth serum is 867.5309 rubles.
  • Joke Exhaustion: BANAAAAAAAANNNNNNG!
  • Layered World: In "Reality 2.0," the Internet is represented as just the real world but like TRON, with people's buildings housing their websites and blogs and such. Wearing the VR goggles lets you walk around in both worlds at once!
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • "In "Abe Lincoln Must Die!", Max kind of bumps into the fourth wall without breaking it, when Bosco is telling them about how the government watches everybody:
    Max: So that's why I always feel an overbearing presence just outside my field of vision watching and judging my every move. [happens to be looking directly at the Fourth Wall]
    Sam: That's me, Max.
    • And again in "Night of the Raving Dead". "New Location Unlocked" indeed.
    • You'll have to shoot better than that to get in the Toy Mafia...not that there's any Toy Mafia here.
  • Leitmotif: "The Office". Admittedly it's for a location rather than a character, but otherwise it fits the bill perfectly. It even has low-bittage, space-age, and even Ancient Egyptian remixes, heard in Episodes 105, 204 and 303 respectively. Parts of it sneak into the various themes in Season 3 despite Sam and Max spending nearly all of it unable to get into the Office, and a rearrangement of "The Office" is ultimately the last tune in the game to close out the entire series, possibly implying it's become a Bootstrapped Theme of sorts.
    • You hear it exactly three times in the game - two instrumental versions during the finales of Season 1 and 2, and once during Season 1's credits - but "World of Max" applies specifically to Max.
    • Then there's the smooth remix from Poker Night at the Inventory.
  • Lockdown: In the remastered version of Save the World, the windows of the Oval Office drop massive metal shutters as the Soda Poppers declare war.
  • Magical Profanity Filter: One department of hell is in charge of censoring everyone's speech. This being a point-and-click adventure game, messing with the list of censored words is a puzzle.
  • Malicious Misnaming: A running gag is how Girl Stinky never addresses Sam and Max by their names, but picks a random moniker every time. She remembers their names just fine; it is her way of saying she just doesn't care.
    Max: Barnaby and Jug-Jug?!'re not even trying with the names anymore, are you?
    • If you use psychic ventriloquism on her in Episode 304, Max tries to imitate her, but acknowledges that it's harder to come up with those names than it looks.
  • Mass Hypnosis: The whole premise of Season 1.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Played with in "Night of the Raving Dead", after Sam and Max turn into zombies. You run into Flint Paper, who tries to pull this trope off, though Sam and Max aren't exactly grateful (unfortunately, zombies can't talk to the living):
      Flint: I hate to do this, but Sam and Max always said they'd rather be dead than one of those... things.
      Sam: I don't remember saying that. Did you?
      Max: No, I'm pretty sure Flint's making that part up.
    • In "What's New Beelzebub?" Jurgen's monster begs to be killed and Sam complies. Except since he doesn't have a soul, and was given life in the first place by electricity, Sybil will go "did he die again?" and use a taser to bring him back to life.
  • Metaphorgotten: Sam manages to jumble a couple of common phrases in the first minute of "Culture Shock":
    Sam: Patience is a sharp razor to swallow.
  • Mirror World: The cyber version of Straight and Narrow in "Reality 2.0".
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: Beyond Time & Space is this to Save the World. Outside of a handful of technical improvements (such as widescreen support), less reliance on the Strictly Formula episode structure present throughout most of season 1, and the slightly Darker and Edgier tone, there isn't much to distinguish the two.
  • Mistaken for Santa: In "Situation: Comedy", Sam and Max perform in a sitcom called the Midtown Cowboys where they have to disguise a cow from their landlord Mr. Featherly. If the shaving cream is used, Sam can claim the cow to be Santa Claus. Max ends up being fooled, forcing Sam to remind him that it is just a disguise, ruining the scene.
  • Mistaken for Toilet: Invoked in "Abe Lincoln Must Die!". Sam acts as an interpreter for Whizzer due to the President having a hard time understanding him. While same can accurately translate, to progress involve him getting the President to give Whizzer a soda, causing Whizzer to need a bathroom, asking where it is. After that, Sam can translate Whizzer as asking for the Bathroom, President Lincoln's room, or the War Room. Whizzer will go to wherever Sam asks the President without question.
    Max: Sam, did you just make an innocent person defile one of the most famous rooms in U.S. history?
    (Whizzer returns, relieved)
    Sam: Apparently, I did.
  • The Mole: Literally.
  • Mole in Charge: The mole in the Toy Mafia has become this.
  • Morality Chain: Ironically, Max is one of these to Sam.
  • Most Definitely Not a Villain: The staff at Ted E. Bear's Mafia-Free Playland And Casino would like to remind you that the establishment is not owned by the mafia, nor does the mafia occupy the area. They even wrote a song to remind you.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: TIC TAC DOOM!!!!!! The joke is that the game is really easy to win, but the actual solution is to deliberately lose, which is no easy feat.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In the Season 1 blooper reel, Max/William Kasten accidentally says "subsumed" instead of "consumed." When he catches his mistake, he adds "sub...subsumed, that's a nice word!" Then, in "Beyond the Alley of the Dolls," Charlie Ho-Tep gleefully declares that our pathetic reality is on the verge of being subsumed by the glories of the Dark Dimension.
    • Also in Season 1, some of the items Sam can ask Bosco for include "vegetables shaped like famous naturalists,", and "souvenir snowglobes from the Mystery Vortex," which are two of the four items needed to solve Hit the Road's final puzzle. Another item that can be asked is "tufts of sasquatch hair" which was needed for another puzzle. And one other item Sam mentions is “chimpanzee-sized diapers” referencing Sgt. Blip from the comics.
    • Partway through Season 1, Sam has to win a "Whack A Rat" arcade machine to progress (which the duo later takes as a souvenir), just like in Sam & Max Hit the Road. Once again, it takes twenty hits to win.
    • In "Abe Lincoln Must Die!", Sam describes the fake President of the United States as "a damned ugly puppet", much like how the Mad Scientist from the intro to Sam and Max Hit the Road turned out to be a robot whose head was "a damned ugly time bomb".
    • Jesse James' Hand is up on their souvenir wall from the beginning of the series, and becomes important several times later - it also first appeared as part of a puzzle in Hit The Road.
    • When Harry Moleman talks about the spoon-bending talisman on display in the gift shop, Max asks if it will also work on wrenches, a reference to a character in Sam & Max Hit the Road who bends a wrench and gives it to you as a sample.
    • If Sam pockets the sunlamp lightbulb in "Night of the Raving Dead", Max asks if they got deja vu. This is because players need a light bulb to complete a puzzle in Hit the Road.
    • Save the World Remastered's new opening ends with the duo plunging through a green vortex in their Desoto as copies of Max float by, recreating the E3 2006 trailer for Season 1's original release.
    • Similarly, the slightly-extended opening for Beyond Time and Space Remastered ends with Sam & Max shooting away at the scenery until it breaks like glass, another sequence lifted from Season 1's E3 2006 trailer.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Sybil
  • Ninja Prop: Beyond Time And Space reveals in its final episode that the bleeping out of swear words that's been happening throughout the season (and a few times in Save the World) is happening in-universe in hell's FCC department. It then plays an important role later on - the duo need to figure out the name of one of the game's villains, but they can't hear it because it keeps getting bleeped out - so Sam replaces hell's list of swear words with a grocery list. Doing so also reveals that the game's Hollywood Tourette's character was speaking in much milder language than the game initially implied, and that their health started to improve after the constant ringing in their ear stopped.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Sybil and Abe, the latter of which said that the former should get plastic surgery so she would look like a giant Moai head.
  • No Indoor Voice: Bluster Blaster. DEFINITELY.
  • Noodle Incident: Almost everything in each game. Whenever Sam clicks on an item the player frequently gets a dialog about some weird or ghastly incident involving it, usually due to Max. A perfect example in Episode 103 is Sybils standing fan. Sam says Max almost lost a finger in one of these. Max says "yeah but it wasn't my finger". Almost none of these little stories is ever explained or referenced a second time.
  • No Name Given: The WARP Director.
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: Happens to the Soda Poppers in "Culture Shock".
  • Not Himself: In Reality 2.0, the C.O.P.S. control the titular reality, each of them in charge of a certain setting. To progress through the game, all these settings must be disabled at some point or another. This is done by placing a computer bug on them, which also reverses their personality or most notable trait. Chippy, who speaks only in individual bleeps and bloops, begins playing a catchy little melody — Bluster Blaster, the aggressive arcade machine, gets in touch with his inner showgirl — Curt, outdated and monotone, gets casual and relaxed — and Bob Bell, the phone with the silver tongue, sounds like he's swallowed a harmonica.
    Bluster Blaster: I...I FEEL...I FEEL PRETTY! AND WITTY! AND GAY!
    Bob: Ev-v-v'ryone LOVES my vo-o-oice! It-is SOOTHING and—CALM, and OH! So verrry PLEAZ-ANT!
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Another Trope Namer, this one from "The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball". Sybil is worried that the Toy Mafia are planning to assassinate her, and she knows Sam and Max are the only two she can trust... problem is, they're the ones the Mafia sent to off her. Max then states how Sybil should go into 'guilt-slinging' as a career.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • Spoofed when you first meet Flint Paper in Season 2 and ask him where he was during Season 1; he describes a case that exactly mirrors Sam and Max's adventures in Season One, and they still complain about missing it.
    • And the "epic battle" with Jurgen in "Night of the Raving Dead".
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The director in "Situation: Comedy" who's already in every studio Sam and Max enter, even if they've just come through the only door from the last place they saw her.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: In Culture Shock, Sam and Max track down the Big Bad Brady Culture and discover his hideout in an abandoned theater. Culture makes his entrance playing scary music on a pipe organ as he explains his backstory through monologue. He later kidnaps Max and keeps him in his lair, leading to this line when Sam rescues Max:
    Max: Sam! Boy, am I glad to see you! Johann Sebastian here only knows how to play one song.
  • One-Winged Angel - Subverted in "What's New Beelzebub." The Soda Poppers' demon forms is nothing more than changing to black clothes. The one whose costume changes the most berates the others for not trying.
  • Overly Long Gag: Max's Comical Overreacting when he's pretending to die during the climax of "The Mole, The Mob and The Meatball". Hammered in by the villain of the story attempting to speak several times only to get interrupted by the fact that Max isn't even finished. It ends with the villain admitting that he was just about to tell Sam to shoot Max again.
  • Overused Running Gag: Spelled out visually in this gag.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: "Hey, guys! It's me, Bosco!"—who was disguised as someone from France, England, Russia, a half-elf and EVEN HIS OWN MOTHER in the 1st season alone.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": In "The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball", "swordfish" is Sam's first guess at the Toy Mafia's password (for once, though, it isn't).
    • Later played straight with passwords that are just as bad in later episodes. In "Reality 2.0", Sam & Max have to find the password to Bosco's. They soon find out the password is "Bosco", which itself is a reference.
    • In "Chariots of The Dogs", the duo discover a numbered keypad in Bosco's place and need to find the a code to enter into it in order to open a secret room. Max suggests typing in "8008135" (Which is boobies typed in numbers) just for laughs, but Sam suggests finding out the real code rather than just press random buttons. Take a guess at what the code is.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Strangely enough, Sam and Max have absolutely no problem at all getting as much money as they need; but for some reason, they prefer to live in obvious poverty, despite Max actually being the President. This might not be a huge issue for them, though, as they never bother to pay bills or rent.
  • Person of Mass Destruction:
    • Max, explicitly called the most violent force in the universe by Season 1's Big Bad.
    • He and Sam have an entire wing of Hell devoted to them and the people they've been involved in the deaths of, even those they didn't even know they were responsible for such as Grandpa Stinky.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Bosco's paranoia ultimately stems from his mother's grudge against a mysterious store-vandal — who happens to be Bosco himself that used the time traveling elevator belonging to T.H.E.M and traveled to that time. This silly misunderstanding costs the son his sanity and the mother her life.
  • The Power of Friendship: Sam's personal hell is a world without Max (and where Peepers is his sidekick).
    Sam: Sorry Satan. Your demon impostor was no match for the true power of friendship and cooperation.
    Max: Plus, I ripped out his kidneys.
  • President Evil: Max, if not outright evil, is at best a sociopathic Chief Executive completely unconcerned with human life, his term marked by giant robot uprisings and a three-way civil war in the Dakotas. Following his inauguration, Max Impeachment Weekly becomes a regular publication (which Max looks forward to each week).
  • Product Placement:
    • Parodied hilariously in Night of the Raving Dead with an episode of Midtown Cowboys that's not much more than a glorified commercial.
    • Also a part of a puzzle in Situation Comedy; Sam and Max have to improvise an episode for Midtown Cowboys that has to include Max saying the tagline for the network's sponsor.
  • Production Throwback:
    • Leonard Steakcharmer previously appeared, sans moustache, in Telltale Texas Hold'Em under the name "Boris Krinkle", in which one possible line of dialogue has the character of Grandma telling him that he looks more like a 'Leonard Steakcharmer'."
    • Naturally, when you first meet Leonard in The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball, you get the option to say he looks more like a Boris Krinkle. The poor guy can't win.
  • Psycho Supporter: Max is one for Hugh Bliss in Season 1.
  • Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: In The Bright Side of the Moon, only it's not a rabbit. (It's not Max, either.)
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The mariachis.
    • Satan, as well.
  • Rainbow Motif: Prismatology in general, but Hugh Bliss especially.
  • Randomized Title Screen: Title sequences end with the duo making some kind of gesture (high-five, "right back atcha", etc.) In the season finale, the sequence ends with Max pointing upward and the car flies to the moon. Then the following seasons use the couch gag from the comics.
  • A Rare Sentence: From the last act of "Bright Side of the Moon":
    Hugh Bliss: Hi! We're Hugh Bliss. We're a sentient colony of spacefaring bacteria!
    Sam: A sentence I was not expecting to hear today.
  • Red Herring: It's practically Girl Stinky's reason for existing.
    • In Situation: Comedy, you can bake something using a range of disgusting ingredients, but none of them matter, as all that's important is you make a cake, cover it with ketchup with Bosco's condiment dispenser, then feed it to Whizzer.
    • You can pick up an ink ribbon in Jurgen's castle in Night of the Raving Dead, but it doesn't do anything - its revealed in Chariot of the Dogs that it was just garbage Sam threw into the time stream.
    • The president's (evidently rather lewd) letter in Chariots of the Dogs is involved in two Red Herrings:
      • One, it's addressed to a "Maxine". By talking to Little Sam, you learn that girls like to dress Little Max up in their dolls' clothes, which sounds like useful information in the context. You also have access to time travel during the episode. Nothing comes of this setup - it's a remnant of an earlier version of the puzzle that involved getting Max Disguised in Drag so that his younger self would be attracted to him. note 
      • Two, you use it to finally make Superball spit so you can collect his DNA sample, only to find out it wasn't his DNA you needed.
  • Replacement Goldfish: At least one interaction with Mr. Spatula's water cooler refers to him as being literally this trope.
  • Retirony: Parodied during Max's "death scene" in "The Mole, the Mob and the Meatball"
  • Rule of Three: All over the place, most notably when it is lampshaded in "Moai Better Blues".
  • Running Gag:
    • The fake "based on" references in the title cards carried over from the comics.
    • To Bosco: "Do you have any...* insert random, nonsensical item here* ?"
      • "Nope."
    • "We killed your dog! =D"
    • "Superball!" *Whinny*
  • Saw a Woman in Half: In The Bright Side of the Moon; it's the "this is no trick" version.
  • Script Swap: With game show questions in Episode 102, cue cards in 104, and a list of swear words (replaced with a grocery list written on the same stationery) in 205.
  • Selective Memory: Inverted in Chariot of the Dogs. Sam and Max shouldn't be able to know about Superball erasing short-term memory in response to bringing up time travel, but it's the only way to make past Sam forget why he needs the Embarrassing Idol contract.
  • Self-Deprecation: Max had no idea vampires were so fruity. Now, three guesses who voiced Jurgen.
    • Examining the Drum in the office in Chariots of the Dogs will have Sam remark "Remember Easter Island? Yeah, me either." This would be innocuous, if not for the fans of the series receiving Moai Better Blues (the episode the Drum originated from) less warmly than the critics.
  • Shoot Your Mate: Played more or less straight in The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball, when Sam is ordered to shoot Max to test whether or not he's been hypnotized. In "Situation: Comedy", Max is supposed to pretend to shoot Sam as part of a television audition, but being Max he just pulls out a real gun and fires (luckily, Sam's hat has been made bulletproof).
  • Shout-Out: Lots of references to various works.
    • In Episode 101, Culture Shock, when Sam examines the coffee machine in Bosco's Inconvenience:
    Sam: I think it's the tinge of green that makes this coffee especially appealing.
    Max: I take my coffee green. Like my men!
    Max: I always thought Rush was the Queen of Canada.
    • In 201:
    • The boxing minigame is a full reference to Punch-Out!!; from the similar play style, the hard-as-all hell final opponent, and the theme music track "TKO"" deliberately sounds similar to the main fight tune.
    • In 202, the famous "Snake? SNAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!" line from the Metal Gear series can be heard on one of the radio stations.
    • In 203:
      • When you meet Superball at Stuttgart, saying his name prompts the whinnying of horses.
      • Once inside the Zombie Factory, you find a DJ's table (playing techno) which has buttons that cue a man's voice - one of which is Sub-Zero.
      • Several references to Resident Evil — the ink ribbon found in Stuttgart, Max will commenting about needing healing herbs after taking it, and the YOU ARE DEAD message after the duo is turned into zombies]].
    • In 204, Flint Paper says to Max "That may be, but are you a bad enough President to rescue that Dude?"
    • The Maimtron 9000 in 201 and 205, quotes far too many popular song lyrics to mention here.
    • The torn up drywall in their office, between the boarded up windows in Season 1 (Presumably season 2 as well) looks suspiciously like the Lucasarts logo.
  • Show Some Leg: Horrifyingly enough, done by Max as a distraction in the Season 2 finale:
    Sam: Max, distract Hugh Bliss for me!
    Max: Oh dear, I seem to be completely naked. I hope I don't have to bend over provocatively and—
    Sam: That's enough, Max.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Every chapter of season 1 involves Sam and Max dealing with a bigger mind-control conspiracy than the previous, starting off with brain-washing some washed-up TV actors, then moving up to gangsters, the Presidency, and even reality itself. The final chapter winds up with Hugh Bliss enacting his ultimate plan to remove all free will on Earth.
  • Spy Speak: Parodied in "The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball", where Sam is given a sign and countersign by which to recognise the mole, and the countersign is such an obvious response to the sign that one might expect him to get that response whether he's talking to the mole or not.
    • "Does the carpet match the drapes?" Interestingly, everyone takes it literally except the actual mole and Chuckles, who seems to interpret it as some sort of euphemism for carrying out a hit.
  • Stable Time Loop: Three of these in Season 2: One is Jimmy Two-Teeth's boxing glove and the disappearance of his wife in Episode 201, which turn out to be part of one big time-travel shenanigan, the second is the uncorked wine bottle, which enables Sam to eventually reach the part of the game where he uncorks it in the past, and the third is the remote-egg trade in Episodes 204 and 205. Meanwhile, Past Sam and Past Max explicitly are not part of a stable time loop, which is referenced again in 305.
  • Status Quo Is God: Averted in the Telltale games... every crazy thing that happens has lasting consequences, particularly anything involving Max's presidency and unilateral "giant battle robot-based" legislation.
    • Still, despite being Max the president he continues to live in their same building; this is Handwaved when he mentions that he had the Oval Office moved from the White House to Sam & Max's office.
  • Stealth Pun: In Moai Better Blues, Lincoln's head, who is dating Sybil, is attracted to one of the Moai heads once he crosses the Bermuda Triangle. Love Triangle?
    • In the same episode, basalt sandwiches have euphoric effects; those who eat them get... stoned.
    • In Night of the Raving Dead, giving Jurgen's Monster a stone brain has the same effect.
    • In Chariots of the Dogs, the aliens are revealed to be illegal aliens.
    • In the same episode, the incredibly gloomy Moai heads are used for their soul-crushing effect.
    • In "What's New, Beelzebub?", it's revealed that the DeSoto has a soul, and is forced to drive slowly for the rest of eternity. The only comments made are based around how the punishment is so torturous.a ghost resides in this here machine.
    • Lampshaded (if it's possible to lampshade a Stealth Pun) by Max when Sybil explains that she's still getting checks from being Queen of Canada.
    Max: Oh, ROYALTIES. I get it.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: When trying to crack the code on Bosco's laser grid keypad, Max suggests that Sam should make the display read "BOOBIES" for a lark. It turns out that the code actually is 5318008, much to Sam's chagrin.
  • Suck E. Cheese's: Ted E. Bear's Mafia-Free Playland and Casino
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Characters are frequently killed off, even if they were introduced in much earlier episodes.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Lampshaded and then hand-waved in "Moai Better Blues"; apparently Sam, learning from a near-death experience (probably the Cleansing Bath from the Season 1 finale), has modified his tie into an aqualung, while Max is amphibious.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Ted E. Bear's Mafia-Free Playland and Casino. A sample verse from their theme song:
    Ted E. Bear's is oodles of fun
    Slots and sandwiches and tokens and guns
    And look, no mobsters, nary a one
    Just you and me and Ted E. Bear!
    No mafia, no (No mafia mugs!)
    We're mafia free (No mafia here!)
    What mafia? Please!
    No shady leaves upon the family tree!
  • Symbol Swearing: And don't forget the writing lessons of Timmy Two-Teeth in "What's New, Beelzebub?"
  • Take That!:
    • In 'Reality 2.0', while examining a ballet poster:
    Sam: Ferret Lake.
    Max: Ooh, sequels are always more beloved than the originals!
    Sam: *with emphasis* Yes. Yes they are.
    • Also, the jab at John Romero in "Night of the Raving Dead"
      • There's also one to Micheal Bay films in the same episode.
    • In "Moai Better Blues", there are "crates full of video games about crates" depicting an oddly familiar muscular action hero with sunglasses... and the initials "D.N.E."note 
    • If you try to use a computer in What's New, Beelzebub?:
    Sam: I don't know how to work it. Computers in hell all run... Linux.
  • The Three Trials: Happens often enough in the Telltale Games adventures that the duo catch on and start lampshading it.
  • Time Travel: "Chariots of the Dogs" in spades.
  • Title Drop: The earliest is Episode 4 of the first season:
    • Later on in the same episode, Sybil spray paints this over her store window.
    Max: I'm the president of the U.S! Let's go bomb someone into oblivion.
    Sam: Not just anyone, Max... Abe Lincoln must die!
    • Done by Max in What's New, Beelzebub?
    • Sam also title drops What's New, Beelzebub?, although he does it a whole season later when meeting Satan again.
  • Totally Not a Criminal Front: Ted E. Bear's Mafia-Free Playland And Casino.
    Theme song: "No mafia here (What mafia? Please!) We're mafia free (No mafia here) (No mafia mugs) Just doin' business legitimately!"
  • Trouser Space: During a brief body swap in "Night of the Raving Dead", Sam's first comment (in Max's body) was "So that's where you keep your gun!", which implies Max has the gun somewhere on his person, raising this as a possibility.
  • True Companions: Sam and Max form one just between the two of them. They will do anything for each other; they live and work together, they're utterly inseparable, and they will always protect each other.
  • Un-Cancelled: Season 1 is effectively this to the cancelled LucasArts sequel, which also would have been the series' jump to 3D.
  • Unconventional Food Order: Sam and Max love placing bizarre orders at Meesta Pizza and Stinky's Diner, just to Troll the staff. Both restaurants are oddly nonplussed ("He [Meesta Pizza] said toppings are extra, and they're all out of entrails"), while Stinky's exact response varies depending on the game. In Beyond Time and Space, Girl Stinky relays the orders to offscreen cook Sal in humorous Hash House Lingo, but in The Devil's Playhouse, she blows them off completely.
Sam: Meesta Pizza? I want an extra large thick crust with one half peanut butter and passion fruit, the other half with watermelon ONLY. Do you want cheesy dingles, Max?
  • Unexplained Recovery/Disney Death: In episode 101, Max drops Jimmy out the window to his (presumed) death. He later re-appears in their office unharmed. However, despite being able to survive falling out a window, Jimmy thinks he can attempt suicide by jumping off their office building (from about the same height, slightly less in fact) in 201 (though he claims he was bluffing when Sam and Max reunite him with his wife).
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: Sam and Max do this to Jimmy Two Teeth in Culture Shock.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Done a lot, not just with the main characters, but nobody questions how Hugh Bliss can change color? Even magic can't excuse that!
  • Vampires Own Night Clubs: Jurgen's Zombie Factory.
  • Very Special Episode: Sam and Max are supposed to film one of those for Midtown Cowboys in "Night of the Raving Dead", but it turns out to be an excuse for Product Placement.
  • Viewers Are Morons: Spoofed. The otherwise ordinary-looking apartment set on Midtown Cowboys has a potted cactus in front of the window to remind viewers that the main characters (who are, naturally, the apartment's tenants) are "cowboys."
  • Villain Decay:
    • Whilst he's far from being a heavyweight villain, in Harry Moleman's first appearance he's still the Big Bad of that episode, and has managed to take over the Toy Mafia. In his next appearance he's still vaguely annoying, as he will attempt to stop you from getting an item you need, in addition to working for Hugh Bliss. But from then on, Harry Moleman more or less becomes the series' Butt-Monkey.
    • Jurgen is in a similar boat, In his first appearance he's a loser but a dangerous loser who manages to beat Sam & Max in a fight and kill them and it took them possessing Jurgen's Monster to beat him. Every appearance since has made him even more of a joke.
    • In general, this happens to all of the villains when they reappear in later episodes, going from a threat to an annoyance at best.
  • Villain Song: The Time Mariachi's song in "Chariots of the Dogs". It's subverted, because they're pretty nice, and they're only sending souls of the dead to help fund their operation to sing birthday songs.
  • Visual Pun: Several. One of the better ones is the slot machine in the casino that is a literal one-armed bandit. And that's not just decorative; it outright steals your money!
  • The War Room: In Episode 104.
  • Weaponized Landmark: The Lincoln Memorial — and the Intercontinental Ballistic Washington Monument — from "Abe Lincoln Must Die!"
  • Welcome to Corneria: Though it usually takes a couple of clicks on someone for this to happen. It is totally worth it to hear what the people say.
    • Cuddly Bear from The Mole, the Mob and the Meatball parodies this trope as his only response to just about any dialogue tree choice is "Wanna play cards?" You need to read his mind to find out he's capable of thinking something other than that.
  • We Sell Everything: Bosco's store throughout the Telltale series.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: Sam's response to Max getting his bliss separated.
    • Players' reactions to Max in this state varied. Some found him annoying and unfunny, while others giggled like a maniac at blissed-out Max.
      Max: We can plant a tree! Or teach a child to read! Or teach a tree to read! Yaaaaaaay!
      Max: Can we read to the blind, Sam? Can we?
      Max: I don't need my earthly stomach any more, Sam. I'm on Hugh Bliss's cleansing fast of water, lemon, and sunshine!
  • Wham Line: Played for Laughs at the very end of Ice Station Santa; pretty much the entire episode has either played straight or parodied pretty much every trope associated with An Ass-Kicking Christmas, but Sam and Max's final exchange as they drive off, supposedly to deliver the presents, manages to put a hilarious final spin on everything:
    Sam: Hey Max, do you think we should have waited for them to load the presents before we drove off?
    Max: What's the rush, Sam? It's the middle of November!
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Comedic Sociopathy is the hammer. Almost every solution requires that someone, usually a blameless bystander, will be hurt, terrorized, humiliated or inconvenienced.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: When Flint Paper debuts in Season 2, he mentions offhand that he was busy fighting a huge conspiracy that involved the movie biz, reanimated Grover Cleveland, a sentient cell phone network, and ended with him fighting a cult leader on Saturn's largest moon. This is practically the exact plot of Season 1, but Max still says he wishes he could go on cool adventures like that.
  • Stock Scream: Wilhelm Scream: After Sam gives Baby Jimmy Hoffa a cup of water from the Fountain of Youth causing him to vanish from existance.
  • The Worm That Walks: Season 1 Big Bad Hugh Bliss, a colony of space-faring sentient... Bacteriaaaaaa!
  • Worst. Whatever. Ever!: In Season 1, Episode 5 ('Reality 2.0') dirty rat Jimmy Two-Teeth has set himself up in Bosco's Inconvenience Store as an Arms Merchant, but refuses to sell his only product (a miniature cannon) to the Freelance Police:
    Sam: Worst. Arms dealer. Ever.
  • Yandere: Max, to an extent. He will tear your goddam kidneys out rather than let you spend time with Sam in his stead.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: The second half of Episode 201 involves Sam and Max convincing the three Ghosts of Christmas to help them. They'll only be willing to do so if the duo agree to "fix" mistakes they've done in Christmas Past, Present and Future.
  • You Can't Get Ye Flask: Lampshaded at the end of the Reality 2.0 episode with the golden idol.
  • Your Mom: You break Leonard's will in Episode 103 with a barrage of "yo mama" jokes.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: Justified in that Sam has done more innocent things than guessing Bosco's keycode and has gotten a concussion for it.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Played straight with zombies in Episode 203, though no one seems to care.

Alternative Title(s): Sam And Max Save The World, Sam And Max Beyond Time And Space



Sam and Max's reaction to Santa eating the demon turned gelatin.

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