Anyone who remembers my review for the first Walking Dead episode remembers me being a little tepid on the whole thing. A lot of choices were obvious and unintersting, the gameplay was overly simplified, and, well, I’m pretty burned on zombies. Especially since most of the zombie scenarios used in the game were pretty well-worn and the game didn’t do anything new with them. There was, however, a saving grace- the core relationship between Lee and Clementine was top-notch, and a well grounded center to what was going on. While Episode II does have a better plotline than the first, it does this at the expense of expanding on their relationship- an unfortunate way to take the series, even if it is a pretty interesting story that is told.
So if you played the first game, you know what this one is like. They’re not going to overhaul it or anything- and there are still 3 more after this that are going to play exactly the same. Yay!
There is LESS gameplay in this one, though. While the first had a few scenarios with puzzles to get through, this one doesn’t even have that. The most is a part where you follow a tractor as it rolls along, but it goes on far too long and isn’t exactly fun to play. It’s very straight forward, but there are a few weird spots that are very traditional adventure game- a hunt for clicking the right things in the right order, or getting an item to use on a thing, and it feels a little out of place for how streamlined the rest of the game is.
The actual story takes place 3 months after the first one, with food running low in the Motor Inn we left our heroes at. Tensions are high, and when a couple of boys from a local dairy come in and say they’ll trade food for some gas, everyone jumps at the chance. But, just like how Herschel’s farm had a locked barn in the show, there’s a locked door that catches the eyes of the group, who decides to investigate, and I won’t spoil it, but the reveal at the end is pretty good and actually a little shocking. I know, as a desensitized gamer, that shouldn’t be possible anymore!
More or less the same here, but something about this game makes it feel like it was a little rushed together. There’s a lot more or a problem with bad camera hitches when moving between shots, which get surprisingly lengthy in spots. I almost restarted my 360, thinking it had frozen at a spot, it had hitched for so long. Even when it’s not in a cutscene, loading between camera angle switches takes a few moments, and it feels a little slapped together.
I even noticed more hitches in this one than there were in the previous. Definitely more texture popping and flickering going on. There were even some weird issues with the subtitles, such as a few script directions left in at spots. It makes the experience feel kind of slap-dash, which I admit might just be the 360 version. Hopefully, it’ll get better as time goes by and they get more in the rhythm of things, but it doesn’t look good here. I know they’re more or less doing this month by month, and they’re finishing the script the month the game’s supposed to come out, but if a few days later will make the game better, by all means- no one will mind if the game comes out great.
One of the big, early choices in the game gives you 4 pieces of food to distribute to the survivors in the camp. It’s all the food that has been rationed for the day- people are going to be hungry, no matter what you do, and it’s clear that your allegiances are being tested with this task. Yet my problem wasn’t who to give it to- my problem was what to do with the leftover food once I gave it to the two survivors who I actually cared about.
And that’s the biggest problem with the game is that after 3 months, it introduces 2 new characters to the motor lodge, as well as the old ones, and makes you choose between them- and besides Clementine (and, surprisingly, Carlie), I didn’t want to give the food to anyone. They’re either jerks or idiots, and the way they’re written doesn’t make me feel for them or in any way close to them- so when things start to go bad, I only care about Lee and Clementine. The rest can do what they want, because these are the only two interesting people on display. And the worst part about that is, in this episode, most of their relationship isn’t focused on until a little bit at the end. They took my favorite part of the original and more or less ignored it, and that really bothered me.
It seems to me that this series is going to be full of ups and downs in each episode. So after a lot of slowness and nothingness at the beginning, the last third of the game has a whole lot happen at once- and it’s awesome. It does a lot to distract from the weakness of the rest of the episode by making the twists and reveals so gruesome that it’s pretty thrilling. Bless the evil men at Telltale for going through with it- although the ACTUAL end of the episode is kind of weak.
Each episode so far has had its good parts and bad parts- but each time, it’s something different. It’s been inconsistent, and I don’t think it can keep my interest if it doesn’t settle down and find a groove for itself. The lack of focus on Lee/Clementine is only forgiven because of the extra focus on a good story twist at the end- but I really hope they find a balance in the future, which would truly make the game compelling on a level that Telltale hasn’t done before. As of now, it still feels like a work in progress.