Ninety-three minutes of tears and terror was exactly what I got when I sat down with the first episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season Two. One of the more gripping titles I’ve tried in recent years, I could barely contain my excitement when I started playing again, as the main menu and music immediately drew me in. While a season one recap was playing based on my save files, I couldn’t help but notice one error: it showed Lee sparing Danny in the St. John barn when, in truth, I had gored him with a pitchfork. I didn’t notice any other inconsistencies in the dialogue for the rest of the chapter, but it did make me wonder if they existed with other dialogue options or may have somehow affected other issues in successive chapters in ways I couldn’t anticipate.
As the introduction started, this thought was immediately purged from my mind. All that mattered was surviving the zombie apocalypse again. Season Two is played from Clementine’s perspective. A little older and wiser, it was still different to be put into the role of a child than a grown adult. My emotional connection to Clementine was as strong as ever. I still felt protective of her, yet I was now in her shoes. I felt a little less secure than I did playing as Lee; the fear of being a child in the woods with zombies walking about, not to mention marauding survivors, took the first chapter to a slightly more intense level.
Christa and Omid have returned, being all that remained of Clementine’s group. If you didn’t play Season One, it shouldn’t really have any effect on your ability to enjoy Season Two. The recap was sufficient and the narrative easily stood on its own. Playing as Clementine instead of protecting her was, as I said above, a very different experience.
Within the first couple minutes, I had to ask myself, “What kind of people let a little girl go into a public bathroom alone during the zombie apocalypse without checking it first?” Clementine may have been braver than I am, however, for she made no complaints and, throughout the chapter, was capable of quite a bit of grit. While you could choose dialogue and action options to keep her a scared little girl, it’s rather emotionally rewarding to play her as stronger and hardened. Some of the best lines and scenes were spawned this way.
There was also some harrowing material and it wasn’t for the weak of heart or stomach to watch a young child endure. Animal lovers, beware — it may get pretty emotional for you as well! A scene involving a minor surgical procedure left me white-knuckled and biting my lip. Animals and children involved in this sort of story will do that to you and by now, players should be aware that this series isn’t for small children.
The art design is just as well done as the first game, if not improved. The stylized graphics are gorgeous, and motions and actions seem to be slightly improved. There were a few technical flaws, but these seemed to be limited to objects floating in the hands of characters. A rifle wiggling is a little distracting, but surgical instruments bobbing back and forth while you’re trying to use them was flat-out disconcerting!
The music is exceptional and I was particularly struck by “In the Water,” which played during the end credits. It’s a beautiful, stirring song and brought more tears back to my eyes. The sound seemed to be improved over the last game as well. The ambience was a little creepier, the foley was sharper, and the voice acting was smoother. I didn’t hear any bad editing with lines, where someone dropped off suddenly or you heard an unintended pause.
The controls have seen a lot of polish. Everything is more streamlined and faster or easier to click or access. The control scheme itself has stayed the same. The gameplay has been polished as well; puzzles and problems are a little bit more obvious and intuitive. In the first season, I’d find myself stumped or walking around for ten minutes, wondering what I’d missed. Now, everything came naturally. You still need to think, but you won’t have to bash your brains in like you’re trying to put down a Walker because you overlooked something.
The first episode of Season Two has given us more of what we loved and improved on the technical aspects of the series. The episode doesn’t give us a clear idea where we’re going in the story and I think it’s a brilliant move, particularly when our protagonist is Clementine. We’re trying to keep her alive in a world of monsters and adults telling her what to do. We might not see the big picture like Lee did the last time, but that’s fine with me. The frustration and concern for Clementine only enhances it. After all, we’re in the zombie apocalypse and, if the game can make us feel a sense of helplessness (without hopelessness), then I’m very much impressed.
The technical flaws are noticeable and memorable, but ultimately ignorable. My only concern is the error in loading past choices and it’s difficult to say how much this may or may not affect the overall gameplay and story development. All in all, the series has gone in the right direction and will undoubtedly leave you yearning for more.
Low Score – 8.5
Mildly distracting floating objects
Uncertain how much of a problem the inconsistency in importing Season One saves will cause
High Score – 9.5
Strong narrative and sense of concern and helplessness for Clementine
Refined and improved game-play mechanics
Great sound, voice acting and music
Final Score – 9.0