A bizarre adventure game with puzzles too clever by half.
The original Sam and Max Hit the Road, developed by Lucasarts, was a riotously funny point-and-click adventure game featuring a wisecracking dog and rabbit detective team. Fans of the original will be happy to know that the personalities stay intact in this new series by Telltale Games—Sam and Max still have the same strange, biting sense of humor. Even though Season 1 on the Wii gets off to a bit of a shaky start and the puzzles are completely ludicrous throughout, this comedic adventure steadily improves over the course of six episodes.
[image1]Each episode involves a supporting character who has fallen under hypnotic influence. Dealing with cases surrounding everything from the former child stars the Soda Poppers, to the pushy talk show host Myra, these goofy entertainers are all wrapped up in a nonsensical conspiracy involving the mob, the US Government, and space-faring bacteria. Sam and Max end up on a wild goose chase (not literally, although it wouldn't be out of place in this weird game) and are randomly thrown from one unusual setting to the next.
The situations they find themselves in also grow increasingly absurd, and by the time this season hits its stride around episode 4 (where Max runs for President of the United States against a giant stone Abraham Lincoln statue), you'll finally start to appreciate the perplexing narrative. This season does take some time to ramp up, but it's worth sticking around for the later episodes.
[image2]The convoluted plot twists are especially fun to watch due to the hours of punchy dialogue. Every background item you click on produces a snappy observation from the main characters, and a lot of these are quite amusing. However, the back-and-forth dialogue can become exhausting, simply because there's so much of it throughout the game.
Even though the story is a lot of fun, it's a shame the game itself is going to try some players' patience. All of the solutions to the game's puzzles involve cartoon logic, like stuffing a rat into a cannon to knock out a hypnotized victim. With only one solution to each puzzle, it's easy to get frustrated when all you want to do is advance the plot.
A better hint system would have been the best way to handle this problem for more casual players, and the few in-game hints that are provided aren't specific enough for the more confusing puzzles. In the second season on PC, Max offers more dynamic in-game help if you start to get stuck, and the Wii version would have benefitted from this addition.
[image3]Also, one problem unique to the Wii version is the fuzzy graphics, which can blur some of the background text. What's the point of including a newspaper headline or billboard in the background if the visuals aren't sharp enough to let you read them? While most of the character models and environments look good on the Wii, this lack of detail will mean Wii owners will miss out on a few extra jokes.
Because of the clever story and interesting characters, it's worth struggling to the end through the more tedious puzzles (or cheating with an online walkthrough). But if you were hoping for a more player-friendly adventure, you might want to skip straight to Sam and Max Season 2.