This review is part of the “Let’s Adventure!” series. See all reviewed games sorted by rating here.
Sam & Max Hit the Road is a graphic adventure video game released by LucasArts, based on the comic characters of Sam and Max, the “Freelance Police”, an anthropomorphic dog and “hyperkinetic rabbity thing”. The characters, created by Steve Purcell, originally debuted in a 1987 comic book series. Based on the 1989 Sam & Max comic On the Road, the duo take the case of a missing bigfoot from a nearby carnival, traveling to many American culture tourist sites to solve the mystery.
LucasArts really set the tone for their adventure games with Maniac Mansion as having excellent writing, character development, pacing and elements of humor injected throughout. Sam & Max appeals to a slightly more mature audience as there are a lot of pop culture references and excessive cartoon violence that appeals to the 13+ crowd … as well as nostalgic middle aged men :P
The plot follows our heros - the freelance police - on a trek across America to solve the mystery of the disappearing sasquatch(es). The story unfolds across multiple locations where you interact with various characters via a menu system used to select topics via pictograms.
Unlike some adventure games the number of topics you can discuss with most characters is extremely limited. This helps to keep you from going down endless dead ends like you’d find in games such as Cruise for a Corpse, where endless backtracking and growing topic lists make plot advancement tedious.
In addition to interacting with a handful of characters, you also have to collect a number of items to satisfy various fetch quests. Several times throughout the game you’ll find yourself having to combine multiple items to complete a certain task, and though this can be difficult the game will drop enough hints to steer you in the right direction.
Combine tar, mammoth hair and a toupee … boom … instant bigfoot costume!
Game progression is pretty linear, and though there are some mildly frustrating item combination puzzles, overall the difficulty here is low. You can’t get yourself into an unwinnable situation nor can you miss an item you can’t circle back for later. This is typical of all LucasArts adventures though so I’m really only calling it out for consistency.
This minigame is pretty stupid and just feels forced
A couple mini-games are included, with the most annoying being the highway jump/duck game. I don’t really get what the point is or if there’s any repercussion to failing, but you have to slog through this before you can take the highway to explore additional locations on the map. Honestly this may be an optional mini-game … all I know is I played it once, hated it and never played it again :P
To navigate between game locations you select them from a map of the USA. There are only a handful of locations you need to explore, and most require backtracking to gather info or items. Each location is pretty small - maybe 3-5 “screens” - but they all share a goofy cartoonish style that makes exploring them enjoyable.
The only real “issue” I ran into while playing this game was getting stuck while on the view finder and the cleaning robot’s brain. Both times I didn’t realize you could exit out of the view by clicking the left/right mouse buttons at the same time. Since I was playing on a Macbook the touchpad wasn’t registering these button presses so I really thought there was an issue with ScummVM.
I ended up just remapping the mouse buttons to keyboard keys (in ScummVM) at which point everything worked as expected.
Click left/right to exit … or wait forever …
This game is a lot of fun if you enjoy a good story. The comedic undertones of every interaction made the character and plot development a lot more enjoyable and the lack of dead ends and plentiful clues set a good pace. Though there were some weird item combinations to deal with, it didn’t feel at any point like the game was throwing meaningless puzzles your way just to pad things out. It’s a pretty short game with not too many locations to visit and a plot that progresses in a linear fashion.
Although the graphics are a bit dated at this point, I don’t think anyone picking up this title today wouldn’t enjoy the experience. I would definitely recommend this title to anyone looking for a casual adventure game to pick up and sink a couple hours into.
The end credits are interactive and let you shoot the dolls like you would at a carnival … fun!
|Game||Sam & Max Hit the Road|
|Release Date||November 1993|
|Systems||DOS, Mac OS, Windows, Amiga|
|How Long To Beat?||5.5 hours|
|Version Played||DOS via ScummVM|
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