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Season 2 of Telltale's The Walking Dead game has a challenge ahead of it. It has to surpass, or at least equal, the high standard set by the first season. We won't know if Telltale was successful until sometime in 2014 when the season wraps up. However, the first episode gives me cause for concern.
Note: This is a spoiler-free review. Feast upon my vague words of criticism.
"All That Remains" stars Clementine, the 9-year-old girl from the first season. If you thought that Telltale would be gentle with their new child protagonist, you were wrong. Over the course of two hours, Clementine goes through some outright terrible events. The fact that it's a young girl going through it makes it even more painful to watch.
Painful's not bad, though. I'd rather a game make me sad or scared than not touch me at all. After years of playing games with forgettable and cookie-cutter stories, Telltale's brutal and shocking story-telling is a breath of fresh air. I mean, it's air that smells like blood and death, but it's pretty fresh too.
I'm worried, though, that Telltale might be going for shock value too often in this episode. It's hard to imagine that things could get much more disturbing than they are in this episode. I shudder to think what the developers will do to Clementine and friends in order to top themselves.
While we waited for Season 2, Telltale often reminded us that our actions through Season 1 and 400 Days would have an effect on the events of Season 2. Player choices for the episodes you missed are randomized. I played through the entire first season and 400 Days but have yet to see my decisions have any effect on the storyline. The teaser trailer for Episode 2 did indicate that we'll start to see the consequences of the past season soon, though.
Maybe the reason that Telltale couldn't tie 400 Days and the first season back into Season 2 just yet is that so much time is devoted to setting up the new cast of characters. This episode moves really quickly, spanning months and several different locations. It only really hits its stride in the second half when time slows back to normal and the story centers on one location. Before that point, it's easy to feel like you're just playing a series of standalone scenes rather than a cohesive story.
In this second half, we're introduced to a new group of survivors that will presumably accompany Clem throughout the season. It's tough not to constantly compare the new cast to last season's survivors, or to try and find parallels between the two groups ("Who's this season's Kenny?"). Still, I did find at least a couple of the new Season Two folks intriguing. I care at least a little bit whether they live or die.
There's not much else to talk about besides the story. The mechanics are virtually the same, with players goosing the plot along with branching dialogue and Quick Time Event combat. There's a new QTE where you hold a button and then move an arrow button but yeah, that's the extent of innovation here. Walking Dead: Season 2's not about thrilling action or mind-bending puzzles; the game's merely a vessel for Telltale's story. Right now, that story has me a little nervous. But maybe it'll work out.
This game was reviewed using a Steam code provided by Telltale Games.
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games