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MODmonday: Sketchbook Sam

While Xbox 360 and PS3 users have worked themselves into a veritable tizzy over downloadable content, PC users have been accustomed to having the lifeline of their favorite games extended far past their in-the-box values since the days of Doom - and even before that. What's more, we're used to downloading new levels, weapons, characters, and new episodes absolutely free of charge.

Big Download understands that a five-hour game can be extended by hundreds of hours via total conversions, brand new monsters, and weapons you've always wanted to see in your favorite title. In the spirit of extending a title's longevity beyond mere out-of-the-box expectations, MODmonday celebrates the best modifications for games new and old. Half-Life, Half-Life 2, StarCraft, Diablo II, Doom and more will all be represented here, ensuring a wide spread of mods available across every possible genre of PC gaming.

This week's MODmonday modification is Sketchbook Sam, a total conversion of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne that casts players in the role of a two-dimensional stick figure. Stay tuned to MODmonday over the next several weeks as we count down until the release of the Max Payne movie on October 16 by covering some of the best mods for Max Payne and Max Payne 2.

Mod: Sketchbook Sam
Developer: Tommi Saalasti
Type: Single-player
Download Link
Required Game: Max Payne 2

Installation Instructions:
- Download Sketchbook Sam.
- Unzip the contents of the zip file into your Max Payne 2 folder.

Running the Mod:
- Select "sketchbook_sam" from the Choose Customized Game tab.
- Start the game.

Browse the MODmonday Archive



Some mods seem a perfect fit for certain games. True Matrix, which adds elements of the Matrix movies into Max Payne, was a natural selection for Remedy Entertainment's noir shooter: bullet-time, action, guns (lots of guns)... True Matrix simply built upon the foundation shared by a game that was strong all on its own, and a movie franchise that had continually failed to produce a decent video game experience.

Sketchbook Sam, modification developed by Tommi Saalasti, converts Max Payne 2 into a two-dimensional platformer with stick figure graphics. Does Max Payne 2 seem the most logical game for such a genre to exist? No. But that sort of unorthodox choice is part of what makes Sketchbook Sam enjoyable, and rather buggy.

Sam operates using mechanics found in every platformer since Mario skyrocketed to fame: jump on enemies heads to defeat them, hop from platform while moving from left to right, and search up, down and all around for secrets.

Because platform games don't exactly control well using a keyboard, Sam's control scheme is quite different from most platformers and is in fact similar to the "tank" setting used in Resident Evils of old. Press W to move forward, S to move back, and turn by moving the mouse. It takes some time to get used to, especially because Sam doesn't immediately turn but rotates gracefully or rapidly depending on how quickly you flick your mouse to and fro.

It won't take you long to adapt to the funky 2D controls, but unfortunately, the controls never really adapt to you. The slightest mouse movement causes Sam to pivot whether grounded or in midair, which means that you'd better make sure you're facing in the proper direction when you jump -- if Sam is slightly askew, your momentum will be reduced to almost nothing, and your jump will likely end in tragedy.

The slow rotation was likely incorporated so that using the mouse to whirl about felt more fluid, but the result is an attempt for Sam to jump in the exact direction he's facing. Since everything in Sketchbook Sam occurs on a 2D plane, this is unnecessary at best, frustrating at worst.

Making the experience more aggravating is Sam's sudden loss of momentum while airborne. As any gamer even slightly versed in 2D platforming well knows, the faster you run before jumping, the further you'll leap. Heck, forget gaming, that's how reality functions. But not Sketchbook Sam. Sam astonishingly loses all momentum after hitting the apex of his jump, causing the stick-man to drop like a boulder -- and land in countless bottomless pits and vats of spikes.

Bugs tend to bring Sam to a stop even more abrupt than his curious lack of momentum. Touching objects will sometimes cause damage, but sometimes won't, leading me to either run headlong into something and get stung, or creep cautiously but walk away without a scratch. One stage features a bottomless pit that isn't so bottomless: after falling, I landed safely on an invisible platform that extended infinitely in both directions. Quickload was available to save my skin, but Sketchbook Sam's puzzling bugs dictate that you'll have to use it more than is necessary.

Sketchbook Sam is short, buggy, and adopts a rather curious approach to movement, but it is fun. Most players will finish it in less than 30 minutes, the first 10 of which will be spent cursing controls and bugs. Still, it's free, and isn't horrible experience in the least. Buy it, play it, and smile when you're finally comfortable in Sam's 2D skin.

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