Sam & Max: Freelance Police (cancelled Lucas Arts PC adventure game; 2002-2004)
|Logo for the game.|
From the 1980s to the 1990s, point-and-click adventure games dominated the PC gaming market, a feat which can often be attributed to the genre's strong writing and storytelling. One of the biggest names in the genre's history was Lucasarts, who developed such classic games such as Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and of course, Sam & Max.
Sam & Max began life as a comic strip by Steve Purcell, that chronicled the many misadventures of Freelance Police officers Sam, a six foot tall brown anthropomorphic dog with a grey suit and fedora, and Max, a three foot tall white rabbit with no clothes. In 1992, being an employee of Lucasarts at the time, Purcell approached Lucasarts to develop his comic strip into an adventure game with him as one of the lead designers. One year later, Sam & Max Hit the Road was released to critical and financial acclaim.
For nine years the video game series laid dormant, though Purcell continued the comic strip for another three years and a critically acclaimed television series was produced in that time. On August 27, 2002, fans' waiting seemed to pay off as Lucasarts announced a sequel to Hit the Road, titled Freelance Police, was being produced alongside the (equally ill fated) Full Throttle sequel, Hell on Wheels.
Over the course of its development, Lucasarts gave the game as much media as they could for an adventure game in a sadly dying adventure game market. An E3 trailer (see above) confirmed that Sam and Max's original voice actors Bill Farmer (the then and now voice of Goofy) and Nick Jameson (Palpatine in Star Wars: Clone Wars) were set to reprise their roles. Very little is know about the game's plot, though an interview with game director Michael Stemmle described the plot as "really six stories, loosely held together by a thrilling uber plot." Flint Paper, a character who cameoed in Hit the Road, was also confirmed to return alongside the titular characters.
Sadly, on March 3rd, 2004, less than two months after Semmle had given the aforementioned interview, Lucasarts announced that Freelance Police had been cancelled, citing the falling sales of adventure games as the culprit. Game journalists as well as many Lucasarts employees (including Steve Purcell) were disappointed by this turn of events. Worse still, this would end up as the last adventure game Lucasarts would develop before closing the doors on its adventure game industries.
Fortunately, in 2005, Lucasarts' ownership of the Sam & Max franchise would expire, allowing creator Steve Purcell to take his franchise to the fledgling TellTale Games studio, made up of former Lucasart employees. The end result was an episodic game series released in 2006 called Sam & Max Save the World, which would last six episodes and spawn two sequel seasons (Beyond Time and Space and The Devil's Playhouse). Very little of Freelance Police was carried over into these games however, as TellTale was wary about using similar design patterns. The extent of things carried over from Freelance Police seem to be the six stories loosely strung together to form an uber plot, and what appear to be the character basis for Hugh Bliss and Sybil Pandemic (the former of which seems to appear in early screenshots, the latter appearing in an early animation test -one of four- found on YouTube).
As for Freelance Police itself, the chances of it getting an official release any time soon are between slim and none. It is possible that enough of the game was completed to warrant a release, seeing as the game was cancelled right around the time it was supposed to be released; that and the fact that quite a selection of gameplay screenshots and animation tests have since been made available. Even if an official release never occurs, it is possible the game could be leaked as a ROM à la Star Fox 2. For now though, this game remains one of the many unreleased games people are still clamoring to see to this day.
- Early 2004 computerandvideogames.com interview with Michael Stemmle. Retrieved 16 Oct '13.