Providing a story more mind-boggling than the sheer fact that Telltale are able to churn out these adventure games at such an alarming rate, Sam & Max's third-outing is actually their first on the PS3. While franchise in-jokes may be lost on newcomers, The Penal Zone does a good enough job of throwing you straight into the action and laughs so as not to exclude you. Chalk that one up to Telltale.
The Penal Zone starts out with Sam & Max trapped in a cell, as General Skunka'pe — incidentally a giant space gorilla — trounces planet Earth in a giant monkey-faced space-craft. It's all a vision of the future however, as one of Sam & Max's newest mechanics allows Max to become a visionary. This means you're able to solve puzzles by seeing their end result, making the game more about filling the middle to a pre-determined end. Don't think that giving away "solutions" makes Sam & Max any easier though — as any adventure game you'll still end up trying to combine Vacation Tickets to Bazookas in the hope that something will bloody well happen.
Perhaps we're too stupid, but that's still our biggest problem with The Penal Zone and adventure games in general. Sometimes the logic feels so far detached, you haven't a hope in Hell solving the puzzles the game throws at you.
Aside from future vision, Sam & Max's other new mechanic, Teleportation, may seem like a bit of a gimmick at first. Stick with it though and you'll figure how it factors rather cleverly into some challenging puzzles. They're super satisfying once you get them. The Penal Zone really nails that "ah-hah" moment.
We couldn't help but feel like the whole thing was a little dragged out though. There are numerous character cameos, which are nice if you're a fan of the franchise, but they just feel unneccessary. As a result, the episode feels a bit long, and it sags in the middle. There are some good mechanics in The Penal Zone, and the conclusion's pretty clever, but we hope to see a bit more focus in the future episodes of Season 3. Still, it's a good start.