When it comes to zombie games, most of the time the developers behind these products like to keep it plain and simple. A zombie comes at you, you kill it with a firearm or a makeshift weapon that could easily decapitate it. Very often do you see the harrowing after-effects of a zombie apocalypse, especially on their effect with the fellow man. With that, The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved For Help shakes things up remarkably.
Following up on the events of A New Day, the first chapter that was released at the beginning of the summer gaming season, Starved For Help once again puts you in the shoes of Lee Everett, a felon who escapes police custody and finds himself as the leader of a group of survivors in a ramshackled fortress that used to be a motel. Several of these folks are dependent on your decisions, such as how you’ll ration out food or who you’ll play “favorites” with. Among these are Clementine, a young child who you stuck with throughout the first chapter of the series, as well as others, including the militant Lilly.
Episode 1 really paved the way when it came to decision-making, forcing you to make harsh choices and side with certain characters, while turning a cold shoulder to others in your hopes of surviving the onslaught of the undead. But in Episode 2, you really see how these decisions shape the course of your adventure, as some of your fellow survivors opt to take matters into their own hands. It’s here where you really learn what it takes to survive such an event.
Leave it to Telltale Games’ team to once again shape a truly nerve-racking zombie experience, right up there with Robert Kirkman’s comic book novel. You’ll have your fair share of undead encounters, but the real twist of the knife here comes in the drama that unfolds between survivors, and the consequences behind some of your actions. Someone who you put your trust into could easily be the worst person possible, while someone you were counting on can easily turn their back to save their own hide. It’s mesmerizing watching how your choices go down.
That said, there is a slight bit less gameplay and puzzle solving in this chapter, as Telltale wanted to focus more on the decision-making this time around. So if you’re expecting plenty of zombie-shredding moments, you might have to go back to Episode 1 to get your fill. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a compelling game experience, because it is, but this isn’t one of those games where you’ll want to mash buttons just to see where it goes. You’ll miss the point of it that way.
Though the general gameplay time is roughly just over a couple of hours, you can go through the experience again and see where your decisions take you. You might even be tempted to go back to Episode 1 just to see how things shape up. Very rarely do you run into a game that gives you a reason to revisit its roots.
As far as presentation goes, Episode 2 has some slight blemishes with character design and lip-synching, but the surroundings are still quite stirring, and the zombies look more haunting than ever before. Some of the human reactions are a bit startling as well, especially if you catch some poor sap off guard with food rations. Likewise, the audio is top quality, with a strong voice cast and ideal musical cues working in the right instances.
We won’t have to wait long to see where the third chapter of this series, Long Road Ahead, takes us, as it’s due for an August release. That’ll give you enough time to explore Episode 2, though. Starved For Help is the best episode to date, one filled with multiple options and choices that show you just how harrowing a zombie apocalypse can be – and all without continuously wielding a shotgun, at that. We can’t wait to see how the rest of this series shapes up…even if we're not entirely prepared for it emotionally. (Hey, that's a good thing.)
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]