The Walking Dead: Episode Two Starved For Help
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: 06/27/2012
Warning: this is second part of The Walking Dead game. If you have not played the first game, please be aware that there may be potential spoilers of the first episode within this review. I highly recommend playing the first game.
Now onto The Walking Dead: Episode Two Starved For Help.
The episode begins by bringing you up to speed with the events of the first game and flashes back to some of the important decisions that you might have made as a player. Depending on those actions, some characters may not be alive for this episode. After the events of the last game, it has now been three months, and as the title of the episode hints, food has become scarce. The main character, Lee, is out trying to hunt for food with a new character named Mark. Before talking about the story of the game I’m going to go over some of the basics of the game for this review:
The art style stands out. The graphics and details are decent, but the game uses bold lines and specific color palettes to give the impression of a moving comic. I’m hesitant to use the term “Ëœcel-shading’ since it makes people think of a cartoonish style with vibrant colors, as here, the colors are subdued. If you’ve read the comics at all, the art style should be familiar to you right away. It has the effect of looking like a sketch done in colored pencils and watercolors. Some of the backgrounds and objects do not have a large amount of texture to them, but this works with the art style instead of looking cheap or out of place.
While playing there were moments when the game stuttered or froze for a moment between scenes that did not happen to me in the first episode. These moments were brief, but notable.
As with Episode One, characters will remember how you respond to different conversations, like how honest you were, who you sided with in an argument, and so on. There are some odd lines of dialogue, but otherwise the voice acting and music are great and really help add tension to difference scenes.
The game plays out mostly like a point and click adventure game. You can move the main character around and use an onscreen cursor to point out different things. Depending on what options you choose, you can turn on a visual aid to see what objects you can interact with, or leave it off so you can figure this out on your own. There’s no real bad option between the two, as the visual aids aren’t distracting and don’t break the immersion of the story. I left this on because I did not want to get stuck trying to click over everything in the game, but those who like adventure or hidden object games might prefer to leave this off.
Unlike some adventure games, you will not be carrying a large number of items trying to figure out what they do. Nearly everything in Episode Two has a straightforward answer. There are some moments of brutal action, but do not mistake this game for a Left4Dead or Dead Rising type of game. If you are looking to kill zombies, this isn’t that kind of game, as it is more about exploring the horror and helplessness of such a situation. It all controls really well, with a simple control interface. Some might not enjoy how simple the control scheme is, but it works perfectly for the setting that this game is aiming for.
Alright, we got that out of the way, if for some reason you are reading this with no understanding of the original title.
One of the concerns I had about the last game with the decisions that were made was exactly how much those decisions would effect future games in the series. I’m still uncertain after this second episode. I chose to save one character over another in the first episode, however, the character I saved barely made an appearance in this game. There are dialogue references to the choices that I made, but if those choices are going to have a dramatic effect on the story, it looks like I’ll still have to wait and see how that plays out.
This episode also had less in the way of puzzles or problem solving. Most of the situations were straightforward and did not require much thought on what you were supposed to do next. While this also meant that there were no real moments where the game felt like it had slowed down or lost momentum, there was also no feeling of satisfaction that you finally figured out what the TV remote was for or anything like that.
That said, goddamn, Episode Two is powerful stuff. As a fan of the comics, I know that when there’s an offer of a place of food and safety, that usually means to run like hell, but even then, I was surprised and amazed at the twists and turns of the plot. I can’t talk about it, really, without giving things away, but I will say that Telltale Games have far outdone themselves with this second episode. I said in my Episode One review that if they can keep up the quality and the game is able to deliver on some of the decisions, then it might be the best video game adaptation in terms of getting the tone and style right. I’d like to take that a step farther: if they’re able to continue delivering moments like they do in Episode Two, I think the video game will actually be able to deliver a better experience than the source material it is based off of.
I’ve read and enjoyed most of the comics, however, the video game gives a direct sense of unease and control of the terrible decisions that the characters have to make. Reading the comic or watching a movie, you are watching the characters make a decision, and sometimes wonder why they’d choose to do that. For the most part, in The Walking Dead, you have to make the decisions and you know why you made them. There’s a strong connection to the characters as well, and I know one of our other reviewers for the site decided to go back and change his mind about a decision because of the look on one character’s face after committing an action. The fact that the game can get in your head with such strong storytelling that the look on a video game character’s face can impart so much feeling, and the fact that it actually means something to the player, is incredible. Personally, I plan on going back and changing something as well, because I didn’t make it in time to stop something horrible.
The fact that the game can establish such a personal connection with the players is what makes the game really stand out. There are always arguments about whether video games are or can be art, and while I don’t care much about that argument, I’d think Telltale’s The Walking Dead is certainly an argument that they can be. They’ve leveraged the interactive nature of the medium to immerse the player into the dreadful world of The Walking Dead in a way that is just not available otherwise. I can’t wait to see what terrors they have in store for us next.
Appeal Factor: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
The Walking Dead: Episode Two continues the excellent first part of The Walking Dead video game series, and manages to ratchet up the tension even higher. An outstanding effort by the studio all around, and a great indication of what’s to come.