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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Adventure

 

Telltale Games / Gametap

 

Developer

Telltale Games

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

March 8, 2007

 

 

- Longer gaming session to complete entire episode than previous two

- The great storytelling continues with the best writing in the series to date

- Puzzles are more challenging than before

 

 

- While puzzles are more challenging, they can also contain “choke” moments, too

- All right, I finally give up hope of any type of mini-games to extend the game’s playability after completing it appearing this season

 

 

Review: Sam & Max: The Mole, The Mob, and the Meatball (PC)

Review: Sam & Max - Situation: Comedy (PC)

Review: Sam & Max: Culture Shock (PC)

 

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Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die!

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

It’s hard to believe the fourth episode of the first season of the new Sam & Max episodic game series is already here. Or rather, let’s make that episode four-score-and-seven-years-ago, as, yes, Abe Lincoln himself is one of the central characters of the political-satire-filled Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die! (Somewhat ironically, right before I wrote this review, I had to help my 8-year-old daughter finish up her school report about Lincoln).

 

abe lincoln must die          abe lincoln must die

 

Well, not really THE Abe Lincoln (because this isn’t some back-from-the-dead storyline), but actually the Lincoln Memorial is resuscitated from its stone-cold existence and brought to “life” by the Toy Mafia that’s been moving in and out of the shadows and creating all the chaos our Freelance Police duo, Sam & Max, have been investigating.

 

What’s the Lincoln Memorial got to do with the Toy Mafia? Well, The highly creative writing team behind the Sam & Max game has devised a perfectly

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ingenious plot: after their hypnotic mechanical president literally loses his head, America needs a new president. It comes down to two candidates: the Toy Mafia’s choice, Abe Lincoln, versus screw’s-always-loose Max, the wisenheimer rabbit partner of his campaign manager, Sam the gumshoe dog.

 

The story’s great, and as a bonus, some of 

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the issues and criticisms from both gaming journalists and Sam & Max gamers alike have been directly addressed by developer Telltale Games, who stated as much in the press release accompanying Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die!

 

For the first time in the first season, the developers were able to integrate some gameplay changes into an episode directly related to what critics and fans have been asking for. This is what episodic gaming is supposed to be: a regular release schedule, and issues and complaints taken care of (as well as putting in more of what everybody likes) from those playing the game.

 

The shorter sessions it took to complete the last two episodes? Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die! is noticeably longer. What about the relatively easy puzzles? They’ve been made much more challenging (although somewhat too challenging or confusing, because for the first time in the season, I found myself stuck at a “choke” point while playing and needed hints to advance).

 

Puzzles you need to piece together with the typical “combine item A with item B” solutions place some necessary items in locations where items haven’t been found before, so that gamers who have been playing all season long (like myself) wouldn’t think to look there. It’s the old Pavlov’s dog (no relation to Sam) syndrome, where you become conditioned not to think that the wall near the abandoned store could possibly hold a valuable and needed item.

 

A lot of political humor, aimed directly at politicians without actually crossing party lines in any direction, fills the dialogue lines of Sam and Max and even Abe Lincoln, who has quite a few intentionally funny moments and a outbreak of downright lunacy at the end of the game. The way that Sam and Max use dirty political tricks during debates to shift the vote from Lincoln to Max is hilarious. Once again, a magnificent story is at the backbone of the game, and in my opinion the best-written episode so far.

 

abe lincoln must die          abe lincoln must die

 

Graphically, Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die! follows the same style, as one would expect, from the first three episodes. But there’s a more fluid visual flow to the animated gameplay exchanges, especially when the Lincoln Memorial comes to life and interacts with other characters.

 

While a lot of the gameplay once again takes place as in the first three games on the same city street where Sam and Max have their office, A lot of your gaming time will be done at the White House. There’s a new storefront addition on Sam and Max’s street. Hugh Bliss, who popped up in a previous episode, runs his bookstore in the store next to Bosco’s Inconvenience Store. Bosco is back, too, this time sporting yet another accent to disguise himself. Following his British and French tongue-twisting, Bosco this time dons a Russian accent. Sylvia returns, and plays a central role in the game, more so than she ever did in any previous episode.

 

I’ll finally concede that I won’t have some type of mini-games available that can be played once the game is completed. There’s another racing “mini-game” in the Freelance Police’s DeSoto (which has humorously been given a “presidential” transformation), but this one’s the easiest one yet, and there’s nothing like the shooting mini-game that was in episode 3. I can live without them, but to have a few mini-game activities to keep me playing any of the episodes after completing it has always seemed to be a good idea.

 

Honest as Abe, so far Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die! is the best episode of Sam & Max’s nearing-the-end first season. This is simply amazing writing with some of the best satirical political commentary without even mentioning specifics about either Democrats or Republicans along with longer and tougher gameplay.

 

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(March 8, 2007)

 

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