Gaming Rediscoveries via Sam and Max Hit the Road

Earlier this week on our YouTube channel, I posted the first video in my Let’s Play of Sam & Max Hit the Road. In short, this is a point-and-click game released by LucasArts in 1993. It contains the titular characters of Sam, an anthropomorphic dog, and Max, a “hyperkinetic rabbity thing,” both freelance police/detectives/good at poking around in other people’s business. Both were also comic book characters before they became video game characters. And both posses their own unique personalities and skillsets, with Sam being the proverbial upstanding citizen and straightman to Max’s twisted tendencies and dark sense of humor. In other words, it’s a game that’s right up my alley.

Before playing Hit the Road for the purposes of recording, it had been a long time since I had spent any quality time with this crazy duo. I played the original game ages ago (how many floppy disks were there?), and at the time, I think I found the game more frustrating than funny. The direction you get in the game ranges runs the gamut from nil to obvious. There were plenty of times where I didn’t know what to do next or realize that I a had missed something important at a previous location. That said, it’s not the type of game that penalizes you for making the “wrong” decision. There are no time limits or extra lives or bosses to battle. (In her recent post here on point-and-click mobile game, Dina discusses the many positives of the genre.) The game is all about navigating Sam and Max during their journey, which this time around, proved to be a joy. It also brought to mind several things about games generally that I hadn’t thought of in awhile. Allow me to share a few of my gaming rediscoveries that occurred while playing Gator Golf and visiting mole men in the tunnel of love. (And if you don’t get what that means, you’ll just have to check out my videos! 🙂 )

Zen comes from letting go
While I mostly remembered my way around Hit the Road, I encountered a few spots where my memory ran dry, or I jumped the gun with tasks. While the virtues of video editing can remove such mistakes, the fact remained that while playing I had to let go of the notion of linearity. While I’m sure that the developers had in mind a particular path for players to follow in the game, once the world opened, you could travel to any of the spots to make your own discoveries. Now, as far as I know, the game does not possess a multiple array storylines. What does change for each player is the manner in which that single story unfolds. The game doesn’t afford total freedom, but given that my recent gaming roster has been RPG heavy, I had forgotten that games can fall somewhere in between open world and completely linear.

Believability is key
One of the best things that a game like Hit the Road has going for it is believability. In the case of his game, I don’t mean that one has to believe in bigfoots and metal-warping telekinetic powers in order to enjoy what’s going on. But as fantastical as the game is, from its opening sequence to its magical, ecologically-minded ending, it’s not difficult to stretch your imagination to accept Sam and Max’s weird world. And not only do Sam and Max work well together as a team, especially once they start remarking on their own experiences, but the game is filled with unique faces that make sense in the game’s grand scheme. The places that Sam and Max visit are also based on real-life tourist traps. Though exaggerated, they are taken quite seriously, if in silly manners. Once you get going in the game, it’s easy to believe in Sam and Max, their encounters, and their quest, because all the game’s elements mesh in perfect, ridiculous harmony.

Game length has little to do with immersion
We’ve extolled the virtues of short games before here, so that fact is not in question. But thinking about how I got so attached to Xenoblade Chronicles last year through ninety plus hours of gameplay, I don’t feel as though I know that game any better than I do Hit the Road, which only took about three hours to play. In that time, I became just as engrossed (if not more so) in the trials and tribulation of the freelance police as I did in the adventures of Shulk and Reyn. Granted, with a game like Xenoblade Chronicles, there’s tons of extra information about the characters to uncover, which there really isn’t in Hit the Road, but the beauty of Hit the Road is that it’s story is so rich visually that it doesn’t need to lock away information behind character interactions. The game sets everything out in front of the players like a buffet rather than a course-by-course meal. It may be a lot to take in at first, but after a few helpings, you become just as immersed in a few hours as if you had spent a whole day eating. I mean…playing.


What games have helped or help you remember that sometimes the little things in game speak volumes?

Featured image by Flickr user linda sellers (CC)

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Hatm0nster says:

    Agreed that length =/= immersion. Immersion comes from the the game’s world and characters feeling believable/relatable and thus drawing you in. If the game is long, great! All the more time that you get to be immersed in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Exactly. And the nice thing about a game like Sam and Max is that each time you play, you’ll get easily drawn back into the story — it’s not complicated. There are no moral paths to remember or relationships to keep track of or massive lists of quests. Like you wrote about in an earlier article, it’s a great “palette cleanser” between larger, more complex games.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dina Farmer says:

    I hate to harken everything to dragon age but it is my favorite game. In origins you are reminded just how important things you do in the game are reflected in future games. While you can become completely immersed in the world it is never so overwhelming with completely dry and boring fetch quests that you’d ever want to quit. While I’ve noticed as of late unless it’s Witcher 3, that a lot of AAA games have made much larger more immersive worlds. And while that is fine and good I want my quests to actually mean something to remind me that they fit somewhere within the story.

    I find the lego games tend to be a fun cleanser between massive games as well. The story mode is so simplistic and fun you don’t ever have to worry about where you are in the game. And each game is so short it’s just fun to play for a couple of hours with your little one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      I’ve been thinking that I should play Dragon Age: Origins again someday, just for the reasons you mention — immersion without busy work. Because you’re right, the game didn’t feel padded with unecessary things do to simply to add length. There a definite sense that what you do matters.

      I love the LEGO games! 🙂 It’s been awhile since I played one, but they are great examples of shorter yet nonetheless immersive games. It’s so fun to just be in a LEGO-ized world for a couple hours. Plus the games are super creative.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. duckofindeed says:

    I think Portal 2 has helped me to appreciate what matters in games. I typically like longer games, but like you said in your post, the length of a game often doesn’t matter. Portal 2, for example, is not a very long game compared to many others I have, but I grew to love it far more than I did during my 90 or so hours in Lightning Returns. Portal 2 was perfection thanks to its story, characters, and environment. I mean, all the original game needed was GLaDOS (since Chell doesn’t speak and all), and it was amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      The Portal games are are wonderful examples of storytelling without a traditional storyteller. Even in the second game when you do get more backstory and vocals, it remains in that minimalistic spirit. It’s almost like the facility is the story, and you can choose out pay attention to it or not. It’s a fantastic way to get players involved in a (shorter though it feels long) game without tons of talking and text.

      Like

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