The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starving For Help Review (Xbox 360/PS3)
[This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game]
The second episode of Telltales The Walking Dead has a lot to live up to. The first introduced a new story set in the Walking Dead universe and did a decent job of setting the scene and forcing the player into some major decisions within the plot. Episode 2: Starving for help, takes things down a more darker and brutal path.
The story picks up three months after episode 1 with the survivors still held up in the motel parking lot. Within the first five minutes it’s clear to see the group is becoming increasingly strained thanks to relationships breaking down within the group and personalities clashing. Food is short and things are only getting worse.
Things start to look up when the group encounter two diary farmers who offer vast amounts of food in exchange for gasoline. The survivors take up the offer and begin to venture to the dairy farm. The farm seems almost to good to be true, soon things take a very dark turn and thus begins the next step in The Walking Dead story.
The story is a great example of a well paced and presented narrative that has elements of mystery and horror. The solid writing allows for established characters to grow and change in accordance to events around them. The progression of characters feels natural, there aren’t any cases of character betraying their traits that were established in first episode.
The story does a decent job of exploring how personalities clash within the group causing tension as well as power struggle. This is prominent theme throughout episode 2 resulting in some great scenes. The only real issue is that the ‘twist’ is slightly predicable.
When the ‘twist’ hits it doesn’t make the impact it should, this isn’t to say it’s a weak plot point it’s just not that surprising. Predictable plot points put aside, the story of ”Starving For Help” is a lot darker compared to episode one.
Voice acting is a vital cog in how effective the story comes across, thankfully the voice acting maintains the high standards set in the first episode. Lines are delivered well and never come off as over done or ‘hammy’. The new additions to the cast produce a fantastic job of delivering their lines in a number of different ways adopting to the situation perfectly.
Character interaction feels both natural and engaging resulting in the conversations flowing nicely. The more dramatic scenes draw in the player due to the highly quality voice acting, each word is carried off with a fantastic sense of panic and frustration bringing the scene to life. The solid writing and story is truly brought to life with the great voice acting, thankfully the child cast members (especially Duck) don’t have too many lines this time around.
Gameplay wise episode two follows the same point and click formula put in place by the first episode. The only slight change is the pace in which the game is played. Due to events in the story the gameplay involves more button mashing quick time events than puzzle solving. The lack of puzzles doesn’t effect the enjoyment of the game all that much.
With little to no puzzles the gameplay does feel a little shallow when compared to episode 1. The action sequences work well and still nail the sense of panic and desperation you’d expect to feel if you were placed in that situation.
Decisions still play a major role in The Walking Dead; the decisions in episode 2 still carry the same sense of weight as the decisions in episode 1. The majority of the big decisions in episode 2 revolve around the politics of the group and the power struggle within. Contradicting yourself in conversations can lead to tome interesting results and tension increasing within the group.
Towards the end of the game decisions take a more moral route, this allows the player to further develop the characteristics of Lee and how Clementine views him. At times the decisions feel like they’ve pulled straight out of a Romero movie, whether this is a good or not is based purely on your enjoyment of Romero’s films.
The Walking Dead episode 2 keeps the cel-shaded art style of its predecessor. The environments in episode 2 allows the art style to show off its darker, more grittier side. To its credit, the art style suits each scene perfectly and conveys the comic book look almost flawlessly. The character models still look great (as do the zombies) resulting in some lovely visual moments.
One issue the presentation suffers from is the game freezing when the game changes from cut scene to giving the player control. A slight bit of texture pop is present during this window, this is quite odd given episode 1 ran perfectly. While its not a big issue it does become slightly annoying especially towards the closing acts of the game.
On the whole The Walking Dead episode 2: Starving for help is yet another fantastic experience. The story is hugely enjoyable and well paced with a fantastic climax. Characters progress well and plot progression is well handled. The script and voice acting breathe life into the story resulting in a compelling story driven experience.
While a lack of puzzles and some strange technical bugs hinder the game these are only minor issue. The darker tones of episode 2 allow the game to stand out of the shadow of the episode 1 while remaining relevant to the plot. It’s simply a must buy for anyone who invested in episode 1. The quality of the game (and the experience) is enough to bring in new players, even more so given the price point of under £5 ($10 for those in the US). Hugely enjoyable from start to finish. Bring on episode 3.The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starving For Help Review (Xbox 360/PS3),