The Walking Dead Episode 2 Review

I’m hoping that Telltale Games’ point-and-click adventure The Walking Dead will inspire game developers. The top-notch writing, the adult tone, the dark subject matter — all of it needs to find its way into more games. Games in which moral gray areas and player choices are important already exist, but Telltale has pushed those decisions to make them even more intense and poignant, and the idea of right and wrong is getting thoroughly examined. We need more games like this.

Or at least, after playing Episode 2: Starved for Help, I can say that we need more games writing like this. The Walking Dead continues to push the envelope for storytelling, forcing players not just to kill undead or make tough moral choices, but to live with those actions and feel the consequences they have for the other characters, all of whom continue to feel more and more real. The story of this game continues to deliver — even as it starts to overshadow, and perhaps crowd out, some of the title’s actual gameplay.

The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved for Help: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: June 29, 2012
MSRP: $24.99

The first episode of The Walking Dead surprised with just how fast and how often players would be asked to make tough decisions. Life and death is often in your hands in the game, and speed is always a factor. Characters live and die and your choices are persistent throughout the episodes. The first episode included some tough choices, and Starved for Help maintains them as the story goes forward. Characters remember if you sided with them or against them in the past. They hold grudges. They have their interpersonal issues and they don’t like seeing you try to stay neutral. They all remember.

Episode 2 makes a lot of this apparent. The survivors of the first episode have barricaded themselves into a motor inn, which is secure enough and decently defended, but dangerously low on food. If you happened to grab food during one sequence in the last episode — it didn’t seem to have a use at the time — how much you have to divvy out is affected in the second. And how you choose to give that food out will affect how characters see you later. What’s more, the focus of Episode 2 isn’t on zombies at all, but on living in the world in which tough choices have to be made about survival. The survivors in the motor inn are already feeling the pressure of the situation they’re forced into; already the edges of their makeshift group are fraying. And throughout the episode, the focus is on how people treat each other — including how you’ll choose to treat other characters — in the worst of moments. The scariest horrors might be on our side of the fence; they may well be hidden within us.

But the gameplay of Episode 2 is mostly in these tough interpersonal decisions. As tensions run high, you’re forced to take sides, and your decisions are constantly called into question by one character or another. It’s an interesting way to play the game, and what’s better is that Telltale makes it pretty clear there’s not a “right” answer, there’s only your answer. How the story goes forward is affected by how you would react in certain situations, and once again it’ll be interesting to go back and replay the episode with different choices to see how it plays out.

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