Review by BigReed
"A Zombie Apocalypse that focuses on emotion, character development, and player choices"
The Walking Dead: Episode 2 - Starved for Help is a story heavy, point and click style video game developed and published by telltale games. This game series is a spinoff of the popular comic and later television show, but the story and characters are unique to the game. First off, The Walking Dead is an arcade game. However, episode 2 and every episode after this are considered add-ons. There were many people including myself, that didn't even realize that episode 2 had released because of the very limited advertising, information, and location of the episodic content on xbox live. Each episode costs 400 Microsoft points, or five dollars real money, and every episode is very short, but sweet.
I believe the walking dead is a game that deserves more attention from the gaming community. But it seems TellTale games is struggling to get the word out. The game itself is also rough around the edges, sporting bugs, glitches, stiff animations, and lag. The episodic content release is interesting because it allows to publisher to deliver content to the fans, all while the development process is chugging along. But after delays with the first episode, I think it is pretty clear the game would greatly benefit from a longer development process. There were times in the game where scenes would lag as they loaded, and there was a game crashing glitch during the most powerful story piece in the game. So instead of the scene gripping me with the choice I had to make, I stared and watched as Lee bugged out all over the screen, and every piece of dialogue was said twice in a row, before finally the game had to be restarted.
The Walking Dead is game that clearly centers on the story, emotions, and character development. I have not read the comics or watched the television series, so any easter eggs from either of those formats I will not be writing about.
Unlike just about every single other zombie video game this generation, The Walking Dead does not include insane amounts of action where the main characters is seemingly invincible to his or her zombie foes. Instead, the gameplay in The Walking Dead is actually pretty slow. Those who have played any point in click adventures will notice that the game mixes the story telling style of those games, but controls more like a third person adventure common to games today. You'll move Lee around in the third person while you control a cursor that looks like the ps3's dpad, and each direction corresponds to a button you can press to complete certain tasks. These include talking to people, picking things up, defending yourself, and investigating.
The narrative carries you through the gameplay and survival is your sole motivation. Gameplay is broken up by bits of survival and of course, puzzles of sorts. The Walking Dead moves fast, but after two episodes I finally felt that I have a grip on how the gameplay rolls along. If a character mentions that you should do something, you should probably go and do it if you're certain it is a side quest, so to speak. Especially if you are going for a perfect playthrough. Sometimes talking to people or moving to certain areas will activate the story, and you'll miss out on playing hero for a little girl.
Now onto the most important part of the gameplay: the choices. The Walking Dead has some of the most engrossing, uncomfortable, and jaw dropping choices you'll ever have to make in a video game. My multiple playthroughs in the Mass Effect series only spawned a couple of choices with serious consequences. In The Walking Dead, every decision has you debating who lives and who dies, who eats and who starves, and how far you're willing to go to save somebody.
Starved for Help starts off three months after the events of episode one. Episode one felt more chaotic and reactionary to the showing up of zombies, while episode two shows the characters are more settled in to their surroundings and have a better understanding of the outbreak. Even the walkers aren't as scary as they once were. At the end of episode one, the game painted a bright and somewhat positive future. The cast stumbles onto a motel that seems like the perfect place to set up a defensive position. Everyone seems happy that they'll have beds, supplies, and a fortified position. But after three months you realize that this zombie apocalypse will not go away easily. Lee and his group are running out of food, tensions are high, and certain characters have their own agenda.
The centerpiece of Starved for Help is obviously food. The group may have a dug in position, gasoline, and a good amount of able bodies, but one major thing they are running out of is food. Early on you'll be given a choice: With four pieces of food, which four of the ten people will eat today? And it isn't like a full meal or anything; Lee is deciding who gets half an apple for the day. So as you could imagine, tempers are flaring and tensions are high. There is a power struggle going on within the group, and new members are shunned. Many post apocalyptic stories center around humanity as a whole rebuilding, but in The Walking Dead the group is set on not helping anybody else, since food is so scarce.
There also seems to be a theme throughout the episodes that I noticed. Clementine is the young girl that Lee is protecting. While she is still hanging on to the thought that her parents are still alive out there, Lee knows better and he is there to protect her in this crazy new world. Clementine seems to embody innocence and some of the decisions that Lee is able to make reflect that. She represents humanity in a world where little is left. If Lee were ever to break down and forget that compassion is a driving force in what makes a human a human, then he will most likely lose Clementine and his own character.
The story of The Walking Dead is a breath of fresh air for zombie games in my opinion. It really proves that less can indeed be more.
Graphically speaking, The Walking Dead pays tribute to its comic book brethren. It has a cel-shaded style which I personally like. While the game may have a cartoony look, the themes and story do not reflect the visuals. TellTale did a great job with the style of the game, and they should keep the graphical style even though just about every other zombie game attempts realistic graphics.
The core of the soundtrack is in the voice acting. And while the voice acting isn't perfect by any means, the cast does a very solid job giving the in game characters emotion. Some lines come off as too emotional or even as yelling when the characters were speaking normally before, but other than a few minor instances, the voice work is very well done and adds to the emotion of the story.
In total, there are going to be five episodes of The Walking Dead. So far episodes one and two have been roughly 3 to 5 hours in length. Each episode is also five dollars. So by those numbers the game will be 15 to 25 hours in length for 25 dollars. The lengths of the episodes also do not overstay their welcome. Every minute is engaging, and so far both episodes were very well worth playing.
The Walking Dead also offers choices in a way that welcome a second playthrough. With that playthrough you can go back and see the different outcome of the story. Personally, I am doing one playthrough so all of my actions are like the game intended: spontaneous and quick.
Even though Starved for Help is a short add-on, I still highly recommend playing it. This is by far the most unique zombie experience, concentrating more on emotion, character, and choices rather than killing hundreds of zombies. The Walking Dead is a game well worth downloading, and I look forward to future episodes.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/05/12
Game Release: The Walking Dead: Episode 2 - Starved for Help (US, 06/27/12)
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