The surreal story and the bizarre group of characters make Sam & Max: Hit the Road highly recommendable to anybody who likes video games..
Created by Steve Purcell, Sam and Max are a dog and a hyperkinetic rabbit that dedicate their lives to solve cases and combat crime in the city of New York, the duo is commonly known as: The Freelance Police. During the introduction of the game the pair of vigilantes receive a call by the commissioner to their office in New York City, who tells them to go to a nearby carnival, there they find out that the main attraction, a frozen Bigfoot has escaped with a girl named Trixie. This trip takes them on a tour across the main attractions of the USA: The World’s Largest Ball of Twine, a mysterious vortex controlled by an unknown force and Mount Rushmore among others.
The gameplay feels somehow different as the cursor graphic takes the form of the action you are performing, for example, if you want to look at something the cursor takes the form of an eye-opening in the exact place of where you can examine a particular object. This icon-based system lets you do one of five actions: walk, examine, use, talk to and use. As soon as you learn the shortcuts by heart (which by the way are really easy to use) this system feels intuitive and comfortable. Only Sam is a controllable character as Max usually stays still for a couple of micro-seconds and then starts doing something funny. At certain point during the game you can use Max to “intimidate” somebody for information, this results in amusing and unforgettable moments. Without a doubt there can be particular points in time in which you’ll get stuck trying to solve puzzles, but the inventory makes a good job at letting you know (with a full description by Max) where did you get the item and for what you may use it. Still, if you get stuck instead of quitting you could also try the mini-games included. There are some interesting mini-games introduced: a whack-a-mole machine in the carnival and a Battleship in which you sink cars instead of ships. Both mini-games are fun and allow you to receive new items that are key elements to go on with the plot.
The musical score is atmospheric containing many jazzy tunes, surfer rock and country songs (including the incredibly funny “King of the creatures”) that suit the game well. This is the ninth installment to use the SCUMM engine for the visual aspect as all the environments are in 2D with a third person perspective, while iMuse was used for the integrated audio system. The CD-ROM version (the game was released simultaneously in floppy and CD-Rom) includes full voice acting which is extremely good with lots of fitting voices, especially for the main characters. It surely works with some rather than others but overall they suit their purpose very well. From the graphical perspective Sam & Max is outstanding, from the detailed environments to the cartoony looking characters it can surely be said that it has aged remarkably well as the game’s graphics keep true to the comic book style created by Steve Purcell and fans of his work won’t be disappointed. Something that stands out is the inclusion of 3D animations that blend in perfectly even after so many years of its release.
Sam & Max: Hit the Road is extremely funny; chances are that you’ll never find anything like it. Everything from the music, the tongue-in-cheek dialogues to the movie and pop culture references make this one of the few games that succeeds at being amusing every time. The only problem people may have is to underestimate this game by its looks and consider it suitable for children: wrong. The original comic books had an adult tone, and the game is quite close to that version. Besides, the dialogues can be really witty and dense sometimes, with words proper of old English with use of complex structures. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any “immature” or visual jokes, but at its core the game is funny when the dialogue is correctly interpreted and this type of humor may not be suitable for everybody. Replayability has to be mentioned here, as it is impossible to get every single reference in one playthrough. Naturally, you can get many new jokes next time you play it.
Like Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max: Hit the Road is a must-play game and highly recommended for anybody out there that likes to call himself a gamer, fan of the genre or not. You’ll need to be patient at times, but beware for you’ll be in front of a superb video game that it’ll stay in your mind for years to come, not only for being funny but also for being an true classic.