I’ll never forget the day I got my first computer. It wasn’t one of those go-to-the store things. My dad had a friend who built compturs and we stayed at his house the whole time he put it together for us, and my anticipation grew the whole time.
You have to understand that back in 1994, computers games were still leaps and bounds beyond their console counterparts. For me, who was at the time glued to my Super Nintendo, getting a PC was like getting a game console from the future. It had 16mb of RAM. It was a beast.
When we got it home, we loaded it up, and I played my first PC game: Sam & Max Hit the Road.
It was the first time I’d ever played a full voice-acted game. In fact, I think the only other time I heard audio speech in a game at the time was during the intro to Super Metroid. I remember thinking it was like playing a cartoon. The characters were lively and animated, you could make them interact with anything in their environment, and they were funny.
Now Sam & Max Hit the Road is back, along with a selection of Lusasarts games that just made their reappearance on gog.com, including Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, X-Wing, and Tie Fighter.
I was interested to see if the charm of Sam & Max has held. I loaded it up, and there it was, that familiar cheerful tune that played with the Lucasarts logo and that familiar cartoon intro where Sam & Max come crashing through the wall of a Mad Scientist’s lair.
The game still looks great. The world is lively and colorful. Environemnts are diverse and characters are unique. The graphics were from that fine cusp before the 3D era, when pixel art was at its peak.
The characters are even more animated than many of today’s games. The developers didn’t need to program and bake complex 3D characters to make them do odd or funny things. Just about everything you click on (that you’re supposed to click on) will activate a new animation, which helps drive you forward wondering what they’ll do next.
The voice acting is still perfect. Sam has a nonchelant noir tone to everything, and Max cracks jokes while remains one of the only non-annoying comic relief sidekicks in the history of entertainment. The voice of every character matches them well, and the amount of dialogue feels about right.
But there’s something more to Sam & Max Hit the Road that I think it has not only retained through the test of time, but instead seems to have aged to perfection. There was a light air around Sam & Max—and the handful of greats from the Golden Age of Adventure Games. The game makes you feel good when you play it. It still has that innocent and mischevious feel about it, and It doesn’t leave you irritated or feeling like you wasted your time.
Sam & Max came from an era of gaming when developers weren’t trying so hard to make the next big hit. They were trying new things and having fun along the way, they weren’t afraid of being goofy or ridiculous, and they made a game that doesn’t feel like it needs to take itself too seriously. It’s one of those games that you can just enjoy, and I think that’s something that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find.
So I can say gladly and with confidence that, nostalgia aside, Sam & Max Hit the Road remains one of the greatest games out there.
Sam & Max Hit the Road is $5.99 on gog.com for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. It’s also DRM-Free and has a 30-day money back guarantee (seriously, how often do you get that?)