|Developer:||LucasArts|||||Release Date:||1993|||||Systems:||DOS, Mac|
Today on Super Adventures, I'm finally getting a Sam & Max game onto my website! Took me long enough, though to be fair for the first few years of my site I was making more of an effort to stay clear of games I'd played before, and this I have definitely played before. It's probably the first PC game I ever owned in fact.
Sam & Max: Hit the Road is actually a licensed game, as the duo belong to former LucasArts artist Steve Purcell (he did the amazing box art for Monkey Islands both 1 and 2) and they had their own comic long before this. But you'd be forgiven for thinking they were owned by LucasArts, with the amount of sneaky appearances they've made in their earlier games; later games too, they're all over the damn place. I even teamed up with Max for a level in Jedi Knight. But Hit the Road was their very first starring role in a video game, and for a long while it seemed like it was going to be their last.
I'm going to be playing the CD version through ScummVM, which should be pretty much identical to what you'd find on GOG.com these days. There actually was a floppy disk release too, which surprises me because I can't imagine the game without voices, and even more shockingly it only came on seven 3.5" disks! The PC version of Monkey Island 2 came on five and this has to have more than 3MB extra art and animation in it, surely.
This might actually be the first time I've played the game with subtitles on, and it's so weird to be able to see for sure what his lines are meant to be. I mean I've seen this enough times now to be able to recite it from memory, but he's got a thick 'mad scientist' accent going on and I've never been entirely convinced I interpreted them correctly.
Don't worry, they're not actually leading to a romance between this remarkably undistressed damsel and half of our crime-fighting duo. I mean the game is about a cross-species relationship, but it doesn't involve any of the folks in this room.
By the way, the pale naked rabbit with a face like a shark is Max and the well dressed canine in the fedora is Sam.
If you're wondering, the music right now kind of sounds like it's from TIE Fighter. No seriously, have a YouTube link, listen for yourself.
Might have been an remote controlled avatar or LMD to stand in for the real scientist, might have been the actual guy's mind downloaded into a robot body, I guess we'll never know or care.
I'm not going to say that's the best intro in the entire history of PC games... but I kinda want to. I loved it the first time I ever saw it and I still love it now.
Cut to the credits.
TIE Fighter too now that I think about it.
Here have a link to the theme tune so you can hear them do what they do: YouTube link. Warning: it's jazz.
This is a low resolution DOS game by the way, so the screenshots come out in an 8:5 ratio and it's meant to be displayed in 4:3, but I ain't going to mutilate these beautiful pixels by stretching them.
Except for this next shot which I'll stretch as an example:
|Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (MS-DOS)|
But Hit the Road is the game that finally ended that tradition, removing the verbs and hiding the inventory.
Actually there's nothing typical about that icon on the bottom left; is that meant to be some kind of squidgy toy or something?
|(Lines only vaguely point to the right month, especially for the earlier games.)|
Fun fact: this list also doubles as a gallery of some of the best box art of the early 90s (sorry Indy, but you don't come close to making the grade). In fact I feel kind of guilty for reducing them to a tiny mess of pixels. It's... disrespectful.
Toonstruck-style icons! I get why they did this, because it means the jokes appear in conversation rather than being listed out beforehand, but it doesn't make me feel like much of a participant. Instead of reading through a list of dumb responses and jokes, weighing up my options and deciding what line I want to say, I just click through all of them and listen to everything the writers came up with.
Apparently the folks at LucasArts came to the same conclusion as me, as their later games like Full Throttle, Grim Fandango and Curse of Monkey Island went back to the original dialogue system.
You know, this game's a couple of decades old at this point, and I still have no idea why there's a duck on my conversation screen.
I know my rules box on the right side of the website says that I never check manuals, but I already read this booklet a decade or so ago, so the damage is done. Also it's not a manual it's a 'Crimestompers' Coloring Book'.
|Click the photograph to make it readable!|
There's even a thrill-packed and completely unrelated official boardgame in the center pages so you can have all the fun of a road trip without all that tedious car business. Though the book assures me that it works just fine in a car too, reading the licence plates off passing traffic and using the last digit in place of dice rolls.
Max is actually a helpful sidekick to have around; a bit like Joey the robot in Beneath a Steel Sky, except violent instead of whiny. Though he spends most of his time following Sam and chiming in whenever he examines something.
By the way, see that shop in the background? Not the Really Bad Food one, the other one. That's Bosco's shop and I hear he's all over the Telltale sequels. In this one though, not so much. To the best of my recollection he's never seen or even heard in this, not even if you send Max in there to beat up a thief.
Hang on, I'm no expert on the geography of the USA, but I'm pretty sure that if that carnival was any further north it'd be in Canada. I know Sam and Max are Freelance Police, but I figured they'd at least be operating in the same state. This is going to be a 400 mile drive (or 1000 miles if I stop for a burger on the way).
LATER, AT THE CARNIVAL.
Conroy Bumpus on the left is the game's main antagonist, though we don't know that yet. He's just someone leaving the carnival as we're arriving. And we'll have to be leaving soon too if I can't figure out a way to convince this fire-breathing security guard that we're here on business.
I kind of regret having that text on top of my nice clean inventory screenshot, but I guess there's nothing nice or clean about this inventory box. Also I get why they use a cardboard box to carry all their stuff around, but why do they their keep their different cursors in there too... along with the inventory box itself?
Anyway, handing the orders got me in (and got them incinerated), so now I'm free to go inside and chat with the manager.
Turns out that a bigfoot called Bruno escaped his block of ice and ran off with another one of the attractions, and we've been called in to track them down.
See those icon on the bottom right? Those are the topics I can inquire about. First is ice escapee Bruno the Bigfoot, second is the Trixie the Giraffe-Necked Girl, who he allegedly kidnapped, and finally there's Conroy Bumpus who we ran into earlier. Turns out he'd come here to buy the pair of them for his own nefarious reasons and left disappointed.
The owners have given us a day pass to explore the carnival for clues, so I should probably go do that seeing as I've got nothing better to do. Except maybe car surfing.
But the operator mentioned that one of the bigfoot's buddies is hanging out in the Tunnel of Love so I should stop there first.
This is just a pointless minigame to help a player unwind after an afternoon of bashing their head against puzzles, but it's here, so I feel compelled to play it.
Hey I got a flashlight out of it as a prize! A flashlight without a bulb, how totally... random. I just so happens though that I picked up a light bulb from the office before I left, because I'm in an adventure game and I have to take everything.
With the ride sabotaged, the detective duo are able to climb out and find that the door in the background is locked. Fortunately the solution to this one is relatively obvious: I just have to pull the animatronic king's goatee. Adventure games, man.
Oh plus he offered to trade me the key to Trixie's trailer for some pecan-flavored candy, so I need to look out for that as well.
First though I'm going to Snuckey's! Any of them, I don't care which.
|Trans-franchise character flickering for illustrative purposes only.|
It also shows just how close the art style of the two games is. The main difference I've noticed is that Hit the Road isn't opposed to showing the occasional straight line.
It's been a long while since I've played a game of Battleship, but it hasn't gotten any more exciting in the meantime. He sinks my hearse, I sink his hearse, he blows up my camper, I continually miss and basically hand the game to him. Fun times.
Okay enough screwing around, I need to either go to the Largest Ball of Twine or the World of Fish and get it over with. And then get the other one over with too.
I tried some stuff, but this seems like a dead end right now so I'll go investigate the Largest Ball of Twine instead.
Okay my memory's kicking in and it's telling me... to attach those exposed wires to the sightseeing telescope and use it to control the rotation of the restaurant so that I can scan the horizon for... something.
I went back to the Snuckey's in defeat and despair, and there was the pecan candy just sitting there on the shelf! I must have neglected to thoroughly scrub my mouse cursor across the scenery first time around and walked right past it. So now that I've bought that I can get Trixie’s key off Doug the Mole Man at least.
LATER, BACK AT THE CARNIVAL.
Oh plus he gave me his key, so now I can get this trailer door open.
SOON, AT GATOR GOLF.
The bodyguard set Max down on the end of the pier and Conroy took the shot, launching him right into the "Dunk the Beast" box over on the other side. I've lost Max! I've got no one to jump in with absurd punchlines to Sam's wry observations!
I can still go anywhere and chat to people but my double act is over. The game's so lonely now, well unless I leave it alone long enough for the screensaver to come on that is. Then the Maxs start to reappear.
I really need to do something to resolve this.
And my reward for getting Max out of the machine... I get my sidekick back! But also I got another souvenir, and another map location to check out. Guess I'm heading to the Mystery Vortex.
SOON, INSIDE THE MYSTERY VORTEX.
This is Doug the Mole Man's uncle, at bloody last, and he's not much use to me. He wants me to go get his ring from the Largest Ball of Twine on Earth. I've got a pretty good idea how I can go about getting it, but first I need something I can use to attach a fish magnet to an extendible ball retriever. I dunno, maybe I can weave a rope from all this bigfoot hair I've been finding...
I'm about at the point now where my memories have ran out and I'm being faced with the full force of the game's insane puzzles. I was finding it more fun when I knew all the answers. In fact I'm getting tempted to look up the next few solutions, so I think that's my cue to quit.
I still love Sam & Max: Hit the Road, I just don't like it all that much. Not as much as I should do anyway. I feel negligent in my lack of enjoyment. Some of that's down to having played it before though I expect. I know the broad strokes of the story, I know the ending, I know half the puzzles and most of the jokes. It's got no novelty left for me, just the frustration of being stuck on the other half of the puzzles.
Plus I dunno, maybe I just don't want to visit carnivals and kitschy U.S. tourist traps all that much. I don't much want to chase down a bigfoot either, especially now I know that Trixie and Bruno ran off together and no one needs rescuing. This whole set up has limited appeal for me.
It's hard for me to really explain why it's a bad game though, mostly because it's not. It's a LucasArts adventure, so you can never die in it and never make it unwinnable, and after playing the abysmal Dark Seed earlier this year I'm definitely appreciating that a whole lot more. The top quality visuals, music and voice acting doesn't hurt either, especially as the only thing really dated about it is the resolution and midi soundtrack.
So yeah this gets a gold star easily. I might not want to get any further in it right now, but there's no way I won't end up playing it again some time. Maybe with a guide handy though.