For quite a few years, Sam & Max: Hit the Road was my all-time favorite game. It just rubbed me the right way I guess, with its quirky humor, quirky presentation, and just epic songs about freaks of nature and shady dealings. 1993 seems like forever ago, but I dare say adventure gamers in their twenties and thirties should all have a soft spot for Sam & Max. This was particularly evident looking at the announcement, development, and ultimately the cancellation of the sequel. Luckily this wasnâ€™t the end, and now we'll see no less than six episodes of Sam & Max as they fight villains of various shapes and sizes. The first one is called Culture Shock, and revolves around a nefarious guy who uses videotapes to manipulate child stars. As expected, the game begins in your trusted office, where I expect most people will click on every item just to hear what Sam or Max will say or do. The very first problem you face is that the rats inhabiting your walls have stolen your phone and want cheese in exchange for its return. This scenario may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the writers for Sam & Max still manage to crack me up, just as they did thirteen years ago.
The game itself plays just like most point-and-click adventure games. You move around by clicking where you'd like Sam to go, and click on items or people you wish to interact with. There's also a basic inventory, where you carry items needed later. It never gets particularly big, so trying odd combinations of items never gets dull and annoying.
After leaving the office, you start exploring the nearby stores and chat with the people you meet along the way. Some of these are in fact old child stars who by now are seemingly walking around in limbo and not doing much with themselves. Dialogues are quite basic. There are various options, and you'll probably want to click all of them eventually. In some cases, you can keep clicking a character to hear even more witty replies.
As you learn of the mysterious video tapes that are being distributed as "eye exercise", you take it upon yourself to find out what's going on and how to stop it. The story twists in several directions along the way, but you should be able to finish the game over the course of a day or maybe even just an evening, depending on how long you spend figuring out some of the more eccentric puzzles.
The art direction is definitely good. Sure, it's not going to win any polygon count awards or anything, but the environments are densely packed with stuff that well, you probably didnâ€™t expect to see there. Still, this design works well with the whole Sam & Max universe.
Davin Nowlin and Andrew Chaikin did the voices for Sam and Max, and while they didn't work on the first title, they did a very good job and I doubt most people will notice much of a difference. The rest of the cast did a good job as well, and the music is sufficiently odd to get the job done.
Since this is only the first out of six episodes, the developers wanted to hook as many people as possible. For this reason, the first episode isn't all too difficult. I might be a little rusty, but to me it was just fine as a warm-up of sorts. Those looking for grueling puzzles may not find complete satisfaction here, but if you're primarily after light-hearted humor with a bit of thinking in between, then I'm sure you'll enjoy it. At $8.95 itâ€™s a steal.