If you couldn't tell from my review of Episode 1 (which you can read here), I was pretty impressed overall with The Council (well, its first episode at least!). It took the basic story game approach that you commonly see in Telltale games but added a skill system that you can level up, engrossing conversations that make use of that skill system, and interesting areas to explore. Throw in a world of shadowy organizations, mystery and intrigue and that's pretty much all I need. So now that Episode 2: Hide and Seek is out, does The Council continue to impress or is the intrigue waning?
The beginning of the episode is largely dependent on how you played (and ended) the first one. Without spoiling anything in particular, murder is afoot and you (as Louis di Richet) and the rest of the guests aren't beyond suspicion. This leaves you to do what you do best: play Sherlock Holmes! However, your overarching mission is still the same: search for clues that may lead to the location of your missing mother.
Storywise, there isn't too much new in Hide and Seek, although it does end on a wonderful cliffhanger. We welcome the last guest on the island during the episode: Spanish Prime Minister Manuel Godoy, who causes quite a scene when he arrives. The only other new thing to report here is that Episode 2 really is quite a bit shorter than Episode 1 (three chapters instead of the four the first had). It's not that big of a deal really, though, as you don't have to meet a bunch of new characters and learn the game systems anymore. Shorter or not, the episode was still quite entertaining as Louis learns more of the mansion's secrets and what sort of host Lord Mortimer is.
If you've played the first episode, you'll know exactly what to expect when it comes to the gameplay, as nothing's really changed. You'll use your skills (which you'll continue to level up between chapters, I was able to obtain a single level three skill on one of my save files) to investigate the manor and talk to its inhabitants. I felt that there were less dialog confrontations overall in the episode, but there were still plenty of choices throughout that gave you unique traits (which give you permanent bonuses).
What has changed is the scenery. Two of the three chapters primarily focus on unexplored areas around the mansion, and they are both quite a sights (with great commentary from Louis, I might add). While Hide and Seek may not have as much dialog, it does have a number of puzzles. In fact, it felt like more of a puzzle episode rather than a dialog episode. Many of puzzles are rather clever and probably took me too long to solve.
The graphics throughout remain solid, and I particularly enjoyed the new areas as they were much more intriguing than in the previous episode (and again, there was a ton of commentary which made the new areas quite enjoyable). The audio was good as well, without the awkward voice inflections that the first episode had from time to time.
So, while Episode 2 may very well be a tad shorter than the previous, it still managed to give me more of the skill-based gameplay and intriguing story that Episode 1 started, which is very much a good thing. I will add that like most story-based games, Hide and Seek is a "convergence point" in the story as I played two different characters through to the end (which is fine, as you can't have too many diverging choices over five episodes after all).
All in all, if you played and enjoyed Episode 1, you should nab Episode 2 whenever you can. It's got a little less dialog and a few more puzzles, but you're still growing into your character the entire time and delving deeper into the overall mystery. After all, you have one hell of a game of "Hide and Seek" to play!
It's good to meet you! I'm better known online as "Bkstunt_31" and have been writing Reviews and video game Strategy Guides/Walkthroughs for WAY too many years! Feel free to stop my my Facebook page and say hello! Have fun and keep playing!