The fifth episode of Telltale's Sam & Max adventure series sees the dog and rabbit detective team taking on the most insidious enemy of all: the Internet. The previous four episodes have all had to do with some criminal mastermind hypnotizing people. This time around, the hypnotic device is a set of virtual-reality goggles that transports the user into an unfinished massively multiplayer online style of game called Reality 2.0. With some great twists and the most inventive premise of the season so far, Reality 2.0 continues the storyline in style.
One of the problems with the previous episodes is that a lot of the basic dialogue, especially the jokes used for items that are in every single episode, didn't change between episodes. The same "not'chos" joke was in multiple episodes, and while it was funny the first time, it's disappointing that it didn't change. Episode 5 changes all of that dialogue, with new jokes for old items. This, alone, makes Reality 2.0 feel extremely fresh when compared to the past three episodes. Beyond that, the basic structure is the same. You receive a call from the commissioner, who tells you about this episode's problem. Then you try to go to that location to fix it. The catch is that the location is the Internet, which uses Reality 2.0 in a misguided attempt to improve the lives of humans (as well as dogs and rabbits) but actually hypnotizes anyone that comes in contact with it. However, Sam and Max do not get hypnotized because if you've been playing along for the past several months, you know that these guys are immune to hypnosis.
Reality 2.0 exists as a cyberspace-enhanced version of reality, so you'll be venturing into Bosco's and Sybil's, just like you do in every other episode, but this time you'll get two versions of every location: a real-world version and a Reality 2.0 version. Some puzzles require you to manipulate objects in both versions of a location. Overall, the puzzles in this installment are some of the best and most rewarding of the entire series, including a crazy twist ending that's both funny and expertly crafted.
Because this is the fifth episode in a six-part season, chances are you've already made up your mind about playing Sam & Max. Nearing the end of the first set of episodes, it's become increasingly clear that this is an all-or-nothing sort of deal. Coming in at this point, without playing the episodes leading up to this one, wouldn't be nearly as rewarding. While there's a great deal of repetition among many of the episodes, including an abundance of recycled locations and items, the jokes and the story make it all worthwhile.
Sam & Max: Reality 2.0 may be the best individual episode in the series, but what it really does is validate a lot of the work leading up to it. You get the feeling that there's a good payoff planned for the end of the season. At this point, you could go back and download all of the individual episodes, but we feel comfortable saying that you should just spring for the entire season--if you haven't already. With its solid puzzle design and terrific sense of humor, this is a strong adventure series that is better if taken as a whole rather than as individual episodes that can be burned through in just a couple of hours. However, that number increases dramatically if you decide to just sit in Bosco's and click on the "hot rump" over and over again.