In the past three episodes Sam and Max have managed to take on the mafia, a television studio and a group of child actors. Yet in their newest adventure, Abe Lincoln Must Die, everybody's favorite freelance police are about to deal with their most sinister villain yet: The President of the United States of America! Regardless of whether you're new to the series or have been a fan since day one, you should definitely be excited about this fourth Sam & Max episode, as it's easily the best entry yet.
Part of what makes this episode so good is that the developers at Telltale Games have finally been able to react to some of the criticisms people had with the first three titles. This is a decidedly longer experience, full of more interesting set pieces, some great characters, scathing political satire, and a story that is chock full of surprises. Finally we are starting to see how good an episodic Sam & Max adventure can be.
In Abe Lincoln Must Die we actually learn a lot about Sam and Max. For example, after you play the game you will know what political party Max belongs to, where these two freelancers live, what it takes to become the President of the United States of America, and ultimately how to kill Abe Lincoln. What sets this episode apart from the rest is the amazing plot, which actually contains a few surprises that I simply cannot reveal in this review. Needless to say, this is one adventure that will take you all the way into the deepest corners of the United States White House.
One of the complaints I've had with the past Sam & Max games is that the areas you visit aren't nearly as interesting as they should be. It seems like half of the time you are spent going from one familiar location to another, and then when you finally do get to someplace new and original there's barely anything to do. Abe Lincoln Must Die does not have that problem; every inch of the White House is exciting. It's not just that there are a lot of items to pick up and use in your adventure, each section of the White House (from the front lawn to the Oval Office to the War Room) is full of stuff to interact with. In fact, there's so much stuff to look at that it can be somewhat overwhelming at times. Thankfully every single thing you click on ends up starting some humorous conversation, even if it's something as simple as the pictures on the wall or a snow globe on the table.
As you might have guessed by the name, this episode of Sam & Max is all about making fun of the various Presidents of the United States of America. That said, don't expect anything too deep or outright divisive, the jokes here are pretty even handed (this game ends up making fun of both Republicans and Democrats equally). But even if you aren't into Bill Clinton and George W. Bush jokes, Abe Lincoln Must Die has an interesting enough story to keep you glued to your computer screen from beginning to end. There is quite an interesting plot unraveling around you, and just when you think things can't get any crazier something else happens that will knock you off your chair. I think it's safe to say that this game may have the most explosive ending I have ever seen in a video game, something that is worth the price of admission all by itself.
I would go as far as to say that I didn't mind that this game has a lot of mindless backtracking, even more than previous episodes. Towards the end of the game it seems like all you are doing is going from the White House back to your office back the White House back to your office and so on. If the story had been any less gripping I probably would have gone crazy dealing with all of this location hopping, but I was never that bothered by it because I couldn't wait to see what was coming up next.
But regardless of how exciting the story is, Abe Lincoln Must Die has a lot of the same faults we've seen in previous episodes. While there are definitely more puzzles (including a few that are really fun to play through), I can't help but notice how short and simple most of them are. If you've already finished Sam and Max's previous missions then you should have no trouble flying right through this game. You will also find that the graphics and play control are identical to the last game; there is nothing especially new or noteworthy about this game outside of the amazing story.
But maybe all of that doesn't matter. This Sam & Max episode still offers some of the funniest dialog of all time, a story that is unlike anything you've ever seen before, and at least one or two shocking moments you won't see coming. Best of all, this game gives you a chance to see what Sybil, Bosco and the Soda Poppers have been up to. This is a longer adventure that ends up using these characters (and a few new ones) in a number of ingenious ways. Who cares that you're still just pointing and clicking and solving simplistic puzzles when you have an adventure this full of life and humor.
Without a doubt this is the best episode of Sam & Max's first season … and I'm not just saying that because my birthday is one of the answers to a puzzle. Telltale Games has gone out of their way to create a solid adventure game that takes everything we love about the Sam & Max games and adds new characters and locations to the mix. If you've been waiting for a great episode then you can't do much better than Abe Lincoln Must Die. Regardless of whether you're a fan of the series or you've never actually played an adventure game before, Sam & Max Episode 4: Abe Lincoln Must Die should be mandatory gaming for anybody serious about having a good time.
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