Review: The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved For Help
By: Jeff Rivera
The Walking Dead: Episode 1 was one of the most satisfying and interesting gaming experiences that I've had in years. Its smart handling of choice, a branching story, and a cool input interface made for a great first entry in Telltale Games' newest episodic gaming experience. A quick review of what happened in Episode 1 kicked things off, and I was eager to see how my choices in the first episode would carry forward into this second of five episodes.
Going into Episode 2: Starved for Help, those choices that I made in Episode 1 have had a massive impact on Lee's relationship within the group of survivors. As the group is running low on food, every little move that you make is met with frustration and suspicion by the rest of the survivors. It's also quite clear that the characters all have a sharp memory of how I treated them. For those that I showed support, they're quick to support me in return now as the going is getting tough. Those characters that didn't get my support in the past are reluctant to trust my decisions, even if I'm treating them better now. Unlike many games where there's a clear running tally of your light/dark choices, The Walking Dead works more naturally and two wrongs aren't simply nullified by a couple of rights.
It's actually hard to talk about the game without treading into spoiler territory, and for a game like The Walking Dead, spoilers are downright crippling. In vague terms, I'll just say that Episode 2 takes you far beyond what Episode 1 did in all possible aspects. Emotionally, the game gets much more impactful. The plot gets deeper and more twisted. The horror is far more intense, and it delivers a mini story arc that resolves before the episode wraps up that ranks right up with the best Hollywood has to offer in pure creepiness. And more importantly, the choices become far more difficult to make as the stakes are raised to a much higher level.
What Telltale Games is doing with The Walking Dead is nothing short of incredible. We're seeing a game where choice is mattering more than it ever has before. I'm really curious as to how many storyline branches will exist by the time Episode 5 releases, because at the conclusion of Episode 2 there's already situations where certain characters could have been saved or sacrificed and relationships between certain characters could be wildly different. Obviously there's certain events that can't be altered, but the replayability to see different dialog options and different situation resolutions is through the roof here.
If there's any sort of criticism to level at Episode 2: Starved for Help, I did notice that at times there were a few hitches when transitioning between scenes or a stutter or two would creep into things from time to time while playing on the Xbox 360 version of the game. At one point Lee even clipped through some geometry badly, but I didn't get stuck and it was an isolated incident. And while the hitchy transitions are noticeable when they occur, they're a mere smudge on an overall fantastic presentation and experience.
If you're looking for a game that will make you seriously feel the weight of your actions, it's time to jump in and give The Walking Dead a look. At only two episodes in, you can get caught up easily in time for Episode 3's release next month.
5 stars out of 5