(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Sam and Max Hit the Road. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)
One of the reasons that I love doing these retro gaming series is that it’s giving me a perfect excuse to make up for omissions of the past. I didn’t play every PC game that came down the line, even the “classic” ones, and LucasArts’ Sam and Max Hit the Road is one of the glaring gaps in my gaming resumé. So knowing very little other than that this bizarre adventure game stars a talking dog detective and a talking manic rabbit, let’s dive into this 1993 title!
Without any warning or explanation, the pre-credits scene opens with a mad scientist about to fry a three-time date who’s just not into him. Cue Sam and Max crashing through the wall and decapitating the scientist (don’t worry, he’s a robot). Already I can tell that one of the trademarks of this game is the fast-talking back-and-forth chatter between the two, which reminds me somewhat of Dragnet. I’m sure that’s on purpose.
Anyway, this is the final bit of their current mission, so after the credit sequence, Sam and Max — freelance police — return to their rundown office.
Almost immediately, the phone rings, and the two have a brief struggle to get to it first (Sam wins by throwing Max out the window). The two obviously have a good working relationship, but that’s not going to get in the way of some good old fashioned cartoon-on-cartoon violence!
Already I’m loving the mouse-driven cursor. In particular, the eye icon closes when you’re hovering over nondescript items and it opens when the characters have something to say about an object or person.
Another thing I like is that Sam isn’t the tsk-tsk type of straight-laced partner I’d expect. When Max does violence, Sam either quips about it, ignores it, or approves of it. I guess they’ve been buddies for a while.
Max extracts their current orders from the throat of a small cat, and away the two go to investigate something weird happening at the local carnival.
How cool is this travel map? By the looks of it, Sam and Max’s office is in South Carolina(ish) and the carnival is up in Maine(ish). That’s a bit of a drive!
But what’s a road trip if you don’t take a rest stop along the way? There are a few Snuckey’s to investigate, with Max whining to go to the bathroom and cruddy knockoff Sam and Max merch lining the shelves. The stained glass donut in the window is a work of art that I wish I had in my own house.
Eventually, the Freelance Police arrive at the carnival, where they discover that the tent of freaks is missing its star attraction — Bruno Bigfoot — as well as the giraffe-necked girl. The mission? The glorious task? The questiest of all quests? To find and retrieve them both!
What I really wish here is that I could properly convey the rather clever and wordy dialogue that provides the backbone of the humor here. I’m listening to all of the characters talk not because I solely need information to solve puzzles from them, but because it’s witty and weird and hilarious.
I’m not normally one for minigames in adventure games, but this Wak-A-Rat thing is pretty easy — and fun! Bonus points to the devs for letting Sam hit Max on the head while playing.