Genres get stale now and again, yet just when you think you've seen and done it all, along comes a game that knocks you on your ear. Such is the case with Sam & Max Hit the Road from LucasArts.
The game is based faithfully on the cartoons of Steve Purcell who created the Sam and Max characters. Sam is a dog who maintains his cool demeanor while dishing out comic violence. His partner, Max, is a sort of bunny-like thing who combines manic energy, a taste for mayhem and a bunch of great one-liners into a small, furry package. The two of them make up the Freelance Police, and are called in on cases weird and insane by the local commissioner.
This time, our two heroes have been selected to investigate the disappearance of Bruno the Bigfoot from a local carnival. Someone thawed Bruno from his prison of ice, and when Bruno took off, he took Trixie the Giraffe-Necked Girl with him. Without these two attractions, the carnival is doomed.
But finding Bruno won't be easy, naturally. You'll have to find a number of new locations and investigate them thoroughly to discover the whereabouts of the secret meeting of bigfoots. At the same time, you need to avoid the plotting of British country-western singer Conroy Bumpus.
What makes Sam & Max Hit the Road work is the humor, which is almost constant throughout the game. In fact, many things were added simply to add humor. For instance, in conversation, Sam can ask about items or people, but can also simply utter a complete non-sequitur just to hear the response. Additionally, Max can be used as an inventory item, often with comic results.
The plot itself is an interesting one, and the locations are well-designed. Naturally, some of the puzzles are pretty simple, while others are difficult in the extreme. One nice thing is the almost complete absence of red herring items. Everything you find can be put to use somewhere.
Included with the game are some additional side games. You can pick up a coloring book, a variation of Battleship and Sam and Max paper dolls during your journey. Some of the puzzles are themselves games. To get the flashlight, for instance, you will need to play Whak-A-Rat (which is just like its mole counterpart, save that it uses live rats). And, you can return to play whenever you wish. Even the end-game credits are interactive.
The graphics are appropriately cartoonish and fun. The music is decent throughout the game, and the voice talent is stellar. Sam & Max Hit the Road takes the idea of the point-and-click adventure to insane new heights in terms of both fun and comedy.
Graphics: Fun, and more importantly, crisp.
Sound: Among the best voice work available.
Enjoyment: If you don't laugh every few minutes, you have no sense of humor.
Replay Value: More than most adventure games thanks to the addition of the side games.
Sam & Max, Canine Shamus and hyperkinetic rabbity thing, are the freelance police. Private investigators who receive missions from and are answerable to "The Commissioner". Upon the completion of a rescue mission from the clutches of a mad scientist, Sam & Max drive through the opening credits and immediately receive a new assignment: Bruno the Bigfoot is missing from the circus and seems to have kidnapped Trixie, the Giraffe-Neck Girl. Sam & Max are on the case and will follow the mystery all across the United States, even if it takes them to such locations as The World's Largest Ball of Twine and The Mount Rushmore Dinosaur Tarpit.
Sam & Max Hit the Road is a side-scrolling point-and-click adventure game. The player directly controls Sam, though Max will usually follow closely behind and is even available to use directly as an item in the inventory. Sam is able to be directed anywhere on the screen, Look at objects, try to use objects, try to speak to objects and use items from his inventory on objects. Sam & Max must unravel the mystery piece by piece in order to unlock new locations on their map. They can travel between these locations at any time by using the car keys on their police car. During conversation, the player is able to make Sam ask questions of persons, speak non-sequitur exclamations, or ask about specific objects, people, and locations (which are also unlocked as clues are discovered).
The game also features a variety of mini-games, which can be accessed at any time once found. These include Highway-Sufring: a game where the player must jump over exit signs on the interstate, Car Bomb: A variant on Battleship, A Sam & Max coloring book and a Sam & Max dress-up game and Wak-A-Rat.
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