Review:- The Walking Dead Episode Two: Starved For Help

Game: The Walking Dead Episode 2
Format: XBLA, PSN, PC
Developer: TellTale Games
Publisher: TellTale Games

TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead is a downloadble episodic game series based on the comic book and TV show created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. In it you play as a brand new group of survivors as they struggle to survive during the zombie apocalypse. Its first episode, A New Day, was released to great critical and commercial success back in May and now, following a short delay, Episode Two is available to download.

Following on from the end of the last episode, Starved For Help opens three months later and supplies are running low. What with this being the zombie apocalypse our band of survivors can hardly pop down to the nearest Tesco to pick up some snacks and as such they have to venture out into the wilderness to try and scavenge for food. This dramatically ups the tension between the survivors who, even on full stomachs, could barely get along.

This series boasts a wonderful art style that resembles the work of Charlie Adlard (the artist on The Walking Dead comic books) but has enough style of its own to make it distinctive. Similarly, the high quality of the voice acting really helps to make the scenario more believable.

The basic gameplay strongly resembles a point and click adventure game of old – you move your cursor over objects and, if it is interactive, you’re given a choice of what you want to do with it. Similarly, when conversing with other survivors you are invariably given three or four options of what you want to say, with each option being dramatically different.  One of the key elements of this series is that the things that you choose to say have a huge impact on how the group reacts to you.  Making decision making more agonising is the fact that there is a strict time limit on most conversational options and high-tension moments, meaning you’ll have little time to chose your course of action.

As with the last episode there are no side missions or hidden collectable objects, which is incredibly refreshing. This strong focus on progressing the main narrative is one of the reasons why it works so well; with no distractions you can truly become absorbed in the story the game is trying to tell.

Anyone that has played the first episode will know what to expect from the game: agonising moral decisions where there is no right answer. Without trying to spoil anything, one decision early on has you dishing out rations to your group, but you only have enough food to feed less than half of the people. Who you decide to feed and, more importantly, who you decide to withhold food from, has an impact on how the group views you and will have repercussions in future episodes.

If you thought that some of the choices you were forced to make in Episode one were hard, just wait until you play this episode. There were numerous times when I could not see a clear right or wrong answer to the situations, and even when I did what I felt was morally right it invariably had some unintended consequences.

You’ll spend most of your time exploring the St John Dairy Farm

It’s really very rewarding to see how my choices from the first episode have impacted my experience in this episode, and, considering some of the awful choices you’ll have to make in this episode, I cannot wait to see how future episodes out. At the end of the episode there is a teaser for the next, and the game literally started to chug during this teaser as it catered the video to all of the significant choices I had made over the first two episodes.

That’s not to say that the entire experience is perfect mind you. There are a number of small glitches that, although having no major impact on the game, are a little annoying. For instance the game is rife with audio glitches where the music cuts out unexpectedly, or even at times characters’ dialogue doesn’t play. During one scene towards the end of the episode, where you have to slowly approach a hostile armed with a gun, the dialogue choices would not load up and I had to restart that section several times before they would appear.

Still, it’s a testament to the quality of this title, and its ability to emotionally engage the player, that these faults do not have a detrimental effect on the experience. This is easily one of the best downloadable games to be released in quite some time, and really highlights how powerful videogame storytelling can be.

Review Round-Up

Graphics: 4/5 – A pleasing cell shaded art style that resembles the original comic book‘s look (apart from the fact that it’s in colour).

Sound: 4/5 – Some atmospheric music and strong voice acting is let down slightly by random sound glitches with dialogue failing to play or the music suddenly spluttering to a halt.

Gameplay: 4/5 – Although not dramatically different from the last episode, and still mostly consisting of quick time button presses, this episode is significantly more tense. If there ever were a perfect example of how to do quick time events this is probably it.

Longevity: 4/5 – Although this episode will likely only take about two hours to complete it is rammed full of major choices that will have a massive impact on future episodes. Upon completing the episode I immediately started again to see how the different choices changed things.

Overall 4.5 out of 5

A well written, emotionally engaging, game. It is brutal, horrific, and not for the faint of heart. The only real problem that I have with this episode is the fact that I’ve got to wait at least a month for the next one.

- Luke Mears

Mon, July 2 2012 » PC/Mac, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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