August 22, 2007
The Adventure company
I never thought I would see it happen: a boxed Sam & Max game. I didn't see a "Crimestompers' Coloring Book," a flaming-weasel-on-a stick, seven three and a half inch floppy disks, a copy of "The Adventurer" number 7, winter 1994 32-page magazine, a note from Camela Boswell, or the familiar Lucas Arts press release. Gone is the gold, black, purple, and white Lucas Arts Games logo. You now find DreamCatcher, JoWooD and Telltale Games logos placed prominently at various locations in the product.
Steve Purcell has done it: he has become the first to follow up his Lucas Arts graphic animated adventure with a sequel: a sequel that was almost 14 years in the making. This game is right out of the heyday of graphic animated adventures, and picks up where Sam & Max Hit the Road left off, starting right where we left the dynamic duo - in their office, discussing violent remedies to mundane problems, like saving the world from a mole and a gaggle clowns who try to upstage Al Pacino in The Godfather and Scarface.
I remember writing the original Sam & Max review for Beth Cataldo at Electronic Entertainment Magazine. Beth told me to submit screen capture pictures of the game with short (up to 20 word) captions. I wax with nostalgia as I place the "Game Disk" in the drive. I flip over the 2-Disc see-thru case and see the attached "Bonus Extras" CD. My hands are trembling and my eyes are moist. A real Sam & Max game is in my hands - I remind myself, "Don't drop it."
Looking in the box, I see a full-sized printed poster featuring artwork by Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell, and on the bonus extras disk I find a "Making Sam & Max" behind-the-scenes video, trailers for all six episodes, "previously unreleased character bios" (since they were "too shocking to reveal in the 1990s"), "loads" of concept art work, desktop wallpapers, an MP3 soundtrack, and a .44 magnum Rugar pistol loaded with hollow point ammunition suitable for shooting stumps and signs while Sam drives the DeSoto down the road. (Ed. Note: Have you fallen asleep already?)
The disk features the nude (but not hairless) "hyperkinetic rabbitty-thing with a taste for violence" named Max and a six foot tall, slick-tongued, grey silk-suited, white shirted, black and blue (Ed: really!) striped tie and hat wearing brown canine named Sam. I guess the tie symbolizes that you will be black and blue with laughter after a few hours of watching these bumbling crime experts work.
The plot, or lack there of, is the continuing saga of mind-controlling freaks, the toy mafia, and their leader and infiltrator, the mole, who take you on a six-episode (chapter) romp. (The original game was seven chapters.) On the journey, the duo dabble in politics, banking, 2D adventures, and a variety of other mischief that you can't miss. The entire trip can take as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (on the slow and enjoy mode).
The graphics are 3D this time around, and a bit better than they were 14 years ago. The development team is young and dedicated (Ed: not dead) to the proposition that those playing the game should have just as much fun as the main characters. (I am reminded of the movie where the female lead fakes an orgasm in a major restaurant, prompting one of the other diners comment to the waiter, "I'll have what she's having.")
Sound is composed of brilliant voice overs. Max is voiced by David Nowlin, also Phone Bone in another Telltale Games graphic animated comedy adventure of the same name. There is also music, including a theme from the 1997 cartoon television show, and sound effects from a Foley sound effects technician.
All the amenities, such as save game, load game, and exit game, are there, along with separate controls for music, voice, and effects sound, and video and other niceties that one needs to play a game with dimming eyes, dimming wits, and fading hearing. Old time gamers gotta play.
Steve Purcell published "Monkeys Violating the Heavenly Temple" as his first Sam & Max comic in 1987. Sam & Max solved crimes in a 1960 black and white two-tone DeSoto Adventurer from their offices in New York City. Then Steve teamed with the Lucas Arts team to create the Sam & Max Hit The Road game in 1993. From 1999-2004, in the dreaded lean years, untapped potential is crushed to atoms, but Sam & Max refuse to stay down. In 2005, the web comic appears.
Summary: I recommend you buy the disk and play, especially if you were a fan in the heyday of the graphic animated adventure; but even if you are part of generation X, Y, or Z you can't miss the miss-adventures of this dynamic duo.
Now where do I get a frame and hang my Steve Purcell signed authentic Sam & Max lithograph? This is going to require appropriate violence against inanimate (and animate) objects with an 18 pound hammer. Oh boy!
Final Grade: A