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The Walking Dead Episode Two: Starved For Help Review
After a tumultuous swing at the Jurassic Park license, Telltale proved that it could do serious storytelling with The Walking Dead Episode One: A New Day. Now that many fans have been converted to this new, more mature Telltale, the real challenge begins. With such big shoes to fill, does Episode Two, subtitled Starved for Help, leap forward, or does it shamble lifelessly in place?
Starved for Help certainly has more intrigue than its predecessor thanks to a new cast of human characters, including vicious bandits and suspicious dairy farmers. With Lee and the gang holing up in an abandoned motel, supplies and tempers are running short. You will begin the game hunting with a new character named Mark, but you'll inevitably become the game as zombies find and chase you. Events spiral quickly out of control from here, but in service of preserving the plot, we won't divulge too much. Suffice it to say that it's an emotionally charged and incredibly intense opener backed by one of the best late title cards we've seen recently.
Unfortunately, the plot sags after this initial burst of excitement. A group of dairy farmers will approach Lee and the group with an offer of a trade; their food for some of your gas so as to keep the electric fence that protects their farm running for a while longer. They even go so far as to invite you and the rest of your crew down to their farm for dinner as a gesture of good faith. It's not that this story is boring; there's plenty of intrigue, tension, and stomach-churning violence during the episode's three-to-four hour runtime. It's just that the whole affair is incredibly predictable from the moment you set foot onto the farm, and you'll be yelling at the characters for not figuring out the obvious before it comes back to bite them in the ass.
With a more ambitious but ultimately weaker story than the first episode, Starved for Help has to rely on its gameplay moreso than A New Day, and although it's all pretty solid, there just isn't that much to go around. The majority of the game will be spent in conversation, with only a few puzzles scattered along the path to the end. The puzzles, luckily, are just as much fun as they were last time. They're a satisfying mixture of adventure game logic and real world logic, meaning that they require some thought but have realistic, feasible solutions.
Moreso than the first episode did, Starved for Help attempts to add more of a puzzle element to the conversations, as well, with some having clear implications on how the rest of the episode will play out. You'll have to decide who to trust and ultimately who to side with as the episode wears on. There are no right or wrong answers, but you'll definitely want to stay attentive as you navigate through the timed conversation trees. The episode will culminate in two decisions that will most certainly shape how the future episodes play out. It gets to be pretty exhilerating, but again, the impact of these moments is dulled by just how obvious the "twist" at the end really is.
A New Day suffered from minor tecnhical issues that pulled us out of the story at a few key moments, and while the seemingly random slowdown issues aren't quite as bad as they were in the previous episode, they're certainly still present, and they still distract from some of the episode's best and most harrowing moments. Clicks also occasionally fail to register, although that issue has mostly been ironed out and is now quite rare. Overall, Starved for Help is but a slight improvement on its predecessor from a technical point. There is still much work to be done in terms of framerate and transitioning from one scene to another.
Starved for Help is a strong continuation of Telltale's The Walking Dead series, but it sadly doesn't manage to top what its predecessor did. There are some truly shocking and intense moments to be had at the end of this episode, but many of them you will be able to see coming from miles away. For a game that relies mostly on story, this is perhaps the greatest sin it can commit. Having said that, the conversations and puzzles remain amusing enough to distract you from the utterly predictable plot enough that you should still have a great time with this episode.