When the original Sam and Max was released back in 1993 it had what I like to call the 'Disney effect'. In other words, as soon as it was released it was labelled a classic.
Hilarious insults, excellent voice acting, a decent legth and a naked, homocidal rabbit -- Sam and Max was an instant hit for LucasArts and arrived at the peak of the Adventure game genre -- just in time to help convince a young boy to spend the rest of his life trying to make it as a computer games journalist.
Of course, the adventure game genre died out rather quickly and despite a few failed attempts to reclaim it's former glory (Escape from Monkey Island is still considered a swearword in some communities) it has remained in the ground.
Until recently when Steve Purcell, the original creator of the Sam and Max comic characters, joined up with Telltale games and began an endeavour to revive the adventure game genre by releasing new Sam and Max games in an episodic format. We originally checked out the first episode a few months ago and came to some positive conclusions, awarding it a score of 10 out of 10.
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Now, as the first season of six episodes begins to draw to a close we go back to have another look at the new episode; Sam and Max: Reality 2.0, to see if the current episode maintains the same high quality we've come to expect from Steve Purcell's most famous detective canine and violence addicted rabbit.
Reality 2.0 is the fifth episode in the first season of adventures laid out for the intrepid duo, making it the penultimate adventure in this arc. The immediate downside of this is that gamers who foolishly haven't seized the chance to purchase the episodes in order will be a little lost in the plot.
Sam and Max does its best to work around this by filling in the back story as they go along -- with Max apparently having taken lessons in subtle plot exposition -- but it can still be a little difficult for newcomers to find their way around. They only have themselves to blame, I suppose.
Still, the quick lowdown plotwise is that some mysterious and as yet unmasked over-arching baddie has been using hypnosis to try and achieve world domination throughout the first season. As a result of their attempts to rescue the nation from a hypnotic Abe Lincoln robot in episode four, Max the maniacal rabbit has been installed as President because of him immunity to hypnosis. His rule so far has largely been based around the use of giant robots like The Maimtron 3000.
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All of this is interrupted though when the Internet tries to take over the world using a new hypnotic computer game, Reality 2.0. In short, you can tell the plot came from the mind of Steve Purcell straight away.
The controls are the same as they have been in all the previous episodes, a single context-sensitive click replaces the usual set of adventure game verbs and will allow gamers to Use, Look, Get, Pull, Push, Stroke, Shoot or Pummel depending on what they are clicking on.
In the past, some may have argued that the simplified control scheme makes the game too easy and that the game can be completed simply by click on everything and, while this does have an element of truth in it, it's integrated so well into the game that it's still preferable to the old fashioned verb-coin that was used in the original Sam and Max: Freelance Police.
The look of the game is kept the same from previous episodes too, as the screenshots will prove, and it still provides the perfect balance between 3D immersion and 2D comic styles. The game can still look odd at points though, like when the all-white bunny, Max, tries on a fearsome expression and his white eyebrows blend into his fur to make him look more Elephant Man than enraged rabbit.
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In terms of voice acting and writing this episode could be considered to be the best Sam and Max game yet. Within minutes of booting up and playing I was already chuckling with laughter, causing disturbed co-workers to turn and stare at me as I laughed until my headphones fell off.
Location-wise on the other hand, this is perhaps the most underwhelming episode. The creative mind that designed the 'Asylum For Former Child Stars' and the TV studio that appeared in the third episode has clearly gone on holiday for a spell. Instead of these hilarious settings players are left with only the street outside Sam and Max's office and a tongue-in-cheek computer game version of the same place.