Sam and Max Hit the Road was a formative game for me, and in some ways so was the eventual follow up, Sam and Max Save the World. It goes without saying I was all hands on deck when the band got back together.
As Skunkape Games, a group of Telltale Games alumni bought the rights of all three "Seasons" and are releasing them on PC and Nintendo Switch with the all-important Remastered branding. This release is a perfect way to experience these classic point and click comedies, not only for all the new bells and whistles but for restoring compatibility on PCs.
And the portability factor on the Switch is great too. But for more on the game itself, you can go check out my review, in which I do my best not to just gush all over the place. We aren't done with Sam and Max: Save the World Remastered, though.
The holidays did their best to get in the way, but I was able to get in contact with the team at Skunkape Games. I was super curious about this whole project, especially considering its out of nowhere appearance and what seemed like significant adjustments (you can check out exactly what adjustments were made right here).
Getting a hold of people making games is never easy, and that's especially the case now with a pandemic keeping everyone indoors all the time. But I would like to send an extra Shout Out over to Skunkape Games, especially Emily for making this Q&A happen.
Sam and Max Save the World Remastered Interview
Lucas White, Prima Games: Sam and Max Season One was a significant release for so many reasons! What’s it like going back to it after, well, everything?
Skunkape Team: Awesome! It's very refreshing after working on more serious titles.
Speaking of going back, how did the team get together? Were there issues with people having other jobs or was it smooth sailing from the jump?
This all started in early 2019 when Dan Connors reached out to the rest of us about the possibility of acquiring the Sam & Max rights and updating the games. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to work on Sam & Max again, but some of us had other commitments, so we had a bit of a slow start.
By that summer, after some other projects we were committed to wrapped up, we were able to start working on it.
Were there any unique challenges bringing these games to the Switch?
We really wanted the controls to feel natural for the Switch. Playing a point-and-click style game on a console doesn’t always translate well and can be painful to play. We put a lot of R&D into a new control scheme specifically for the Switch that is intuitive and makes it easy to navigate Sam through this zany world.
Looking back, and going through the games to update them, what still really holds up from the team’s perspective? Any “oh god I can’t believe we did this” moments?
The story and writing are still great. Hopefully what we’ve updated for the game just makes the jokes shine even more. For most things that we didn’t love in the original, there was a reason why it was the way it was (budget, hardware limitations, time), so we were able to improve most of that.
But, yeah, there’s definitely some cringy stuff like models or UI that we’ve been able to update.
What prompted the changes to lighting (and color?) and how’d you land on those specific changes?
Lighting was one of the biggest limitations of the original release, and we knew if we made it a priority for the remaster that it would be a big bang for the buck. We did some visual development of different styles and approaches to the lighting and materials.
We didn’t want to go full toon shader or have heavy ink lines, but we brought in some of those qualities in more subtle ways. The overall goal was to make it feel like Steve’s art, whether in character design or color palettes—punching up the color, the dramatic lighting, the subtle outlines.
And, also, we wanted it to be reminiscent of Hit the Road.
I understand why Bosco’s voice actor was changed, but were there any challenges making it happen?
It’s not easy to replace all of a character's voice lines. Bosco has around five hundred voice lines across the six episodes. Replacing these has a ripple effect affecting lip sync, acting, and timing of cutscenes. Luckily we have good technology for handling this sort of thing.
Sam and Max has always occupied a weird space, yeah? Almost a niche within a niche. Any thoughts on what keeps these characters alive up to and beyond 2020?
Well, you could say that Sam & Max occupies not only a weird space, but *the* weird space. The characters, the situations, and the writing have never tried to be normal—in fact, quite the opposite. With so much content out there that feels generic or derivative, Sam & Max stands out as unique and, even twenty years later, still fresh.
We have to give credit to Steve Purcell, who created this super interesting license and then encouraged the creatives who work on it to bring in their personalities and inspiration. In the process of building these games, we would sometimes ask the question, “Yeah, but is it Sam & Max enough?”
You can only imagine the brainstorms that would follow that question. The end result of that type of creative freedom is rare in any medium, let alone games.
What’s the rights situation with Sam and Max? Would the team be able to make a new game (hypothetically!) If it wanted to? Or is the Telltale series separate as a completed work? Was it hard to get this project off the ground from a business perspective?
We have the publishing rights for all three seasons of Sam and Max developed at Telltale. If we were to do any new content we would need to discuss it with Steve, since he owns the license. From a business perspective it was pretty straightforward, the assets were for sale and everyone was up for it so we jumped on the opportunity.
Since then everyone we have dealt with has been really supportive in making this happen.
Can we expect to see the whole series get this treatment? If so is there a roadmap or anything yet?
We’re currently working on Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space (a.k.a. Season 2) and we hope to eventually complete all three seasons.
Is a physical release possible? Feasible? Or totally off the table?
It’s possible and feasible! Right now we’re focused on the download version that just released for PC and Switch, but a physical release is not off the table.
Who do we need to yell at to get Hit the Road on Switch?
Not us! Maybe someone at Disney? :)
What does Max’s fur feel like?
You can find out for yourself: https://www.uncute.com/products/sam-and-max-stuffed-toy
I promise that the hyperlink was no funny business on my part, as Prima Games is not on the take from Big Sam and Max. Would we ever be so lucky. I do genuinely love these characters, and have followed them for well over a decade now.
Speaking to some of the folks responsible for an all-time favorite of mine was a great experience, and frankly I'm thrilled that Skunkape is gunning for getting all three Seasons out.
What went down with Telltale Games was a real tragedy in games industry history, but seeing projects like this emerge from the wreckage is a great reminded of why that was such a big deal.
If you've never played a Sam and Max, or even a game like this before, Sam and Max Save the World Remastered is the best place to start. And if that lands with you, definitely go back to the LucasArts classic, Hit the Road. And read Surfin' the Highway. And watch the Freelance Police show.
And... well that's it, really. A VR game is coming out soon? This series is not a fountain of content, that's for sure.