Game: Sam & Max Hit the Road
Sam & Max Hit the Road is based on a series of comic books by Steve Purcell (who also wrote and designed the game), about a dog and a rabbit who work as Freelance Police. But these aren’t your usual cute animal characters. They’re cute psychopathic animal characters. Max is a “hyperkinetic rabbity thing” with a love of violence, which he would prefer to use as the solution to everything. Sam is a laid-back dog, who remains calm and deadpan whatever is going on at the time. They seem to have a complete disregard of anything but themselves, and together they come up with some of the best, most bizarre comedy ever put into a computer game.
S&M (maybe that isn’t the best abbreviation to use…) is a traditional point and click adventure game from Lucasarts, from their classic adventure period. It removes the standard inventory and verb choice that filled the bottom part of the screen in their earlier games, so now the actual game graphics fill the entire screen, with only a small inventory button in the lower left corner. In order to select what you want to do, you now right click to cycle through the various actions to get to the one you want. It works fairly well, as there aren’t too many different actions anyway, but it can become annoying if you click past the one you want and have to cycle through them all again.
The storyline is about a bigfoot that goes missing from a carnival sideshow, along with a giraffe-necked woman. Sam and Max have to track them down. That’s the general premise of the game, although the actual plot is basically just there for the characters to be insane around. On the way they’ll visit such bizarre locations as the world’s largest ball of twine and the bizarre Mystery Vortex, where the laws of physics don’t apply. The comments the main characters make about everything you examine are often hilarious.
Graphically, the game has dated, as can be expected from something released in 1993. However, the cartoon style of it means that it is only really the low resolution that is holding the game back, and the more recent releases of the game include an updated executable that let it run at a slightly higher resolution and with anti-aliasing, which improves things. The executable can be found on the internet to use with older versions too.
The puzzles are just about what you’d expect from a game like this. They’re fun to solve, and make sense, in their own twisted sort of way. Quite often, they’re more violent than your usual adventure game solutions, but it’s a cartoony sort of violence. It’s this brilliantly psychotic attitude that the characters have that makes up most of the humour and the puzzles fit in with this theme. There are also a few minigames included, although they’re unessential to the main game. For example, it’s possible to purchase a Sam and Max Car Bomb game, which is a more bad taste version of Battleships, with the ability to drop a limited number of nukes each game to destroy a whole bunch of squares at the same time.
Ultimately, it’s not the very best adventure that Lucasarts made. It doesn’t quite match the overall quality of the Monkey Island series, and the puzzles aren’t quite up there with Day of the Tentacle. But that’s just holding it up to the company’s own incredibly high standards. Sam and Max still ranks as one of the best adventure games of its time, or any time, and is well worth playing. It’s well written, very funny and enjoyable the whole way through.
Graphics: Nice for the time of release, dated now, although the cartoony style helps a little. A low score, but it’s to be expected with a game of this age.
Sound: Great voice acting, good music and appropriately cartoony sound effects. Not much to fault here.
Bugs: Nothing that I noticed.
Gameplay: Typical adventure game puzzle gameplay. Puzzles were generally fair and fun to solve.
Storyline/Dialogue: Not a complex storyline, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s just silly over the top fun, with the focus being on hilarious dialogue.
Arbitrary Final Score:
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