Sam & Max, Telltale's episodic adventure series, is now up to its fourth episode with Abe Lincoln Must Die! If you haven't been keeping up, the main thing moving the story along so far has been teddy bears with the power to hypnotize, which has led to all sorts of weird happenings, from talk show hosts keeping their audiences hostage to rogue child stars wreaking havoc. The dog-and-rabbit detective duo get one layer deeper in Episode 4, which makes some light changes to the formula that make this feel a bit fresher than the previous episodes. But since this is an episodic game and we're already more than halfway through the first "season" of six episodes, at this point you've probably either committed to playing them all or have decided to skip it all.
But just in case you're still on the fence because you're waiting to see how the whole season turns out before jumping in, you should know that Episode 4 is probably the most interesting episode since the first one. The president has gone fully bananas, ordering group hugs at sporting events and all sorts of other un-American nonsense. It's up to Sam (dog) and Max (rabbitlike, psychotic) to stop the president. But that actually happens relatively early on in this two-to-three-hour episode, leaving you with another interesting plot twist or two to deal with. It all ties into the main story arc nicely, and like the other episodes, it's all quite funny as well, and a great deal of credit has to go to the voice acting, which is once again top-notch.
This episode breaks from the formula a bit by starting you out in a new location. In this case, it's the White House. The other episodes start you out in your office and let you wander the neighborhood before heading out to the scene of the supposed crime. It's a good change of pace, but one of the first things you'll actually do here is drive back to your office and, you know, explore your neighborhood for necessary items and leads. So the flow of the game itself hasn't really changed at all. In fact, there's probably more movement between the episode's crime scene (the White House) and the neighborhood area than there's been in any of the previous episodes, which can make things drag a bit.
With great-looking graphics, intelligent puzzles, and a well-written, funny script, Telltale's Sam & Max series has already had more hits than misses, so if you've been holding out on buying any of them until you're sure that the bulk of the series is worth playing, Abe Lincoln Must Die! is the green light you've been waiting for.