Video Game Review – THE WALKING DEAD: “Starved For Help”

Greetings, Walking Deadheads!  Allen here with a look at the second installment of Telltale Games’ episodic video game series THE WALKING DEAD.  If you haven’t read the review of Episode 1: “A New Day”, well, CHECK IT!

THE WALKING DEAD: “Starved For Help”, picks up not long after we left the abandoned apartment complex at the end of Episode 1: “A New Day”.   Tensions are running high in the group and fights are a daily occurrence due to a dwindling supply of food, very little contact with outsiders, no BREAKING BAD and OH YEAH….hordes of the living dead constantly trying to invade their little oasis of humanity to devour their delicious flesh!  Irony, you are one big mean butthole!

The characters that carried over from Episode 1 still play a major role in the current story line, especially Clementine. To keep the story fresh, there’s a nice addition of some new faces.  Torn between the two alphas of the group, Kenny and Lilly, our hero Lee is forced to make more hard choices that determine what path “Starved For Help”, and future episodes, will shamble down.  When two strangers appear outside of their ramshackle fence, the group is faced with some difficult survival decisions.  Should they stay and possibly starve in the safety of the motel that has become their temporary home or to risk following these men to what seems to be a chance at peace and relative quiet? And did I mention food?  Lots and lots of food!

Playing through this round of Telltale Games’ THE WALKING DEAD gives the player a chance to witness what happens to good people under the stress of some very bad conditions. Like Aaron and I pointed out in the last review, Telltale Games’ take on THE WALKING DEAD is not a shoot-em-up, head-explodey zombie killing rampage of Raccoon City style proportions.  The game begins with another life or death survival scenario that results in running from a horde of whatever you choose to call the undead in your tongue.  However, as the story progresses,  the player is given the difficult task in deciding who you feel deserves to eat that day.  Spoiler alert:  Hungry people are hungry!

The decisions made by you from Episode 1: “A New Day” are very obviously still affecting your relationships with the other people that share your little corner of Hell.  For instance, Kenny STILL brings up that I just stood there and didn’t defend his kid, who appeared to be bitten, when Larry wanted to throw him to the zombies!  Christ on crutches, I thought it was a cut scene! All I did was get up and get a sandwich!   Now I have to pay for this minor mistake for the next four episodes!?  This is just one example of how one must pay attention in this game!  This is part of what makes this game series unique.  Every decision matters!  I’m sure a decision that I made in the name of justice will have repercussions for me in the future, as well.

One of my favorite features of moving forward in this game is knowing you can’t go back to your last save for a “do over”.   The game I’m playing may very well be drastically different from the game you’re playing.  Choices were made to save certain characters while others were sacrificed.  Some characters see you as a threat while others see you as an ally, solely based on what decisions you’ve made in the past.  For all I know, in someone else’s game, Larry may not act like a complete and utter douche nugget, but I doubt it.

The game play here is not drastically different from Episode 1. There are still a few moments of creative newness where the player has to really pay attention to what’s going on and speed isn’t the only name of the game.   The art and design, reminiscent of the early Kirkman comic, pulls off some interesting character expressions and the use of color succeeds in accentuating the illustrated in-game world.  The voice acting is still top-notch and succeeds in avoiding stereotypical cliches that can come with this successful comic book/television/video game series. As well, the storytelling here is strong and brings us further into the world, providing the strong backbone for all the other components to work.

The main difference I found in this chapter was Lee’s choice of action and response time was more key here, than conversation response times were in “A New Day”.  It’s the player’s hesitance regarding an action choice where major plot points are made.  And If the player has difficulty finding a way to maneuver around in this world, the rest of the gang could be in for an extra helping of trouble.

Overall, THE WALKING DEAD: “Starved For Help” sealed the deal for me for the rest of the series.  The action quotient was definitely kicked up a notch or two and it held my interest for the few hours of gameplay the episode offered.  While not being overly sentimental or too heavy handed with its own morality, the game truly was a really fun ride with some gruesome twists that take the player down a rather dark and bloody path.  Hopefully, the rest of the episodes in Telltale Games’ series follow suit!

THE WALKING DEAD: “Starved For Help” was released on 6/27/2012.  Every episode will be available for download on PC, XBOX 360 and PS3 . For more information on Telltale Games, check out their official website!

Until next time, keep your axe sharp and your bellies empty! (I promise to come up with a better tagline soon.)

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