Sam & Max resurrected

Fan-favored franchise finds life after LucasArts at Telltale Games; episodic adventures of the freelance police on the way

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More than a decade ago, LucasArts was practically synonymous with quirky point-and-click adventure games. And few were more beloved (or quirkier) than Sam & Max Hit the Road. Based on the underground comic Sam & Max: Freelance Police, the game's then-impressive graphics, timeless whimsy, and senseless comic violence made it popular among adventure game players.

Long-standing calls for more adventure gaming fun starring the duo have yet to be fully answered, but indie developer Telltale Games last night announced that it has acquired the rights to the careless crimefighters and will be creating all-new adventure games based on the exploits of the canine-lagomorph tandem. Few details are available at the moment, but it has been confirmed that the games will be released in an episodic format.

A Telltale spokesman couldn't give specific details on release plans or pricing for the new Sam and Max episodes, but he did say that it would roughly follow the model used by the company's first such effort, Bone: Out from Boneville, available from the Telltale Web site starting today. Based on Jeff Smith's independent comic, Out from Boneville provides players with an estimated four to six hours of gameplay for $19.99. The Telltale team created the new Bone game from scratch in roughly a year, which should give Sam & Max fans some idea of the turnaround times Telltale can accomplish with its episodic business model.

Demand for a sequel to 1993's Hit the Road went unheeded for quite some time until 2001, when development studio Infinite Machine, led by former LucasArts employee and Jedi Knight designer Justin Chin, announced that it had obtained the license and was working on a Sam & Max game for next-generation consoles. The unbridled joy of the duo's small-but-fervent fan community was not to last long, as Infinite Machine folded shortly thereafter.

Sorrow turned to elation once more in 2002, when LucasArts announced that it had begun development on a proper sequel to Hit the Road. Along with Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels, Sam & Max Freelance Police was intended to represent a return to LucasArts' adventure game roots. However, the emotional roller-coaster ride continued for Sam & Max fans, as LucasArts never did get back to its roots, canceling the game in March of 2004. (Hell on Wheels had been canceled months earlier).

At the time, LucasArts said it would not be laying off any staff as a result of the cancellation, but key members of the Freelance Police development team left later that year anyway to start up Telltale Games, dedicating their new studio to the long-languishing genre of the point-and-click adventure game.

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