Tuesday, September 2, 2008

RAAtEtHoTDVG 1: Sam and Max Hit the Road

Ridiculously Ambitious Attempt to Experience the Heart of Two-Dimensional Video Gaming, Part 1

So here's something I've been working on. I've been playing games for a long time, but I only really started playing significant ones during the PS1/N64 era. Before that, it was just what my relatives got me or just what I could get my hands on. I wanted to fill in the large gap in my knowledge and memories from back when games were made with sprites instead of polygons. I asked some people on the Internet to help, and they gave me a lot of great suggestions. These are almost all for the NES, SNES, Genesis, or original Game Boy, with some graphic adventures on the PC thrown in as well, mostly Lucasarts' SCUMM games. That's mostly what got recommended, and anything pre-Nintendo is too archaic to be worth anything besides historical significance at this point anyway. I will play as many of these games as possible, and while I can't guarantee I'll finish them all, I'll play long enough to give a valid opinion. So here's the first game, which segues nicely from what I've recently been playing.

Sam and Max Hit the Road (PC)

This is the comic book duo's first foray into video games until the much more recent episodic work by Telltale. I'm kind of working backwards through their history, as the Trade Paperback with all of their comics should be coming in the mail soon. The game obviously looks quite different, Sam and Max are the only characters that appear in the later games, and their voices are different. Still, they're the same people in the same world and it felt familiar. Their sense of humor might be a little more blunt in this, but it's just as funny. Their office and street are a bit different, but more or less comparable, and the game starts the same way, with the mysterious commissioner calling in about a new case that begins the adventure.

Being a full game and not just an episode, there's a bigger scope to the story, many more locations to visit, and more puzzles to solve, although it didn't really feel too much longer. When you know what to do, these old adventure games usually don't take too long, and since I don't have much patience for some of the logical leaps these games make you take, I wasn't afraid to look up and use hints. I don't feel bad about it, because the fun comes from the characters and dialogue, not being confounded by something and trying every item on every object. Most of what you have to do makes sense, but sometimes the solutions are highly specific without giving you much help about what's supposed to be happening. Also, I'm glad interfaces have been streamlined so much in modern adventures, because there's no reason that clicking on an elevator with the walk function selected should result in being told I have to "use" it, when it should be able to figure out what I'm trying to do. Hit the Road is actually one of the better SCUMM games about this it appears, and I slightly dread earlier ones that have a dozen different actions to sort through. It's better than having to type out what you want, but not by a lot. Besides this though, Hit the Road is a very funny and clever little game, and probably as good an example as any of this dying genre's good points.

Next: A young boy fights to save the kingdom from evil.

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