The Walking Dead: Episode Two - Starved for Help review
The Good:

Already compelling cast of characters further developed; thrilling story; fantastic visual presentation; well written dialogue with excellent voiceovers.

The Bad:

Technical issues remain for some PCs, with camera stuttering and the occasional audio glitch; odd addition of a new character between episodes.

Our Verdict:

Starved for Help more than fulfills the high expectations set for it, maintaining the tense immersion and bold story development of its predecessor.

Most series have a tendency to drop off after an impressive debut once the novelty wears off, but in Starved for Help, Telltale manages to not only maintain The Walking Dead's strong start, the second episode may even surpass it, with a script that is easily as compelling as before, an already strong cast of characters further established, and a near total absence of episodic asset recycling. Having already cemented themselves as the kings of episodic adventuring, Telltale seems poised to make The Walking Dead their most successful series to date.

This instalment opens up with Lee and a newcomer named Mark hunting for food in the woods near the motel where the survivors have holed up. Three months have passed since the end of the last episode, and times are hard, not due to zombie invasion but scarce food supplies. A scream promptly averts these concerns as you run towards the source, prepared for the worst. Nearby you discover a teacher caught in a bear trap with two students attempting aid, the shambling infected closing in behind. Do you help save the man, whose leg is mangled in a trap that has no intention of letting go, or do you flee and selfishly save yourself? Barely five minutes in, I was already fully immersed in the struggle to make a decision between running away, cutting the man’s leg off, or finding another way. Opting to be the hero, I pull out Lee's trusty axe and begin to chisel away at the trap. But it's not as easy as that, and unlike most adventure games, success isn't guaranteed. And even "success" comes with a very heavy price.

The Walking Dead continues to handle moments such as these beautifully by not only putting you in dire situations and forcing you to make difficult choices, but by giving them a great sense of weight and significance. Telltale have done a fantastic job of developing the characters so that you can relate to them emotionally, and thanks to the relentless, merciless struggle for survival, you're aware that your decisions can result in the death of those close to you (and maybe even yourself). It's rare that a game can make you feel that so many of your decisions have such substantial consequences.

Not all choices are life-and-death, of course.  It's up to you to decide who gets the day's scant food rations, but before your decisions cause too big a rift, your group encounters a family of survivors holding out at a nearby dairy farm.  Deciding to trade gasoline for food, Lee and a small contingent venture from the safety of the relative motel.  The dairy farm seems untouched and ideal, completely protected by an electrical fence.  And yet there are subtle hints that give you an odd feeling of discomfort around your newfound neighbours, making you continually question whether there’s an actual need for concern or if it’s simply your own paranoia – rarely helped by Lilly and Kenny, who further verbalise your inner indecisiveness.

The family at the dairy farm add to the existing diverse cast of survivors and increase the emotional complexity, especially when you encounter a nearby bandit group who pose an entirely new threat. Mark, the newcomer to your group, is briefly explained as having arrived with a trade of food supplies in the three months between episodes. He's a very likeable character, but the introduction of such an important new character into the core group between episodes feels rather cheap, and I hope it's something Telltale don't make a habit.

The varied but believable personalities combine brilliantly with Lee's choice-based dialogue options, and I frequently found myself playing to different personality traits depending on who was around to witness my decisions. The best example of this is with little Clementine. Whenever she's present, I can’t help but feel the need to be a positive role model, and whenever I forget, her looks of disapproval or frightened emotions remind me vividly, breaking my heart in the process.

Where the first episode focused on introducing the core team and (rather murkily) establishing Lee's history, the second instalment leaves many of them behind at the motel, while Lee and a couple others head off in search of more supplies and a safer location to call home. This results in a whole new wave of danger from living and undead foes alike,  providing a quicker pace and sense of dramatic action to the story.

As before, gameplay is often focused on dialogue choices, letting you decide the path the story will take and shape the opinions others will have of you through timed multiple choice selections. This extends to item interaction, such as determining which characters you will give food to when you don't have enough to go around. There is some traditional puzzle-solving to be found, but it rarely requires much thought, the solutions having clearly laid steps. One such example comes from a locked door which Lee automatically inspects and points out that you can unscrew the lock off... not surprisingly, one of the few interactive objects nearby is a toolbox. While a greater challenge would certainly be appreciated, at least none of the puzzles are made unnecessarily illogical this time around just to artificially ramp up the difficulty.

The oft-dreaded Quick Time Events make a reappearance, but they never require too much dexterity, serving mainly to raise tension in the action sequences.  You'll have limited time to save yourself from danger, such as pushing away a zombie by repeatedly pressing the correct key (or gamepad button) or navigating Lee between objects of cover when hiding from a threat during a timed sequence.  You may die once or twice before you figure out the proper sequence, but you're instantly restored to a moment soon before death, allowing you to try again.

The game's engine remains somewhat problematic on some PCs, with occasional stuttering and delays whenever the action requires frequent camera movement, which in turn can cause the odd audio hiccup. On the flip side of the technical shortcomings, I was surprised by how well Telltale have handled lighting this time around, making brilliant use of night to add tension and drama. One of the episode's most powerful moments occurs as you enter a building in the darkness, the crack of lightning in the background silhouetting someone through the netting of the front door. You genuinely feel the danger of nightfall and long for the safety of daylight to return, as you find your vision reduced and your hearing distracted by the storm.

Overall, the visual presentation absolutely nails The Walking Dead's comic book inspiration, the cartoon style never detracting from the seriousness or sense of danger. Character expressions are excellent, complementing the strong voice acting superbly. The artists haven't shied away from gore, and the distinctive background noises keep you on edge. The sparse, subtle background music only helps maintain the taut atmosphere.

In avoiding all the usual episodic sequel pitfalls, Starved for Help manages to maintain the same qualities that made the first episode so brilliant whilst providing a substantial new scenario that spins the story in another direction, once again driven by key player choices to determine the outcome.  The episode closes with another fantastic cliffhanger after about 3-4 hours of gameplay, followed by a brief glimpse of what's to come next time. As before, you're also given a breakdown of the key choices you made in order to compare your decisions to those of other players. I'm eagerly anticipating the next instalment of The Walking Dead, and cannot wait to see where the story leads the group next.





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Game Info

The Walking Dead: Episode Two - Starved for Help

Platform: iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Vita, Xbox 360

Genre: Drama, Horror

Developer: Telltale Games

Zombie apocalypse adventure based on Robert Kirkman's award-winning comic book series.

More Game Info »

Releases
Territory Date Publisher
Download June 29 2012 Telltale Games
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User Score

Average based on 28 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by syberia on Aug 8, 2012

Time to make decisions

A different game in comparison with other ad games that I've played.I think this difference is because of having the power to make totally... Read the review »

Posted by Lucien21 on Jul 7, 2012

Braaains

Walking Dead - Episode 2 As an interactive experience set in this world, it hits all the right notes. The world feels authentic, the... Read the review »



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About the Author
Reece Warrender
Staff Writer

Comments

Arial Type Arial Type
Jul 5, 2012

4.5 stars for a 3-hour QTE movie? What next? 5 stars to a Barbie game? AG is getting too generous lately, turning into another JA Frown

Peter254 Peter254
Jul 5, 2012

Gamespot was also highly generous in their review, so I’ll certainly trust a 4.5 here. And the first episode was great. Sounds like this one cranks up the sense of desperation.

Matan
Jul 5, 2012

I fully agree with the score in this review. This was one of the best games I played, with masterful storytelling. I just couldn’t let go of my PS3 controller from start to finish. On the other hand, I also enjoyed Heavy Rain, so I gotta say QTE scenes don’t bother me.

On the contrary, I actually feel games like Walking Dead and Heavy Rain are far more involving than regular “puzzly” adventure games, since your decisions actually affect the storyline and are not there just as a barrier to continuing the deterministic story.

marcd2011 marcd2011
Jul 5, 2012

The review is pretty much spot on. Luckily enough I didn’t encounter any audio or video glitches during the game so perhaps I would even give it a 5. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I played a game where I actually cared about the characters like I did in this.

When, as mentioned in the review, you leave some of your group back at the motel while you go off to the farm, I was actually worried about them,  I always felt on the edge of my seat during the action sequences, and the last act set amidst a loud thunderstorm was unbelievably tense.

Not knowing which characters are scripted to live or die, or which ones might live or die by your own actions is a remarkably effective gameplay mechanic, especially when your actions or inactions will possibly have repercussions in future chapters.

talkshow talkshow
Jul 5, 2012

Great episode! Just because a game is short ,doesn’t mean you can’t rank it highly.  Since it’s episodic, you know it’s going to be short.  It’s well-done short!

Wo33er
Jul 6, 2012

Couldn’t agree more with what Matan said. Smile

iuri
Jul 6, 2012

Quality is everything, besides it is only a chapter (as charged). The full story will have a decent lenght.
Also, those small chapters makes me wanting to short the month, I’m already addicted for the series. Nice way to keep the public thinking about the game for 5 months instead of 2 days.
Excellent review, I completely agree with it.

Squirlygirl
Jul 6, 2012

I bought both episode 1 and 2 for ps3, I highly enjoyed both. Only issue I had at all was a bit of lag here and there but nothing game breaking. I’m already looking forward to episode 3. Im going to buy all 5!

adipocere adipocere
Jul 7, 2012

I would like to see a different AG reviewer do the next installment.

Jackal Jackal
Jul 7, 2012

That won’t be happening.  The whole point of having one reviewer is to ensure continuity throughout the series.  These may be “episodes”, but it’s really just one game in five parts.  Just like we wouldn’t have a second person review the middle chapters of a longer game, changing reviewers now would just confuse everything.

DustyShinigami DustyShinigami
Jul 7, 2012

I thought Evan Dickens was the reviewer of Telltale’s games?

Jackal Jackal
Jul 7, 2012

He’s done some of their games, but so have many others.  We’d never assign reviewers to specific developers.

adipocere adipocere
Jul 8, 2012

it’s understandable. The new user ratings is a great addition to find balance. I think a lot of Gamespot’s incredibly bad review of Scratches, and it’s amazes me still: http://www.gamespot.com/scratches/reviews/scratches-review-6146641/  The guy who wrote it must be a total jerk.. (he normally reviewed FPS like God himself was crafting them.) 
Obviously the opposite can happen, probably more often.

The fun thing for you Jackal is dealing with the hardcore mode nerds like me crying foul all day. I’m a PITA, I know it and I can’t help it! =)

Oscar Oscar
Jul 9, 2012

Jackal - it makes sense that the same reviewer does all instalments in a serialized game. But there were no problems with the first four parts of AGON having different reviewers. And those games are no less chapters than these are.

Jackal Jackal
Jul 9, 2012

Only two different reviewers covered the four parts, and both covered consecutive games for at least a little continuity.  But when episodes are released years apart instead of months, sometimes you just have to go with who’s available at the time.

vixvicco vixvicco
Jul 12, 2012

I love episode 2. I preferred episode 2. It was more intense, the atmosphere was great and it really felt like you were doing some serious decision making. I wish they would release them fortnightly rather than monthly.

syberia syberia
Aug 5, 2012

I love this game even more than a game like LA NOIRE.
This game offers sth new that I’ve never experienced before and I think it’s the nonlinear story which is perfectly designed. The only weak thing is the graphic but I have to admit that it’s totally ignorable cause the game has this fantastic story.

Interplay Interplay
Aug 14, 2012

The first two episodes of this game are soooo good.  I can’t wait for the third ep.  The only thing that sucks is that the game (PC version) recorded some of my choices incorrectly in the first episode and carried them over into the second.  Thankfully, it got the (likely) most important one right.  Just finished the second episode and it seemed to record all the choices from that ep correctly.  Great game - I can’t believe this is Telltale.

Owskie
Sep 10, 2012

this episode was on of my favorite moments in gaming in a very long time.. take away the technical problems and i’d give it a 5/5

TopoGigio TopoGigio
Oct 9, 2012

Overrated crap, 4.5 stars for what ?



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