Format: PC Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure Released: 1993 Developer: Lucasarts
Believe it or not, I didn’t actually own a PC until 2007 (which is why there are precious few PC games on this list), although during my teenage years I would often nip over to my PC-owning friend’s house to rattle through the latest point-and-click adventure. Day Of The Tentacle was a definite highlight of this time, but my favourite was Sam & Max Hit The Road.
Point-and-click adventures, particularly the Lucasarts ones, are perfect for playing with two people: you can collaborate on solving tricky puzzles and neither one of you feels left out if you’re not in control of the game (after all, you’re just pointing and clicking, not taking down helicopter gunships with your bare hands). Most importantly, the jokes always seem funnier when there’s someone else there laughing along with you; and Sam & Max was very funny indeed.
The game follows the adventures of the self-styled ‘Freelance Police’, a duo that consists of Sam, an anthropomorphic dog, and Max, a psychotic rabbit. At the beginning of the game they’re called upon to investigate the disappearance of a frozen bigfoot from a carnival freakshow, and it just gets weirder and weirder from then on in. The pair’s investigation soon takes them to all sorts of random tourist attractions and bizarre slices of Americana, such as ‘The Mystery Vortex’ and my personal favourite, ‘The World’s Largest Ball of Twine’ (complete with a restaurant on top), and the humour never lets up along the way.
A sardonic quip, wry aside or visual gag is inserted at every opportunity, and some there are some cracking lines, such as:
Sam: “Where should I put this thing so that it doesn’t hurt anyone we know
or care about?”
Max: “Out the window, Sam. There’s nobody but strangers out there.”
Sam: “Now what are you doing?”
Max: “I was just waving at some toddlers in the next car. They’re crying now.”
Sam: “Don’t you just love stopping for breakfast when you’re on the road? I
do… and so does my hairy little friend. And Max does, too.”
One of this game’s greatest innovations was the method of conversation – rather than selecting a line of text from a conversation tree (the method featured in previous Lucasarts games such as The Secret Of Monkey Island), the player clicks on an icon that represents a topic of conversation, which then generates a line of dialogue from Sam. This has the bonus of keeping the dialogue hidden until it’s read out, as in the words of developer Michael Stemmle, “nothing would kill a joke worse than reading it before you hear it”*. The CD version of Sam & Max was also one of the first point-and-click games to use actual voice actors rather than written dialogue, and, unlike the dodgy CD-i interactive movies that debuted at around the same time, the acting throughout was generally excellent.
As I remarked in my Beneath a Steel Sky post, it’s good to see that point-and-clickers are making a bit of a mini-comeback, and I recently found out that Sam & Max: Season One is now available on the Wii (does this mean that point-and-click adventures are now mainstream again?). Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a trend: I’d love to see games like Full Throttle and Grim Fandango (or even sequels to them) making it onto the Wii, and I was particularly encouraged by the announcement of a Secret Of Monkey Island remake for X-box Live Arcade.
Long live the point-and-click adventure!
*’The Making of: Sam & Max Hit the Road’, Retro Gamer March 2006
(Screenshots from www.mobygames.com)