Again carrying on directly where the series left off, Beyond the Alley of the Dolls opens with Sam and Max being pursued by an army of Sam clones. The clones are horrible, half-naked, zombie-like evil copies of our hero. Which is a bummer, because an army of one’s own minds would kind-of come in handy – I could have finished this review a week ago!

The first puzzle takes place holed up in Stinky’s diner, from which we must escape before it is breached by the clones. Unfortunately, the first puzzle makes very little sense unless you find all the items and use them in the right order – which I didn’t. This ruined the special little moment in adventure games when you work it all out despite the funky logic, as it took a moment of reflection to work out why I had solved it. The puzzles do however get a lot better as the game goes on, with Max having more psychic toys at his disposal than in any other episode. The episode progresses nicely, without feeling too long or too short and is balanced well by a mix of classic multi-location puzzles and a few standalone sequences, which are the real highlight of the episode.

The ‘séance’ sequence for example had me chuckling the whole way through and was testament to Telltale’s commitment to the series’ humour; which is becoming very much its own genre. I can’t see many of the jokes; especially the ones that made me laugh the most, working in any other game. In fact, Beyond the Alley of the Dolls had me grinning for pretty much the entirety of the episode, with the dialogue in particular being very solid. And not just the main dialogue, either because a few of the characters’ ‘background’ comments caught me off guard, causing me to snort rather loudly and embarrassingly! “I know… Maybe if we ignore them they’ll go away?”

"It's the 'Samulacra'!" "I prefer 'Dogglegangers'..."

As for characters, it’s the usual troupe, really. Don’t get me wrong though, this is no bad thing! All of the Sam and Max universe regulars were used sparingly, allowing me to enjoy their parts, rather than sigh at the sight of them (something I did a little last episode). A couple of new characters are expanded upon, for the purposes of the plot and these were both completely brilliant. Saying who they are would be spoilery though, so you are just going to have to find out yourselves… Hang about though, because my character highlight of the month was neither of the new recruits: it was an appearance from ex-COP Bluster Blaster, who despite me having trouble deciphering his words, had me laughing the hardest. And a welcome non-appearance from the Mole people, which was a well-timed break.

Beyond the Alley of the Dolls doesn’t suffer from the inconsistent setting and tone that plagued last month’s offering, either. The episode takes place across a selection of the more solid locations from throughout the series, with a couple of great additions – in one of which takes place the finale. As can be expected now from Telltale, these locations are all expertly rendered and oozing with character. Visually then, it’s a typically well produced episode and to top it all there is plenty of variety – because of the invasion of the ‘Dogglegangers’ the streets, and notably Straight and Narrow are out-of-bounds.

I had missed Boscotech.

Baring the first section, Beyond the Alley of the Dolls is a great Sam and Max episode. And once it starts to pick up in quality it doesn’t really stop. The finale is beyond brilliant and features another excellently written, despicably evil yet misunderstood villain and a genius location to boot. Telltale certainly hasn’t held back on scale, and to be honest I’d have been happy if the close to episode 4 had been the finale for the series, because it was great enough and grand enough to be just that! Well, apart from when the inevitable cliff hanger came, at which point I changed my mind: I won’t be happy until I’ve played the real finale, The City That Dares Not Sleep!

Mark’s Score: 4/5 starks