Last year, Telltale Games captured the gaming community’s collective attention with their rendition of the popular comic and television series, The Walking Dead. The game wasn’t a first-person shooter, or a role-playing game, or even a puzzler. No, Telltale Games went old-school on us with a revamped version of the classic point and click adventure. The Walking Dead: Season One focused heavily on making choices and dealing with the consequences, leading the player eloquently through a personalized and unforgettable story. And now, in season two of The Walking Dead, more choices are to be made, and the fates of characters we’ve come to love hang in the balance; only a buttons press away from either salvation or damnation.
*If you have not finished The Walking Dead: Season One completely, I suggest that you either play the game (seriously, it’s a great game but is very story reliant, so I cannot promise that this review will be without spoilers from the first season), or skip this review!*
“All That Remains,” or the first episode of season two, picks up exactly where the previous season left off. Lee is gone, Clementine is alone, and the world still sucks. With Lee out of the equation, the player is now in control of Clementine’s actions, and is omniscient of her thoughts. In terms of gameplay mechanics and controls, the formula is basically the same as the first season. The player controls the characters movement with the left analog stick, while the right stick controls a two-dimensional cursor that can hover over objects and people in the world, displaying button prompts as it highlights these things. During dialogue scenes, the player usually has three to four options to choose from, each corresponding to one of the four face buttons. And during the action sequences, the button presses can range from swiping an analog stick, mashing or holding a face button, and even pressing the shoulder buttons. Performing these actions is simple enough, and there is no confusion about when one should be performing them. All of these inputs are left completely up to the player; each one situational depending on previous choices. These choices are the games main attraction. As the player makes them, prompts will appear on the screen saying things like, “John Doe will remember that.” These prompts give the choices that much more weight; it reminds the player that the actions they take within the game will stick and cannot be undone. By creating profound and thought-provoking characters and settings, Telltale Games have masterfully made the act of decision-making something exhilarating, dramatic, fun and addicting.
The Walking Dead started out as a comic book, which is very apparent while playing this rendition of the series. Every object, person, animal and walker in the world are outlined in heavy black lines, as if drawn into the scene. The characters in the game are heavily detailed, down to the items in their backpacks. Landscapes are beautifully realized, from the density of a forest, to the meticulously detailed rooms of large, country houses. The previous season of The Walking Dead, at least on the Playstation 3, was hindered by some annoying framerate issues. Thankfully, however, it seems that those issues did not make a return appearance for season two. So it would seem that this season is shaping up to be, at least artistically, more of the same. Which is certainly not a bad thing.
Characterization and plot are the crucial elements that have made The Walking Dead the success that it is today. This could not be done without the help of superb voice actors and quality sound design. Clementine’s voice actor, Melissa Hutchison, returns and gives a phenomenal performance alongside a cast of new characters. The dialogue between these characters is often gripping and intense, so the delivery needs to be spot-on and passionate; which it is, on all accounts. Sound effects, from the creaking of wood under foot, to the cracking of zombie skulls, are authentic and impactful. The music in the game is also worth noting. Jared Emerson-Johnson composes somber melodies that accentuate the dread and depression during the calmer scenes, while also producing hectic, fast-paced scores that intensify situations during action sequences.
The Walking Dead has received critical and public praise and admiration since it’s first episode in April of 2012. In a time when the video games market was saturated with first-person shooters and action games, The Walking Dead was a breath of fresh air for those of us looking for a captivating and emotional story. It proved that gamers had attention spans longer than the time it takes to look down an iron-sight, and that we actually wanted a video game with substance and meaning behind it. Telltale Games opened a path that a lot of gamers might not have known existed, or maybe they reopened it for those that had just forgotten about it. Either way, if “All That Remains” is anything to go by, which I believe it most certainly is, this path is one that gamers will continue down for quite a long time.