This is going to be a short one. In my review of the first episode, I detailed the praise and complaints I have about Telltale’s episodic adventure adaptation of The Walking Dead – the poor interface, the lazy puzzles. But the reason that it still received such a high score can be summed up with one simple, six-letter word – choice. Choice was the reason that I loved the first episode, and is the reason that I loved the second even more. Just a warning, though – there will be spoilers for and assumed knowledge of The Walking Dead: Episode 1.
For comparison’s sake, I’m going to bring up the Mass Effect series here. Choice in Mass Effect is very much good choice/bad choice – it’s very clearly defined which is considered the Paragon option, and which is considered Renegade, and your character’s further interactions in the series are affected by these choices. There’s no grey area here, as the good choice and the bad choice are so distinct that you can even work out which is which by the side of the conversation wheel they’re on – yeah, they’re still hard decisions, but generally the consequences are laid out for you on a platter. In The Walking Dead: Episode 2, there is no such luxury.
Your choices here are bad or bad. This is, of course, similar to the decisions presented in A New Day (Carley/Doug, for example), but it seems more organic – less forced, I think is what I’m trying to say. It does have the same feeling that the first episode unfortunately gave off, though, in that it always feels as if no matter what I choose, only one result is the possible outcome, like Duck/Shawn or give/don’t give Irene the gun. And it might be a little bug or something, but everyone seemed to think that I backed Larry in the kill/don’t kill Duck decision in episode one, but unless I’m going senile already, I’m sure that I sided with Kenny. On occasion there is a point at which you expect to be able to make a decision for yourself, only to have it made for you because that choice is the only way that the plot is going to move forward. Giving you an example might spoil it for you, but you’ll know them when they happen.
Every decision you make will both positively impact on your relationships with certain characters and negatively impact on others. Within the first fifteen minutes, you’re forced to either hack off a man’s leg or leave him for the walkers, and then forced to distribute four items of food amongst the ten hungry survivors in your group. Neither of these are particularly pleasant decisions to make – I chose to forgo feeding Clementine so as to not appear selfish to the other families, but immediately felt horrible when she said that she was “looking forward to eating next time”. Of course, there’s plenty more choices throughout the episode, all driven forward by that fantastic limited-time mechanism.
Just after these gut-wrenching decisions, you’re introduced to a couple of new characters who run a dairy farm not far away from your makeshift-motor-inn-fortress. Telling you of any more from this point on will likely spoil the episode for you, but let me just say that Starved for Help captures the brutal, horrible nature of the world presented in the Walking Dead universe so perfectly.
Starved for Help begins three months after the finale of A New Day, with your rag-tag bunch of survivors hungry yet safe, barricaded up in an old motor inn. Despite being in no way the centrepiece of this episode, Bandits are briefly introduced and take on a slightly more major role later on. They’ll likely take more of an important role in later episodes, however.You are introduced to a totally new character, Mark, within the first fifteen seconds of the title screen. Initially, I was second-guessing my recollection of what happened in A New Day and how I could have possibly forgotten the presence of a character, but his reason for being at the motor inn is quickly explained by Lilly. Thanks to a nifty little TV-style “previously on The Walking Dead” introduction, I didn’t think I’d simply forgotten Mark altogether, but still, it was nice to be sure.
This is a short review, and it was always going to be. The horrid, visceral tone that was initially explored in the first episode of this fantastic series has been further expanded in Starved for Help. Telltale have brilliantly crafted a fast-paced point-and-click series overflowing with Sophie’s choices that will make you angry and make you scared. Very scared. And also very angry. Suspense caused as a direct result of the fixed camera angles provides every scene with the potential to be absolutely frightening, and, for the better part, they are. You’ll walk away from this bruised, battered, and broken – but eagerly awaiting episode 3.
Select Start Media was provided with a review season copy of The Walking Dead by Telltale Games.