E3 2003: Sam & Max 2 Preview

This preview was originally written by Jake Rodkin as part of our E3 2003 coverage. We present it for future generations with some post-cancellation commentary.

After ten long years of waiting, Sam & Max are finally coming back to the PC! Their new game, Sam & Max Freelance Police, is being billed as "the return of interactive entertainment's most freakishly adored dog and bunny tag team [that] plunges Sam & Max into a whimsical miasma of fur-flying action, hare-pulling puzzles, and unnerving cross-species jocularity."

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LucasArts released an early render of the game. Mojo was excited.

The game is classified simply as "adventure," and is scheduled to come out about a year from now for Windows PC - no mention of consoles in sight. So, what does it all mean? Well, your guess is as good as mine. But lucky for you, while all you have to do is read this, and eventually complain about it in the comments, I have to actually sit here and write my guesses down.

What do we know so far about Sam & Max Freelance Police? To be honest, almost nothing. We know that the same voice actors have returned to play Sam & Max, we know the game is for PC, and though we have seen absolutely zero from the gameplay department, we know that it's more classically styled as far as "true graphic adventure" gameplay is concerned.

Since the game isn't coming out until next year sometime, LucasArts was pretty tight-lipped about it at E3. Our ceaseless questioning was almost completely met with "be quiet," "come back next year," and "I'm trying to demo Wrath. Who are you? Get out of the booth."

There are rumors circulating that Sam & Max Freelance Police will be released in individual episodes, or maybe told in short, loosely related story segments. Asking LucasArts' president Simon Jeffery about that rumor got us a lovely "no comment."

Completely worthless. Usually when a game is announced, LucasArts will at least provide the press with an unending bulleted list of cheesy features telling you that the game has "over 10 weapons" (11 weapons), "over 16 unique levels" (17 levels), and over 3 hours of pre-rendered cutscenes (who cares?). For Sam & Max Freelance Police, we just got:

  • Available Spring 2004

Thanks. Despite LucasArts' secretive ways, total lack of information, and general shut-uppery about Freelance Police, I'm still looking forward to it more than anything else they had at the show (well, with Armed & Dangerous coming in at a very close second place). Why? There are three reasons, all of which mysteriously start with the letter "T":

First, The Trailer: Practically the only thing shown at E3 was the minute-and-a-half long video promoting the game, but that was enough to sell me on it for at least for the next six months. I'm sure that this is far too much faith to put in a trailer, and I'll surely regret it later... but the damn thing is funny, and feels like Sam & Max proper, not some cheap bastardization of the franchise.

Second, The Team: The game's being lead by Mike Stemmle, a co-designer of Sam & Max Hit The Road, and consulting and additional input is being provided by Steve Purcell, the creator of Sam & Max and also another co-designer of Hit The Road. Yes, it seems that Sam & Max Freelance Police is the first LucasArts adventure sequel since Monkey Island 2 to feature the same project leads as its predecessor.

According to Simon Jeffery, Mike Stemmle's been sitting on some Sam & Max ideas "for quite a while." So, when the opportunity came along after Infinite Machine (the previous developers of a totally unrelated, never-finished Sam & Max 2) went under, LucasArts jumped at the chance. I have no idea what that means really, but it at least sounds like the opposite of milking a franchise.

Third, 'Tis a Sam & Max Game: I am a huge sucker for Sam & Max. I run Sam & I even own copies of the questionable Sam & Max cartoon show on tape. I might be a little too obsessed, but I don't think my droolish nerdiness alone be blamed for seeing potential here. To quote Sam & Max 2's head writer, Mike Stemmle, talking about how Sam and Max's creator, Steve Purcell, ended up on the project:

Mike Stemmle

Steve Purcell's Sam & Max game for another company was imploding for reasons I'm still a little fuzzy about. I think it was hit by a meteor. In any event, Steve got in touch with my bosses, a bunch of lawyers got together and signed some documents, and the next thing I knew, Steve and I were writing stories and designing a game.

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Then they cancelled it. Probably because of LucasArts' legendary aversion of being "liked."

So, now that I've gushed to death about how the game has potential to be totally awesome, and this being Mojo and what not, it's only fair and reasonable to get some nitpicky griping in.

Actually, there's not a whole lot going on in the gripe department. Staying true to the theme of this year's batch of LucasArts games, it's safe to say that while Sam & Max Freelance Police is looking really nice overall art-wise, it's lacking a little bit in atmosphere. Also Sam looks a little bit goofy and undetailed, and Max's triangular teeth look a bit odd, but that's a pretty minor obscure gripe, not even suitable for our forums, so I'll let it go.

I'd almost bet money on the fact that my giving Sam & Max a postive preview will only result in me being burned harder come Spring '04, but let's hope not. Given the utterly tiny snippets of information we have so far, what can we tell you but to stay optimistic and keep following the game over the next year. I mean, come on, it's Sam & Max. What's not to love?

Sam & Max: Freelance Police is arriving sometime in Spring 2004 for PC.

Haha, of course it wouldn't arrive then. Read more flotsam related to the Sam & Max 2 debacle: