Sam & Max Hit the Road
PC / 1993 / Developer & Publisher: Lucasarts Entertainment Company LLC.
Point-and-click adventure games were my gateway into modern PC gaming, and Hit the Road is my all-time favorite of the genre. Point-and-clicks are largely linear, designer-dictated, and often frustrating. At their best, they make the player feel clever for figuring out their puzzles; at their worst, the player is banging his head against an illogical impediment for days, with no hope but random trial and error to progress. I think that what Hit the Road and the other funny adventures from the period teach is this: make failing fun. Even when I wasn't making progress in Hit the Road, even when I was repeatedly failing as I tried to unlock the next location, the game was constantly feeding me rewards for my input, by way of Sam & Max's humorous remarks. Even when my clicking didn't reward me with tangible progress, I still received something enjoyable-- a funny little quip, a clever description, some non sequitur piece of dialogue I hadn't heard before. The game rewarded the player simply for playing, not just for succeeding.
Hit the Road's tone is something hard to encapsulate simply-- maybe "screwball noir?" It had edge to it and a down-to-earth vibe while dealing with bigfoot, molemen, and celebrity-lookalike vegetables. It boasted hints of reckless nihilism, what with the opening sequence involving a damsel in distress being left to rot, a mad scientist being decapitated, and a time bomb being tossed into a passenger bus, all by a cartoon dog and rabbit. It was the perfect strange, hilarious, out-there world for my 13-year-old self. It didn't talk down to me, and it kept me in stitches from start to finish.
I think Hit the Road is the game I've replayed the most in my life, probably about a dozen times through. I'm glad that the Freelance Police have been resurrected by way of their new episodic releases, and I'm proud to know some of the fine people at Telltale who bring the games to life. I wish I could go back in time and tell my 13-year-old self that one day I'd get the chance to shake Steve Purcell's hand and tell him how much I've appreciated his work over the years. I'm sure I would've been floored.
Sam & Max Hit the Road