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The Slacker's Guide - Pure Random & Demented Fun: Sam and Max Hit the Road

by Chris Barylick
July 7th, 2006

Say what you will about the 90s, but some amazing stuff came out during this era. Over in the LucasArts camp, the writers behind the video games had apparently lost their minds.

And the games they produced couldn't have been better.

Among titles like Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle, Sam and Max Hit the Road climbed to the top of the heap for offbeat adventure games with a dark, cynical and deranged humor all its own.

The sequel to the original Sam and Max, "Hit the Road" followed two anti-hero characters, a Joe Monday-esque hound sleuth and his three-foot-tall semi-psychotic, entirely violent rabbit partner, Max, as they searched for a missing sasquatch.

Sam and Max investigate a room full of sasquatches
in the LucasArts classic "Sam and Max Hit the Road".

Yes, the plot line may have been ridiculous, but this wasn't the point of the game. Like other titles at the dawn of multimedia, 3D graphics and this kind of interactivity, the game could have either taken itself too seriously or chosen a weirder, more comical path. Sam and Max chose the latter and it paid off.

Here was a format in which the player was presented with static screens characters moved through, the player noticing certain objects and choosing ways to interact with them. If an object seemed crucial, the player could try poking it, observing it, picking it up, or using other items in conjunction with the object in question.

Like the Sierra and LucasArts character adventure games of this era, the best way to succeed was to use your imagination. An overly daunting obstacle generally had a strange solution triggered by an unlikely item or object. The most ridiculous ideas were usually the best ones and this kept the game fun.

A dark and ridiculous sense of humor made the game a masterpiece. Enter too many impossible commands and a character would either verbally snipe at the player or put his head in his hands and weep, while the other gently consoled him (still making fun of the player all the while). In a LucasArts title that couldn't allow its main characters to die, the writers knew they could still tease the players as long as they made them laugh in the process.

Sam cracks wise to another character in Sam and Max Hit the Road,
made playable for the Mac by the ScummVM emulation engine.

In an era where OS 9 games are dying rapid deaths, among them some great games, ScummVM has stepped in to make sure the LucasArts titles live on, including the freelance police. A small piece of freeware, ScummVM functions as a gaming emulator for old AdventureSoft and LucasArts titles such as Simon the Sorcerer, Beneath a Steel Sky, Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Sam and Max Hit the Road. A 4.0 megabyte download through the mighty, ScummVM requires Mac OS X 10.3.9, 4.4 megabytes of disk space, a mid-level G3 processor and the original game disc to run the title.

For players looking to pick up where they left off a decade ago, copies of Sam and Max Hit the Road can still be found on eBay for about $10. Snag ScummVM, wait for the CD to arrive in the mail, then try to remember that your loved ones and pets occasionally require your attention as you sink back into adventure title bliss.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,


Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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