Time to check out how the zany adventures of video game icons Sam and Max measure up in comic form. Read on for our review of Sam & Max: Surfin’ the Highway – Anniversary Edition.
Sam & Max: Surfin’ the Highway – Anniversary Edition
Writer: Steve Purcell
Artist: Steve Purcell
You may be wondering why I have chosen to review a three-month-old reprint of a fourteen-year-old book with contents dating back to 1987. Luckily, Sam & Max: Surfin’ the Highway – Anniversary Edition was just nominated for a 2009 Eisner Award, and Telltale Games was nice enough to send over a few copies to celebrate. Oh, and I think I heard through the grapevine that Gamervision was holding a Sam and Max contest of some sort. Hey, look at that! The book is still topical.
I almost feel ashamed never having read the contents of this book before the reprint came out. Even though Sam & Max Hit the Road is one of the most memorable games from my childhood, I didn’t know until years later that the two wacky characters had their roots in comics. Surfin’ the Highway compiles Steve Purcell’s creations starting way back in 1987, a year before Purcell started working for LucasArts and six years before Sam & Max Hit the Road came out for the PC.
What makes freelance police Sam and Max so lovable in the video game world is their zany, self-referential humor. As you probably know, Sam is a suit-wearing canine, and Max is a super-violent, mildly insane rabbit. Together, the two of them take orders from the mysterious commissioner to solve crimes, but usually end up making more trouble in the process. The pair is just as enjoyable in comic form as they are in games. Obviously, having the same writer creating all of their adventures has something to do with that, but not every property can make such a seamless transition from comics to games and back again.
My favorite thing about Surfin’ the Highway is being able to see where many of the gaming aspects originated. There are bits of both the 90s point-and-click adventure and Telltale’s episodic series in the book, some more than two decades old. Of course, the fact that the book is well-written and hilarious doesn’t hurt at all. I’m also glad that Steve Purcell has no problem making fun of himself, like when he takes Sam and Max to the Philippines. “Drawn without reference material, apparently,” Max comments upon arrival.
Sam & Max: Surfin’ the Highway is a really good book, and it perfectly captures everything that makes the Sam & Max games so great—except the actual gameplay, of course. I never expected anything less. The anniversary edition adds some additional artwork and a new cover (not to mention allowing you to buy a book that was previously out of print), as well as a foreword from Steve Purcell himself. It’s well worth the $19.99 price tag.
Of course, you could always just try and win yourself a copy. Check out the details here.