Go back to Sam and Max Hit The Road

Written by: Stoo

Date posted: December 23, 2008

For almost as long as this site has existed, we’ve intended on doing second opinions on each others reviews. The feature has been somewhat under-used though. Largely because in some cases our interests don’t really overlap (and I’m not insisting Rik slog his way through an early 90s RPG). And when they do, as in the case of adventures, sometimes I can’t find a lot more to say other than “yeah I agree.”

So in this case, er, “yeah I agree”. I’d never played Sam and Max before, but I could easily see why so many people love it.

The game is a kind of surreal trip through the tacky roadside attractions of America, visiting the smalltown weirdness between the big cities. So we have the world’s largest ball of twine, a museum of vegetables shaped like people’s faces and… a mysterious vortex inhabited by a burned out ex-hippy of a moleman. The mission meanwhile: to find a missing bigfoot.

Your guides to this are a likeable pair, which is essential to a really good adventure. Sam manages an air of casual calm that never falls to what might be the easy path of constant deadpan snarking. Max in turn could have been some kind of awful scrappy-doo esque type, but is actually cute in a sociopathic way. I think what helps is that for all his ferocity he’s not indestructable – both Sam and Max get decked several times by the antagonist’s burly bodyguard. And between them, they certainly get some great lines.

So the game is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, just kind of ridiculous in a cheerful manner. It wants you to come along for the ride and discover something silly along with our heroes. Then enjoy stretching your mind a bit while Max scampers around and pokes gleefully at something sharp and dangerous. It’s that kind of “hey, come have fun!” feel that made Lucasarts games so enjoyable, especially as opposed to other adventures with their bash-your-head puzzles or threat of “you died, restart\reload?”

The level of challenge did feel a bit higher than other Lucas games to me, unless my mind has just been slowed by a long year and winding down for christmas. It’s not crazy-hard though, solutions aren’t stupidly frustrating. Also I like how it’s not one of those games that funnels you from one set-piece to another; you’ll move back and forth between different locations (on your ever-expanding map screen) to put together solutions.

It’s not quite my favourite of the Lucas Stable. The ending felt a bit weak to me – something we could say for a lot of games, but usually not Lucas ones. While the game starts off as a detective story (even a wackily surreal one), then becomes a rescue mission, it ends off as a bit of a random item-hunt, leading to a conclusion that comes out of nowhere.

So Day of the Tentacle – which has a similar flavour of ridiculous – remains my own personal favourite. Still, Sam and Max remains one of the top adventures, and anyone who ever enjoyed the traditional point-and-clickers should have a look if, like me, they missed it first time around. I just hope LucasArts get their acts together and put their games on some sort of digital distribution service, so more of us can buy our own copy of these classics, something I’m sure most people reading this would be willing to do.