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Sam & Max
The logo for Sam & Max.
Developer(s)LucasArts, Telltale Games
Publisher(s)LucasArts, Telltale Games, GameTap, Atari
Year introduced1993
Genre(s)Adventure
WebsiteOffical site

Sam & Max is a media franchise focusing on the eponymous fictional characters of Sam and Max, the Freelance Police. The characters, who occupy a universe that parodies American popular culture, were created by Steve Purcell in his youth, and later debuted in a 1987 comic book series. The characters have since been the subject of a graphic adventure video game developed by LucasArts, a television series produced for Fox, and a series of episodic adventure games developed by Telltale Games. In addition, a variety of machinima and a webcomics have been produced for the series.

The characters are a pair of anthropomorphic, vigilante private investigators based in a dilapidated office block in New York City. Sam is a calculating six-foot dog wearing a suit and a fedora, while Max is a short and aggressive "hyperkinetic rabbity thing". Both enjoy solving problems and cases as maniacally as possible, often with complete disregard for the law. Driving a seemingly indestructible black-and-white 1960 DeSoto Adventurer, the pair travel to many contemporary and historical locations to fight crime, including the Moon, Ancient Egypt, the White House and the Philippines, as well as several fictional locations.

The series has been very successful despite its relatively limited amount of media, and has gathered a significant fan following. However, the franchise did not gain more widespread recognition until after the 1993 release of LucasArts' Sam & Max Hit the Road, which cultivated interest in Purcell's original comics. Sam & Max Hit the Road is regarded as an exceptional adventure game and an iconic classic of computer gaming in the 1990s. Subsequent video games and the television series have also fared well with both critics and fans; critics consider the episodic video games to be the first successful application of the episodic distribution model.

History[edit]

Following LucasArts' employment of Purcell in 1988, the characters of Sam and Max appeared in internal testing material for new SCUMM engine programmers; Purcell created animated versions of the characters and an office backdrop for the programmers to practice on. In 1992, LucasArts offered Purcell the chance to create a video game out of the characters, out of a wish to use new characters after the success of its two other main adventure titles, Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, and after a positive reaction from fans to the Sam & Max comic strips featured in LucasArts' The Adventurer newsletter. Consequently, development on a graphic adventure game, Sam & Max Hit the Road, began shortly after.

Sam & Max Hit the Road[edit]

Based on the ninth version of the SCUMM engine and designed by Sean Clark, Michael Stemmle, Steve Purcell and his future wife Collette Michaud, the game was partially based on the 1989 comic "On The Road", and featured the Freelance Police traveling across America in search of an escaped bigfoot. Sam was voiced in the game by comedian Bill Farmer, while actor Nick Jameson voiced Max. Sam & Max Hit the Road was originally released for DOS in November 1993. Soon after Sam & Max Hit the Road, another Sam & Max game using SCUMM entered planning under Purcell and Dave Grossman, but was abandoned. In a later interview Grossman described this sequel's highlight as "a giant spaceship shaped like Max's head". Sam and Max made their transition into 3D in 2006; Purcell wanted to ensure that Telltale's series matched the tone of the comics, both visually and in content.

Sam & Max: Freelance Police[edit]

At the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo convention, nearly a decade after the release of Sam & Max Hit the Road, LucasArts announced the production of a Windows sequel, entitled Sam & Max: Freelance Police. Freelance Police, like Hit the Road, was to be a point-and-click graphic adventure game, utilizing a new 3D game engine. Development of Freelance Police was led by Michael Stemmle. Steve Purcell contributed to the project by writing the story and producing concept art. Farmer and Jameson were also set to reprise their voice acting roles. In March 2004, however, quite far into the game's development, Sam & Max: Freelance Police was abruptly canceled by LucasArts, citing "current market place realities and underlying economic considerations" in a short press release. The fan reaction to the cancellation was strong; a petition of 32,000 signatures stating the disappointment of fans was later presented to LucasArts.

Episodic content[edit]

After LucasArts' license with Steve Purcell expired in 2005, the Sam & Max franchise moved to Telltale Games, a company of former LucasArts employees who had worked on a number of LucasArts adventure games, including on the development of Freelance Police. Under Telltale Games, a new episodic series of Sam & Max video games was announced. Like both Sam & Max Hit the Road and Freelance Police, Sam & Max Save the World was in a point-and-click graphic adventure game format. The game utilized a new 3D game engine, different from the one used in Freelance Police. The first season ran for six episodes, each with a self-contained storyline but with an overall story arc involving hypnotism running through the series. The first episode was released on GameTap in October 2006, with episodes following regularly until April 2007. Sam is voiced by David Nowlin, while Max is voiced by William Kasten in all episodes except the first one, where Andrew Chaikin voices the character. In addition, Telltale Games produced fifteen machinima shorts to accompany the main episodes. These shorts were released in groups of three in between the release of each episode, showing the activities of the Freelance Police in between each story.

A second season of episodic video games developed by Telltale Games was announced in July 2007. Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space followed the same overall format as Save the World, with each episode having a contained storyline with an overarching storyline involving laundering of the souls of the dead. As with Save the World, episodes were originally published on GameTap before being made available for general release. The season consisted of five episodes and ran from November 2007 to April 2008. Nowlin and Kasten both returned to reprise their voice roles. In addition to the main games, a twenty-minute machinima video was produced, taking the form of a Sam & Max Christmas special.

A third season, entitled Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse was confirmed in May 2008 for release in 2009; this has since been pushed back to 2010, with concept art emerging after Telltale's completion of Tales of Monkey Island. There will be a total of five episodes, one released each month. The first episode, The Penal Zone was released on April 15, 2010.

Games[edit]

Stand-alone release
Episodic content