Sam and Max Hit the Road is a classic LucasArts point-and-click adventure that takes you on a wild ride across the USA that is full of fun, wackiness and has an extra cherry of zaniness on top for good measure.
I have fond memories of playing this game in the mid-90s and was eager to see how it holds up more than 20 years later. So, buckle up and get ready for a road trip full of bigfoots, giant balls of string (or twine), balding Liverpudlian country singers, mole men and much more. The game starts with an amazingly well animated intro sequence where you see Sam and Max (the heroes of the game) rescue a damsel in distress from a crazy scientist. The intro also showcases excellent voice acting and a real taste of what to expect in the game; a fun adventure game that certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. The game then continues to Sam and Max’s office where we can begin our madcap adventure.
The first thing that grabs your attention is the amazing graphics and artwork. The game’s art style showcases why LucasArts was and still is held in such high esteem. Steve Purcell’s amazing art style works so well within an adventure title and this is one of the best-looking games in the genre’s history. There is no need for this game to be ever remastered (although I wouldn’t be surprised) as the cartoony 90s 2D animation hasn’t aged at all and shares the same look and feel of those classic comic books.
Sam is a wise-cracking, anthropomorphic dog with a nonchalant attitude, dressed to impress in his private detective attire, ready to solve any crime coming his way in a nice slow manner. Max is a shameless, rude, violent, borderline anarchistic rabbit who also happens to be Sam’s partner. Oh and he walks around butt naked! The ok cop, bad cop (or should that be ok dog, bad rabbit?) troupe has never been more applicable.
I won’t reveal the full plot as I wouldn’t want to spoil the game for you. But here’s a quick snippet of what to expect: you have been hired to hunt down numerous bigfoots and help them escape the evil clutches of Conroy Bumpus; one of my personal favourite villains to ever step foot into an adventure game. Conroy is a pompous, arrogant, animal abusing, wig wearing country and western singer, and boy does it feel good to finally see him receive his comeuppance later in the game! (should there have been a spoiler alert there, Adrian? Ha ha – Ed) He seems to be loosely based on one of The Beatles crossed with Elvis and really is a nasty piece of work.
Your adventure will take you to so many great locations including a distorted Mount Rushmore, a Gator Golf course full of hungry alligators, a carnival that includes the infamous cone of tragedy ride, numerous Snuckey’s convenience stores all manned by Bernard lookalikes from Day of the Tentacle, Conroy’s personal mansion, the Mystery Vortex and other amazingly bizarre locations.
Speaking about the various locations, again, I must praise the great background art. It really compliments the character art so well. The joy I felt when I unlocked a new location on my US map really was a true highlight of the game for me. Having the opportunity to explore more and more of the gorgeous and colourful world was one of the main reasons I was desperate to complete the game, and I guess I wanted to see the bigfoots happy again! Reflecting on the story, it never really seemed that important to me, which is a fair criticism of the game. Sometimes I would forget what my overall aim was, which isn’t something you could level at Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle and the earlier Monkey Island games.
The puzzles are at the correct level of difficulty I would say. They’re usually logical and there’s a method to the madness. For example, attaching Jessie James’ still twitching hand to a golf ball retriever and then wedging a fish magnet in-between his fingers make perfect sense to help retrieve a mood ring jammed within the giant ball of twine, right?… RIGHT?!
Ok, I have been playing this game too long! I also like how you can use Max to solve various challenges that may present themselves (usually through violence). This brings another interesting gameplay element to the game and reminds me a little of the buddy path found in Fate of Atlantis. Once completed, there is little incentive to replay the game, something that cannot be said about the aforementioned title. I suppose you could go back and enjoy the many mini games found within the various locations, but these soon lose their fun factor after a few goes. Although I did truthfully quite enjoy Sam and Max’s take on Battleships with their Car Bomb game.
The voice acting is also another big plus point with every voice delivered perfectly and fits so well within the whole games overall look and feel. I also quite liked the music of each location where they seemed to fit the mood seamlessly.
The game looks and sounds great and this is testament to the hugely talented people involved. I still feel it lacks a little bit of that intangible magic that seemed to be sprinkled on the LucasArts classics. Maybe it’s because the game is a little too short, or I failed to fully connect with the characters (even though I did find them likeable and extremely funny).
I would recommend this game to anyone who wants to spend a good few hours in a great adventure game. But, for me at least, it never quite reaches the almost insurmountable highs of The Secret of Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Is it worth hitting the road to grab a copy? There are certainly worse ways to spend your time!
N.B. We’re now omitting ratings from PC reviews due to there being too many benchmarks!
All screenshots taken from Moby Games.