#245 Sam and Max Hit the Road

Posted: 6th October 2011 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

90th game played so far

Genre: Adventure
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1993
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts

Take a smart-alec talking dog. Add a homicidial rabbit. Have them solve crime – preferably as violently and destructive as possible. Add to that plenty of (at times crude) humour, and you get Sam & Max. Starting off as comic books, this game was made in 1993, while a few years later a TV series followed.

The game covered here is one of the LucasArts classics, Sam & Max Hit the Road, a proper adventure games – fun, tough, but never impossible. The series was revived over a decade later with a seperate episodic set by Telltale Games. I’ll mention a bit about those later, but for now let’s look at this point and click adventure classic.

Our Thoughts

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve played, and finished, this game before, so I was biased before we played this game… and was mostly used as a human hints book. I have no idea how far I would have gotten without you as my personal FAQ since some of the puzzle solutions involve both lateral thinking and insanity. I think insanity applies to more than just puzzle solutions in this game though.

This is truly an old style adventure game where you talk about everything with everyone, try every item on every bit of the room and attempt everything you can. It is the first point-and-click adventure that we have covered for the blog and, with the exception of Broken Sword, my first classic adventure game. With experience you learn to check every item in the room to see if you can speak, look, use, bake, lick or take it. When you are a genre beginner this causes a lot of back-tracking to find an item that, despite looking useless, is instrumental in the game. It’s even worse when you don’t realise what you are looking for or why. One of the rules of this game is, of course, that nothing is ever useless. It may take a while before you see its use, but it’s worth taking anyway. That’s the nice things about having galaxy-sized pockets. (I missed those in Guild Wars. Different genre but thought it was worth the plug.)

The story doesn’t become clear straight away – part of it is obviously figuring out what’s going on, as is proper in any detective story – but it’s easy to see that you have to find out where a group of frozen yetis (recently freed) have gone to, and why a famous country singer is chasing him. You also need to chase after a former circus freak who has run off with one of the Bigfoots claiming it was the love of her life. It’s weird, twisted and what you would expect from the guys at LucasArts, or rather Steve Purcell, the creator of Sam & Max. An expert in the art of bonkers which makes me want to re-watch the television series.

Since the game is completely weird it is lucky that the writers had such a wicked sense of humour which is thickly spread on every inch of the screen. It isn’t even one form of humour either; there’s dry wit, slapstick, absurdism, wordplay and most other types you can think of. It’s something that pervades all aspects of the game as well – not just the writing, also the graphical design, include the animations, as well as sounds at times. It’s hard not to be humorous when you are stuck in a giant fibreglass fish and being flown across the country at the assistance of a chopper.

The true star and focus of this is Max. While Sam is the straight man, funny but focused, Max is outrageous, suggesting violence as the only possible solution and if he’s not threatening physical abuse, he’s taking it from Sam… taking it with a smile and enjoying himself as he does it. In other games it might seem wrong, and the bunny would be the cute one, but here it’s just slapstick enough to be funny at every turn. I think the razor sharp teeth and fuzzy exterior may help there. And while you’d think it troubling if he looked serious, he’s just so cute that you want to cuddle him… assuming he’s not holding a knife first. I’d also require a muzzle and a sedative. My point still stands.

The thing is that no game from 1993 stands up to modern standards. The MIDI sound is tinny and repetitive and the graphics are stylised but unsophisticated. However, you never play games for purely aesthetic reasons and since it boasts a great sense of humour, hard puzzles and a bonkers plot you continue to play on despite how dated a lot of the things are. Sam & Max Hits The Road stands as one of the great point-and-click adventure duos and have since reclaimed their title as the best in their recent 3D adventures, where Max’s teeth are now disturbingly sharp. It is a true classic of the genre… just remember to have GameFAQs open in a separate window because you will get stuck.

Final Thoughts

This is one of great LucasArts games, from when they were at their peak. If you ask me, this, together with the still upcoming Day of the Tentacle, is their true peak, in humour and puzzle values. There are more that I haven’t played yet (and am looking forward to), but that’s still forthcoming. For that reason alone, this game is worth spending some time on, to see what it is and why, how fun it is.

Add to that the wild setting, story and especially characters, and you get a game you’ll find very hard to put down. Well, maybe for a bit, but the puzzles will keep luring you in. After all, how do you get that mood ring again…?

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