The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved For Help

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9.8 Overall Score

Not your typical zombie bloodbath | Great plot and presentation

Game seems to stutter a bit at times while computing NPC reactions to decisions.

Written by on July 18, 2012 in [, , , , , , , ]

TellTale Games has released the second episode in the video game series based on the comic books of the same name written by the Eisner Award winner Robert Kirkman.  This game series is part comic book graphics and part episodic television series.  This episode begins with the typical television recap of “Episode 1:  A New Day” to help returning players remember and new players to understand the story so far.

The gameplay, graphics and mechanics of the game are the same as the previous episode.  Briefly, the controls consist of timed and untimed decision wheel dialogs, point and click exploration and quick time action events.  The timed decisions force the player to go with their gut instinct.  Making many of the most influential decisions in the game derive from the player’s first impulse.  The graphics are still inspired by the same cell-shaded quality of the original comic books.  I will leave it to you, dear reader, to find more details in my previous “Episode 1:  A New Day” review.  Instead I will focus on the intriguing new plot line.

This episode was promised to be more brutal than the previous episode.  I believe it does accomplish this but in a very non-traditional way.  The action is in the emotions and relationships of the human characters as they all fight to survive.  The game begins shortly after “Episode 1” left off.  The player still controls the actions and choices of Lee Everett, a convicted murderer and reluctant leader of his group of survivors.  Lee and his fellow survivors are still living at the hotel they found at the end of the first episode.  In a bit of good fortune they have met a survivor who once worked at military commissary and had a healthy supply of food.  This blessing can only last for so long and they are now facing starvation as the food supply slowly dwindles down to nothing.

As previously promised by TellTale, many of the characters remind Lee of decisions and choices he made in the previous episode. This means that some group members will be bitter for things they see as betrayals while others may extend their trust and back up his decisions because of the player’s previous decisions.  These relationships may help or hinder the decisions the player must make in this episode.  The player, playing as Lee,  must make decisions that protect themselves and a small child, Clementine.  Clementine represents humanity and becomes his conscious.  This episode centers more on the evil humans do when pushed beyond their limits.  This comes in the form of verbal and even physical abuse amongst the group.  Anger and frustration take hold as their food supply is about to run out.  It is time for even tougher decisions to be made.  Who should get one of the few daily rations and who will lead them through this horrible new world.  Anger and frustration is quickly followed by desperation as new visitors, two brothers, arrive promising plenty of food and safe shelter from the zombie horde if they follow the brothers back to their dairy farm.  All they ask for is a couple of cans gas to fuel their generator.  Will this hospitality lead to their salvation or their demise?

The offer seems too good to be true.  Lee and his fellow travelers are, understandably, cautious.  Previous encounters with other survivors have not brought happy endings and they can’t afford any more rash decisions fueled by desperation.  They tentatively accept the offer, but with some conditions.  Along the trip to the dairy farm Lee encounters former big-box store employees that have become a gang of renegade bandits attacking locals for supplies.  Once they reach the dairy farm Lee finds out how the family has managed to stay safe from the bandits and the zombie horde.  The farm seems idyllic and the family seems to be more than eager to help Lee’s group in any way possible.  This should provide relief but Lee and his friends remain suspicious.  After exploring the farm thoroughly Lee realizes what is really happening at the dairy farm.

What will Lee do now and how will it affect the group’s chances for survival?  The player’s choices will help shape their fate.  This episode focuses on humanity and the fine line that separates people from the demons they fear most.  These demons dwell not only in the undead husks of the zombie masses, they dwell within the humans fighting to survive.  The inner demons may take over their humanity.  Sometimes man and beast are one and the same.  I appreciate the developer’s decision to switch from the pure hack and slash action of wading through multitudes of zombies to focus on the emotions and reactions humans have to an extremely treacherous new world.  It is heartbreaking to see how some people turn into greater beasts than the enemies they are fighting against.

I will not say that there is no action in this episode.  There are plenty of highly suspenseful moments where quick decisions and quick time action events got my heart beating at a rapid pace.  The zombies make cameo appearances in the episode but do not drive this one as much as the previous episode.  I truly love the short episode format that allows the player to play it through in one or two sittings.   The plot is very interesting without being too heavy-handed.  The art style and mechanics help keep the focus on humanity making the toughest decisions of their lives and the repercussions and reactions of those choices. Speaking of choices and their consequences, I regret that this process was the cause of extremely minimal annoyance with the game.  I noticed as the game seemed to stutter a bit as it calculated the NPC’s reaction to my dialog decision.  It was not horrible but it was noticeable.  Overall I must say that these episodes may be very reasonably priced but they are not “cheap”.  This game forces the player to face incredibly brutal decisions.  Lee must deal with the demise of humanity in others while attempting to hold onto his own.  He has a moral barometer in the child he must protect.  Clementine’s reactions to the player’s choices and actions.  I highly recommend you start playing this series.  It may just give you a great insight into your own mind and survival instinct.

A copy of The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved For Help was provided to The Married Gamers for the purposes of this review.

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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

2 Comments on "The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved For Help"

  1. Devon Campbell July 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    Just read your pros and cons (for now) because I’m fearful of spoilers. I had the same performance issues on my PC. It’s nothing special, but I’m able to run almost any modern game really well. I’m puzzled why it hangs up on this game when I can run something like Skyrim with barely a hiccup.

    Outside that, I’m loving this. Despite the fact I’ve made decisions in games before, this seems to have more weight. I can’t really put my finger on exactly why.

  2. Melisa Snyder July 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    I am a little confused about these hiccups also but, in the end, the game is so good I can forgive this issue. I took a lot of care to be spoiler free so you could read it anytime you like. 🙂

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