Sam & Max: Episode 5 - 'Reality 2.0' Impressions

April 6, 2007 By Glenn Turner

Sam & Max Shirt Print

Whenever I hear about an upcoming game that promises to lampoon the world of video/computer games, I usually just sigh. Most video games are ridiculous enough that most attempts to parody them comes off as heavy-handed and obnoxious, like someone aping Leslie Nielsen, eliciting the basest of chuckles only from fans who recognize the source material, and boredom from everyone else. So, even though Telltale had just delivered an amazingly raucous good time with 'Abe Lincoln Must Die', I was skeptical about how well they'd be able to pull off the subsequent episode, 'Reality 2.0', as even the title indicates that they're delving into sending up matters both virtual and interactive. Thankfully, my fretting was mostly for naught, as 'Reality 2.0' strives to be more than a game-centric edition of Cracked! magazine.

(Those who haven't played the prior episode, 'Abe Lincoln Must Die', may want to skip the rest of this journal, as it will contain minor spoilers concerning that Sam & Max adventure. Hey, them's the breaks when you're discussing serial games!)

'Reality 2.0' picks up right where 'Abe Lincoln Must Die' left off & namely, Max is still president. Right off the bat, I was a bit stunned, since I figured we'd see Max stripped of his presidential status, then get a bit of lip-service as to why Max was booted from the White House and that'd be the end of that, but no! Surprisingly, Telltale decided to milk the joke for all it's worth, including numerous references, gags and Max's state, as well commentary concerning the states his presidency have affected ("U.S. out of Dakotas!") However, apart from that, it's mostly business as usual – there's a sinister plot, this time concerning computers & the internet, that's wreaking havoc all over the nation. As luck would have it, the epicenter for this activity is smack-dab in the middle of Sam & Max's neighborhood.

Yet again, we lead our illustrious duo to both Sybil Pandemik & Boscoe, both of whom are strictly adhering to their previously established formula, namely Sybil has shifted into some topical job and Boscoe's adopted a similarly topical stereotype. Ultimately, after running about town, Sam & Max end up in front of the C.O.P.S., short for 'Computer Obsolescence Prevention Society' and the tech behind Reality 2.0, hilariously constituted by sundry pieces of 80s electronics (most memorably represented by a monosyllabic arcade machine). From there our favorite freelance police officers dive into a virtual world of wonder in an attempt to save the world ...yet again.

As previously noted, the episode is peppered with all sorts of gaming and geek references, including nods to beloved Nintendo properties, role-playing game conventions and internet cliches, but Telltale integrates them nicely into the overarching story – they're never too pointed to cause eye-rolling, and they're never obtuse enough to be alienating to those not in on the jokes. It's a perfect blend of satire, parody and general cleverness, and really should be applauded and held up as an example to all those games that all too often get their meta-gaming wrong.

It's also one of the more challenging episodes, almost to the point of frustration in some points, as one part concerning a +2 sword had me downright baffled for quite some time. Prior to this episode, I hadn't encountered any problems with the puzzles, but this one had me firmly flummoxed for some time. The fact that Sam's "It's stuck!" exclamation evoked my struggles with Kate Walker & Syberia didn't help matters either. The effort was worth it though, as the penultimate scene is a sight to behold and amazingly executed. I certainly don't want to spoil it for those who haven't played the episode yet, but the use of color is extremely clever and something I really wish had been adopted by that game genre back in its heyday.

Yet again, Telltale Games have delivered another worthwhile segment in the six-part season saga and, while it's not quite as uproarious as 'Abe Lincoln Must Die', it's certainly quality. Also, as usual, the soundtrack work worth singling out as Jared Emerson-Johnson provides some quality chiptune tracks in the appropriate areas – the man knows how to set a scene! It's sad to think that this season is almost over, but if 'Reality 2.0' is any indication, the best is yet to come – bring forth the season finale!

P.S. Max for President!!

There are no comments available for ‘Sam & Max: Episode 5 - 'Reality 2.0' Impressions’ yet!