After a successful introduction to the Walking Dead series with their first episode, A New Day, the second part follows in familiar footsteps, bypassing most of what gamers would expect from a zombie-related title and instead looks to the players to make heavy moral choices, and have a look at what life would be like for those who survived such a terrible event. Episode 2, Starved For Help, sees you reprise the role of Lee Everett, a man with a bad past who has sworn to look out for the little girl he found before, Clementine.
Where Episode 1 was an introduction to what you can expect from the series as a whole, it seems the route they are going - at least so far, anyway - is to make each episode have a theme of sorts now that the introductions to mechanics and content are over. This episode focuses primarily on Lee and his friends’ hunger, picking up three months after the first part ended, they are living in a boarded up, but somewhat secure motel. The game still has no qualms with throwing big decisions at you, and it’s up to you if you want to take them seriously or just click things and move on. Near the beginning you are tasked with handing out food rations; four pieces of food, and choosing four of the ten people present to feed for the day. A heavy choice when you consider your actions will make the characters involved have a reaction in some way, whether immediate or even as far in as the next episode. I spent a good twenty minutes talking to every person and deciding whether or not I thought they needed food at that time, not just giving it to those I liked.
Fortunately for your group, not long after you’ve distributed the rations a couple of men passing by offer a trade of gas for food, them living on a dairy farm have plenty to spare and offer to let Lee and a couple of others come by to check the place out, and it’s at this farm most of the episode takes place. While the introduction of yet more characters may seem like a bad thing, introductions are handled in such a way that it’s believable, and more importantly, is a brief reprieve of thinking you and your little group are the only living souls left in the world.
As mentioned in the previous review, the game focuses less on gameplay and more on building the stories of the characters and the world they inhabit; this is definitely not a bad thing and it suits the game to a tee. The simple control method lets you explore the areas you are in and interact with objects, and when needed, take action during more tense scenes, and that is all that is needed. Inventory is only accessed when applicable and there’s no mix A with B to unlock C puzzles to be found. In fact there are barely any puzzles to be found at all, further distancing itself from the adventure game genre it on first glance appears to fit into. The mechanics allow for a solid story to be crafted and it does just that, with the great voicework from the previous chapter carrying over, not only to existing characters but to new ones as well.
Speaking of action scenes, they are, again, in short supply. You will be forced to make tough calls every now and then, and this is usually where reflexes come into play with fairly quick reflexes needed to find and click on what is needed, but if you should fail you can retry from the same area, so there’s no repeating twenty minutes worth of content just to get back to where you were.
The choices you made in chapter 1 have an effect on things here, too. From simple things like people remembering what you said back then or things you did, to more long term things. Wandering around the motel you’ll soon realise those people who died in the last episode are gone, they are not coming back. No miraculous ‘I managed to escape them at the last minute’ types here, if the game says someone is dying, they’re as good as dead, meaning the attachments you form with certain characters will most likely influence you if their survival comes into question.
There are very few flaws to point out, the bug with shadows on ATi cards still exists, so you’ll still have to play with shadows on low quality or expect frequent freezing, characters eyes still have a weird.. bug-look to them, constantly wide open and sometimes comically cross-eyed. But these are seemingly going to be issues with the whole series; if there’s one bad thing about this chapter in particular, it’s that the so-called mystery surrounding the dairy farm is fairly obvious before you even get there. The actual reveal is well handled and satisfying to play through, but it doesn’t have as much impact as it should as you’ll most likely have guessed the whole thing a couple of hours ago anyway.
Clocking in a little longer than the last chapter, Starved For Help took me around three hours to play through, where the original took around two. So far so short, as thus far that’s only around five hours of gameplay for a fairly steep price. Still, if Telltale can continue building these characters and finding reasons for us to care about them as they have done so far, length shouldn’t be an issue in the grand scheme, and for now I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the third chapter.
- Consistently gripping story and characters
- Real consequences for past choices
- A strong story focus keeps things simple, but engrossing
- Still very short for the price per episode
- Certain bugs seem to be permanent fixtures
- A plot twist that can be seen a mile off