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The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved for Help
Starved for Help, the second episode in Telltale’s apocalyptic point-and-click adventure, was released last week for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Looking to build on the ambitious first chapter A New Day, the game brought back some of the same storytelling and intensity that had debuted in the first one. Was this zombie game gold, or a tale that would have been best left on the shelf? Senior Editors Cassidee and Jason checked out the game and present us with their thoughts.
The Walking Dead has made me a masochist. With a gritty, dark realism that reflects how life would be in the apocalypse, it feels as if every choice is between a bad thing and something worse. Telltale doesn’t hold your hand throughout the game, and they certainly don’t reward moral decisions. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, with everything being time sensitive and preserving a sense of urgency as it forces you to make the call.
And I love it. Every single heart-wrenching, nail-biting choice that gets put in front of me makes me sweat over the answers, feeling some kind of twisted mixture of remorse and triumph with every choice I make.
Episode Two: Starved for Help picks up three months after the events of episode one. The group you’re stuck with at the end of A New Day is now barricaded inside the Motor Inn, where everything left off. Naturally, being in close quarters with each other has tensions running high. Add to that the harrowing reality of dwindling food rations, and it’s no surprise everyone is on edge when we see them again.
The tough decisions begin right from the start. You find a man stuck in a bear trap with two of his students. He can’t get his leg free, and the trap is rigged to not come undone. What do you do?
Naturally, you take an axe and cut his leg off at the knee.
The game has no qualms about showing you this, either. With every chop, it zooms in more and more, constantly reminding you of the choice you made, forcing you to take part in and realize the consequences. It’s sick. But it’s real.
And it doesn’t stop there. The further you go in the story, the more tough decisions you have to make. You’ll pick sides more than once, decide between who lives and dies, and even if you want to destroy the life of someone else to preserve your own.
But where does morality play into decisions when you’re desperate? It’s your call, and Telltale does a great job of illustrating this.
Surprisingly, the zombie encounters are few and far between in episode two. The tension is instead found in your interactions with other humans, be they bandits or well-meaning, but suspicious friends. Without getting too heavy on the spoilers, there will be some pretty messed-up scenes you’ll witness that will remind you all the world has gone to hell.
But from a story angle, it makes sense; in the end of the world, people will do whatever it takes to survive, including abandon their own sense of decent humanity in an effort to preserve themselves. Things get violent, people get hurt, and more than a few folks will lose their lives.
Voice acting and dialogue once again pack a punch in episode two, delivering the right amount of emotion and personality to truly flesh out the characters and give them depth. You might not like some of them , but after all is said and done, you’ll understand them just a little bit better. Which is nice, except for when you have to make a tough decision that will impact their lives.
The only drawback the game has is its technical hiccups; there is some texture pop-in, voices and animation don’t always mesh well, and some of the character movement can seem a bit clumsy.
But aside from its technical flaws, Episode Two is a fantastic build on One’s already solid narration and perspective. It’s sick, it’s hard, and it’s some of the most compelling storytelling I’ve ever encountered in a game.
Episode 2 summed up in 14 words:
“The dead don’t kill their own. It’s the living you’ve gotta be afraid of.”
Choice: a concept games of this generation have started to master. Putting the course of the game’s events in the player’s hands is a daunting task, especially when the decisions that need to be made affect characters that the player has grown to love.
The Walking Dead Episode 2 goes out of its way to put the player in the worst possible positions: who should I feed this time? How do I get this person out of this trap? Who should I side with? The game is relentless, and the consequences don’t always fall in the player’s favor.
However, this concept is what makes Walking Dead Episode 2 so incredible. The story that Telltale is weaving is fantastic; one that I wish wasn’t broken up into episodes. I’m beginning to really feel for these characters and empathize with them, even when their actions are borderline inhumane. I understand why Kenny does what he does and why Lilly says whay she says. The game makes me care in a way I rarely feel about game characters, and does so as simply and effectively as possible, all from the confines of a point-and-click adventure. How many titles can boast that?
The rest of the episodes need to just come out already. I need more Walking Dead, Telltale. I NEED IT NOW.