LucasArts' Secret History #9: Sam & Max Hit the Road Screw That Guy: What Does Everyone Else Think?

Mojo's readers chime in.

Byron Hooper

Sam and Max are two of my favorite characters of all time. I love the contrast between the completely unbalanced and psychotic Max and the level headed, loquacious but stoic Sam (who only seems level headed because he's always with Max). I love their "total overkill" style of justice. They don't just deal justice, they INFLICT it.

Hit the Road embodies everything about Sam and Max that I love and then some. It's insane, frantic, senselessly/cartoonishly violent. All the good stuff! On top of all that though, you have an amazingly good game. From the visuals and the hilarious jazz score to the puzzles and voice acting, everything about the game was top-notch. Of special note is the redesigned SCUMM interface. All the SCUMM games previous to Sam and Max (with the notable exception of Loom) followed the "click a verb, then an item" setup, and because of the need to show all of the verbs, all of the action in the games (including Loom) was relegated to the top 2/3rds of the screen. FINALLY, with Sam and Max Hit the Road, we have fullscreen gameplay. The interaction itself was streamlined, though not quite as elegant as the "Verb Coin" featured in Lucasarts' last two traditional "point and click" games.

Now, you can't talk about Hit the Road without talking about what happened afterward. When I heard Lucasarts was developing a new Sam & Max game I did a happy dance. After the semi-disappointment that was Escape from Monkey Island (I'll touch more on that game another time) I thought this game had the potential to be a slam dunk. The more I heard about it (point click, multiple cases, dozens of mini games) there more excited I got. Then Lucasarts pulled the rug out from me (from all of us) and canceled it out of nowhere. It was devastating, but the following year came the news that a company formed in no small part by ex-Lucasarts team members and things started to look up. The quality of the games Telltale has put out, Sam & Max and otherwise, as well as the other things they have done, such as getting Surfing the Highway back in print, almost make me want to thank Lucasarts for canceling Freelance Police, because if they hadn't done that, we might not have one of the best companies in Gaming today.

Capn Nacho

I think Nick Jameson is one of my personal heroes. Seriously, his voices are just incredible, and did you guys know he was in Foghat when they recorded "Slow Ride"? What a legend.

(The character animation, writing, and scripting are all up to that same impeccable standard.)


I've never finished the game. The game's humour is not my kind of humour. I would love to have a Max plush puppet though.


I haven't played Sam & Max through to the end... I got stuck about 1/3 of the way in and gave up. This is a shame, because I had a blast on everything I played. It's the most quotable of the LucasArts adventures, and possibly the funniest, which is saying a lot (Day of the Tentacle gives it a run for its money). It's weird looking back to the game having played Telltale's episodes, because they're both surprisingly different. It’s undoubtedly the same characters, but from a different angle. I’m not sure which I prefer: but what's certain is that Hit the Road is a damn fantastic game, and now, so many years later, there's still nothing like it. Play it again, Sam!


When Sam & Max first came out for the Macintosh in 1995, my Mom wouldn’t let me buy it. Now, 13 years later, I know why. This game’s bad control system is the main problem. With most earlier Scumm games, when you move your mouse across an object, it informs you that it is possible to interact with it. (The exceptions are the first three Scumm games and some of the later ones) One thing that could have easily made this game better is if when you chose the pick up button, that it highlighted everything you could pick up. It would have made it much easier, but it also would have made it less frustrating. Another complaint is “dummy” items. What was the point of having the scorecard and the pamphlets, other than to point you to their respective locations? As frustrating as those things are, the humor really saves it. (The wishing well and the bizarre scene where the animal heads sing about John Muir comes to mind) All in all, Sam & Max is a LucasArts classic, if you haven't played it already, go ahead and do so.


When people talk about Sam and Max, they invariably refer to the new episodes, the series that will not die. I'm about to discuss a radically different universe than the one Mojo is used to showing, so prepare yourself. I hate the episodes, and to an extent, hate Telltale. What they've done with a series I've cherished is beyond forgivable. I played through season one, tried some of season two, and that was enough. These beloved characters I had so wondered about and loved in my youth, were stripped from their comic book roots, and transplanted to the bizarre and unforgiving third dimension. The episodic format is, essentially, an excuse to milk the franchise for its worth, and then some. It's not that they weren't funny, they were, at times, hysterical. BUT... Adventure games are not solely about humour. Atmosphere, Character, and meaningful storytelling are at the root of any true adventure, which is part of the reason I detest the majority of the New-School that seems to have sprung up. The New episodes, are simply put, empty.

This is not about the new episodes. It's about a game, a game that has followed me my entire life, hot on my heels like a vicious hound. Hit the Road is a game I cannot forget, not entirely due to its merits as an adventure, though of those, it has plenty. Rather, it was a game that awakened me. The atmosphere was undeniable, a nihilistic theme park of knick knack America frigid in its satire of consumerism, penetrating the mind's idea of a cohesive earth. Purcell marks his creation as one of magic realism, resonant with uncanny and inspiring imagery, backgrounds spiked with jazzy design, soundtrack colorful and grotesque. Several key moments stuck with me through Hit the Road, though all roads traveled and lands walked were something else.

First, Childhood in Brighton by Conroy Bumpus. After witnessing that beautifully jokey dirge, I was moved. It's a similar thing to Portal's "Still Alive" where you have this ominous arch enemy, but instead of opposing you, he breaks out in song. And so too, not song of riches won, or deeds accomplished, but of Man's cruelty and violence towards nature. A fitting "Boss Fight" if there ever was one. It ties in to Ron Gilbert's theory of how Adventure games reward players, not with power ups, achievements, or high scores, but with story, and dialogue, and artwork. That song was the next step in Lukickass, mastery of writing as a vessel for potent ideas, as a counter to humour. This would later culminate in Grim Fandango's moving poetry, but that's a story for another time.

Also, There's Snuckey's. I mentioned in a previous secret history, that the music at Snuckey's seemed inescapably sad. While this is true, the melancholy I generally associate with such rampant urbanization is bittersweet. Snuckey's is the last stop on the road to Civilization's end, the final frontier of bold corporate marketing and urbanization of the festering swamps and smoky deserts. That anthem has come to symbolize, at least for me, what America is truly about, not the myth of its beginning, as experienced in Day Of The Tentacle, but the surreal paradise created prior to its demise. This environment literally embodies the 50's, a frosty oasis, shining like a diamond in the pitch black of scummy roads and desert twilight. Excellent juxtaposition.

In general, this game has managed to brew and serve the distinct flavor of the highway, the lonely roads, the empty and disappointing tourist traps, the scattered and stuffed people, living in the wasteland we dare to call society. Characters, all were unique. I was positively inspired by "Woody Allen", who spoke as though new again, age and neurosis lifted. Shuv-Oohl was another favorite, a relic of a freer time, mind and body tatooed with the dissonance of an era. And finally, there's Lee Harvey. I always felt sympathy for Lee Harvey, unfortunately named, loyal but ignored, a pawn in games he sadly cannot understand. He gave the impression of a hillbilly turned greaser, a tough boy from the South with no skills and no connections, who Conroy just yelled at from his limo one day, and hired for minimum wage. His plight is tragic.

So, when I speak of Sam and Max, I ignore whatever run of the mill concoction Telltale has cooked up for us, and instead sing an ode to Hit the Road, the Day-Glo artifact from America's final days of prosperity, and the age of Sam and Max.


I don't know if I've ever actually played Sam & Max Hit the Road all the way through from start to finish. When it first came out I played it about 2/3 through and then put it down and never came back to my game. My friend got the Mac version in around 1997 and I sat in as "adventure game watching, gratuitous-suggestion-offering friend" as he finished up the second half of the game. So, I've seen it all, but I can't recall ever bothering to play the whole thing through myself. That's kind of weird in hindsight.

Jennifer McMurray

I love Sam & Max. I grew up reading their comic adventures in the LucasArts Adventurer magazines that used to come with their games. I would buy each adventure game that LucasArts released, and a big part of that purchase was the chance to read a new Sam & Max comic. The humor was just so weird and off-the-wall, and really struck a chord with me. I loved reading the comics, and seeing what LucasArts game Sam & Max had gotten themselves involved with in the latest issue.

So, it was a no-brainer when Sam & Max finally got a game of their own: I purchased it immediately. Sam & Max Hit the Road was the rare game that I bought without actually being able to play it. Our family only had a 4Mhz 286 IBM-PC at the time, and we did not have a CD-ROM. I bought the CD-ROM talkie version of Sam & Max Hit the Road and waited several years until I could actually play the game.

When I finally got an audio CD player my freshman year in high school, I would listen to the bonus audio tracks on my CD player, delighting in the wonderful music, but completely oblivious to how they were used in the game. Until I had played the game, I had actually thought that Conroy Bumpus' voice in King of the Creatures was actually the voice of Max. :)

On the subject of the music, the theme music is still my favorite score ever used in a Sam & Max game. It fits the duo perfectly, and I still hear that theme in my head whenever I experience Sam & Max, even when playing Telltale's games.

When we did finally get a computer fast enough, the game definitely lived up to my high expectations. The humor was gleefully as weird as it was in the comics, and the voices of Sam & Max were both wonderful. Bill Farmer as Sam sounded like he had come out of the classic film noir movies, which was perfect for the straight-man personality of Sam. Nick Jameson gave Max just the right amount of insanity without going over the top.

I loved the theme of the game, which had Sam & Max traveling the USA going to the most bizarre tourist attractions the nation had to offer. It fit in so well with the characters, and led to some funny situations that gave way to some really funny one-liners. This is probably my second most quoted LucasArts game after The Secret of Monkey Island. There are so many fabulous jokes in this game.


Sam and Max Hit the Road was actually the second adventure game I played. My nephew (again) provided me with this game, it was a cracked version of the floppy disc version of the game.

I didn't know Sam and Max at the time, but the graphic style and humor really got to me. The writing really is top notch, and the music and character design are all but dull. Mix this with Steve Purcell's crazy sense of humor and you've got a great game. One thing that springs to mind is the non linearity of this game.

With Monkey Island 2, Day of the Tentacle and this game, Lucasarts was really experimenting with non-lineair gameplay in adventure games. And succeeding marvelously. This game really works it out very well. Taking you to each location whenever you like it to, and even giving you more than one way to figure out about them. The plot too, is top notch. While Telltale's great attempts at reviving the franchise, they never quite reach the level of zaniness and utter randomness this game has to offer, without becoming illogical.

The voice-acting is superb too. Nick Jameson and Bill Farmer still being the best Sam and Max we've ever had. While I quite like the Sam of the new games, he just can't get the many emotions across that Bill Farmer could. And while the new Max really does a nice job, he can't come to the level of edge that Nick Jameson give's to the character. As far as Sam and Max games go this game is the greatest. It even introduced me to the even edgier comic's and the toned down, but still fun to watch, tv show. All and all over the years, I've become a great fan of Sam and Max, and Steve Purcell's way of drawing too. And this game will be reminded for introducing me to all of it.


Sam and Max Hit the Road: brilliant, twisted, effed-up and then some, with more unforgettable set-pieces than most games you'll ever hear of. Add a healthy dose of quirkiness and a twisted lagomorph and you get pretty close to what Hit the Road's all about. (Add that it's also the hardest of the LucasArts bunch during the Golden Age of Adventure Games.)

In a nutshell: It's a lot of fun. And Sam and Max are the only characters in the world who run the risk of killing you because you're laughing way too hard. Much love to you, Freelance Police.

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