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Review – Sam & Max Episode 5: Reality 2.0

posted on April 17th, 2007 by christian

Despite it being the penultimate episode of Season 1, I don’t have much to say about Reality 2.0. It repeats much of the same things we’ve already gone over (ie, “The rule of three” for puzzles, familiar faces and environments, etc.). Reminiscent of ep. 4, it has two very hard puzzles with some very easy stuff in between. At this point it is rather useless to discuss whether any of these things are good or bad, because they are simply the way they are.

When episodic content is released in a matter of weeks rather than months, there is a very limited time in which to create new content. Some things are going to be static, both because it fits the nature of the game (“episodes” of any sort of media don’t completely change), and because it is the only way to get the content out quickly.

Reality 2.0 does bring up some important issues. Firstly, it shows that Telltale can reuse the same people and places and have them still feel fresh. Cybil and Bosco are back, yes, but in less important roles (or at least less talky in the case of Bosco). Great as the characters are, seeing them all the time and interacting with them in the same archetypal fashion is not always necessary. This time around the experience was much more pleasant.

Looks like Super Paper Sam & Max.

The same can be said about the office street block. The episode takes place on it exclusively, but as the title suggests, most of that time is in a twisted virtual reality version of the road. Filled with an assortment of video game and internet parodies, it is a sure thing that gamers will find something to laugh at. Scratch that; if you are a true gamer, you’ll have to laugh at the final showdown, which is by far the most clever thing Sam and Max have cranked out.

If there is any question worth exploring at this point when it comes to episodic content, it is whether it is worth the price of admission. Playing it on Gametap, I shouldn’t complain about anything Sam and Max offer me. The monthly price of the service costs as much as a standalone episode, so for me its like getting a tasty little morsel once a month along with a bunch of other titles. But at full price, a single episode is the same as a trip to the movies, both in cost and length.

On one hand it doesn’t seem unreasonable to charge the same as another popular form of entertainment, still moreso when a new action game on the 360 commands a cool $60. But we gamers can be a strange bunch, we are people who sometimes cringe at laying down a ten spot for two or three hours of pleasure. Maybe it’s thanks to the bargain bin, or maybe it’s the justification of our hobby against its competitors. All I know is that when I think of paying full price for any episode I’ve played, I see my tolerance for certain things I’m currently pardoning fade away. I suppose it really does relate to television; millions will watch 24 with glee every Monday night, but not many are going to run out and spend $20 for the first four hours on DVD.

Episodic gaming can work, but it needs its own version of cable TV. Maybe Gametap will provide that, and maybe not. For the time being, we’re only one episode away to the end. Wait for that season 1 box set folks.

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