Sam & Max: Episode 4 – Abe Lincoln Must Die! Review
Developer: Telltale Games
Reviewed on PC
The previous antics of Freelance Police Sam and Max have had them investigating and attacking the none-too sacred realm of celebrity scandal, as the dog detective and his lagomorphic sidekick freed misbehaving television stars from hypnotic thralldom. Most recently, Sam and Max eliminated the non-Mafia owned casino and hypnotic doll factory, but the sinister threat underlying these episodes has yet to surface. And where else could celebrities go but political office? In Sam & Max: Episode 4 – Abe Lincoln Must Die!, Sam and Max move up from their local beat to face presidential candidates and gubernatorial ne'er-do-wells on their own turf.
It's my pleasure to say that Sam & Max: Episode 4 – Abe Lincoln Must Die! is where the episodic series of Sam & Max games from Telltale Games finally turns the corner. Gamers no longer need to wait to see how the franchise will turn out. With the release of Abe Lincoln Must Die!, it becomes a hot series to be purchased immediately. Sam and Max could never be said to be on the straight and narrow, but their episodic game is now on the fast track to success, and it's time to dig into your wallets to join in the fun.
To understand how Frictionless Insight incorporates both price and quality into ratings, check out the review criteria page. Essentially, we're looking for value in games. The individual episodes in the Sam & Max cost $9, but the run of six episodes is $35. To recap the series so far, Episode 1 was brilliant (and provided a lot of entertainment). Episode 2 and Episode 3 were both entertaining but very short. Now, with the release of Episode 4, I can wholeheartedly urge you to go out and secure your season pass for a lot of Sam & Max entertainment.
Episode 4 notches up the humor yet again, as Telltale Games has really hit its stride, even poking fun at rogue paleobotanists and gamers' sacred cows, like Zork itself. Clearly, Telltale has taken gamers' feedback to heart and responded brilliantly. Though there are no more new locations than in the previous episode (this installment only adds the White House and its environs), tweaks to the dialogue make it fun to explore all the old locations again – and revisiting previously purposeless points is critical to complete certain puzzles. There's even a new store near the Freelance Police HQ.
The humor and puzzles are even more outrageous, with some of the choicest quips from Sam and Max you could hope for, all punctuated by a Busby Berkeley-style dance number that will have you laughing in shock as much as humor. And it's not just the jokes that have gotten outrageous – Bosco's latest gadget is so overpriced this time around that you'd have to be leader of the free world to afford it. Even Sybil has two (count them: two!) new professions this time around.
Better yet, the puzzles in Episode 4 are more challenging. In this latest episode, the developers have struck the perfect balance between difficulty and outrageous logic. You won't be combining old gum and bread crust to make a shrimp canape. Everything follows reasonable logic, but the solutions to puzzles aren't brutally telegraphed as they were in the previous two episodes.
Between the scads of new dialog, and puzzles that have hit the adventure-genre sweet spot, Episode 4 should take experienced gamers about three hours to finish. Combine that length with the many laugh-out-loud moments and clever puzzles, and Telltale has clearly brought this franchise to near-perfection.