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Sam and MaxYes, I said I would say some more about MMOs but I’m afraid the Freelance Police have caught me – Sam and Max are back!

Fans of the old LucasArts graphical adventures (such as the Monkey Island series, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, etc.) will undoubtedly remember the original Sam and Max Hit the Road game from 1993. Since then LucasArts have become a Star Wars exclusive label (and a generally poor one, at that) and with them went the mainstream adventure game. For years fans of the original Sam and Max game (and fans of the original, otherwise slightly obscure, comic book characters that spawned that game) have demanded more. It wasn’t until sometime in 2005 that the rights for another computer game reverted to the creator of Sam and Max, Steve Purcell (no relation, sadly), and only then was another game a possibility. At the end of last year (October of 2006, I believe) it finally happened, Sam and Max: Culture Shock was released!

Just who are Sam and Max? Here’s excerpts borrowed from Wikipedia (they can have them back when we’re finished!):

Sam

“Sam is a laid-back, but enthusiastic anthropomorphic dog wearing a suit and a hat. He is usually the brains of the operation, often trying to figure out a logical solution to things. He is prone to long-winded sentences filled with elaborate buzzwords. He is also rarely seen losing his temper (except when he’s given a pink belly), and is able to react to panic-inducing situations with extreme calm.”

Max

“Max is a “hyperkinetic rabbity thing” (he himself prefers being called a “lagomorph“) with a huge jaw normally stuck in a crazed grin, showing off his razor sharp teeth. He enjoys violence and tends to prefer the aggressive way of solving problems. He has a slight distaste for the long stories, anecdotes and sentences that Sam consistently spouts forth, often asking Sam not to use various words. He shares Sam’s enthusiasm in just about anything, especially if it involves large guns and trouble.”

It is very film noir like but deliberately humorous. The original Hit the Road game was a 2D graphical adventure, with animated characters moving around on scrolling but otherwise static backgrounds. You move the crime fighting duo around with the mouse and have them interact with objects and other characters. Sounds dull when put in those terms but it really isn’t. The dialogue and bizarre plot twists are what make the games.

The new Sam and Max is actually a series of fairly short games (a few hours apiece) based on the new buzz phrase of Episodic gaming. There are to be six episodes in this first season. If they do well we can only hope there is a second season. After LucasArts turned their back on their adventure game heritage (which was finally confirmed in 2004 when their own highly publicised sequel, Sam and Max: Freelance Police, was canned shortly before release) several of their employees left to form their own company, Telltale Games. These talented people have taken their experiences on the doomed LucasArts sequel and produced a fully 3D Sam and Max series of games. They have done an amazing job, as you’d expect from a group with such a history in some of the top graphical adventures ever created.

I’ve now completed the first two episodes (Culture Shock and Situation: Comedy), having bought the entire season based only on the extremely short free demo of episode one (and my memories of the original Sam and Max Hit the Road game). It’s $34.95 + UK VAT (or whatever your local sales tax is, I assume) for the entire season (£21 or so on my credit card after currency conversion) or $8.95 + UK VAT for a single episode (what would that be, £5 or so?) Excellent value compared to many games that only give 10-12 hours play time for £30.

Perhaps the most telling thing is that I’ve not wanted to play anything else recently! I was in the Vanguard: Saga of Heroes beta and now into release. I’ve still got an active account to World of Warcraft. I’d rather play Sam and Max, though. It’s just so fun (and the puzzles are pitched just right for my, maybe feeble, mind!) I highly recommend you download the free demo, to get a flavour of the madness that is Sam and Max!

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