If there was any worry that the quality of The Walking Dead would decrease after the first episode, then Starved for Help should come as a relief. Not only is this second installment a gripping mystery, but it also forces the player to make some genuinely tough decisions. With a number of exciting twists and turns, Telltale Games shows us what they are capable of with this engrossing episode.
Before we get too deep into this review, let me warn you up front that there will be a whole lot of episode one spoilers. It goes without saying that if you haven't played the first episode, then this review is not the place to start. Go play The Walking Dead: A New Day right now, I'll wait for you.
Three months have taken place since the events of the first episode. Lee, Clementine and the rest of the survivors have managed to keep themselves alive, if only barely. Food is starting to run low and morale is at an all-time low. To make matters worse, Lee found more survivors in the woods, which means more mouths to feed. The zombie threat still exists, but right now the real worry is of people dying of starvation.
As luck would have it, a pair of strangers happens upon the camp looking for gasoline. Better still, these two come with the promise of food and water. Lee and his group are told about a dairy just down the way, the answer to all of their prayers. Unfortunately there's just one catch -- the dairy is surrounded by forest bandits that are making it tough on the nice family living inside.
Before long Lee gets wrapped up in helping them, but things are not what they appear. When one of the survivors is injured, the helpful family starts acting funny. They lock up the barn and won't let anybody in the house, sending Kenny into a paranoid fit. Is there something devious going on here? What is tightly locked inside the barn? And why won't the middle-aged women let Lee see his injured buddy? All of these questions are answered in this two hour episode.
Much like the first installment, Starved for Help is split up between quick time events and traditional point and click adventure gameplay. There are moments where all you have to do is talk somebody out of doing something stupid, while other times you'll collect and use items scattered throughout the environment. You'll be presented with a number of tough decisions, including deciding who gets to eat for the day.
The choices you make are important and will carry over into the next episode (and beyond). That was certainly the case with this episode, which saw me denied help because of things I did and said in the pilot. This episode is designed to create friction in the group, something that I suspect will linger far beyond the next installment. Before the end of the game you'll have to make far tougher choices than who eats.
This episode is decidedly darker in tone than the pilot. The fact that only a few zombies ("walkers") are spotted doesn't mean you are off the hook. This is an episode that shows the worst in human beings, and not always in the way you expect. At the same time, the game asks you to understand the plight of these people. The world has been turned upside down and survival is now job number one. While there is still a line between good and bad, you can tell that it's getting blurrier with each passing episode.
The gameplay and presentation remains unchanged from the first episode, so expect a lot of wandering around and conversations. Thankfully, the game's writing is sharp enough to keep me from noticing the lulls in the action. I'm always excited to talk to the next person, if only because it helps me get to know them more. Plus, it plays into some of the puzzle solving in creative ways. If you were bored by the graphic adventure nature of the first episode, then chances are you won't care much for Starved for Death.
As a middle episode, I didn't expect a whole lot of resolution. And while it's true that the story continues for these survivors, I was happy to see that there was a conclusion to at least one or two threads. The St. John Dairy is an exciting new addition full of new things to look at and people to interact with. My only complaint is that it feels like we're just bouncing from one farm to another, but at least a new storyline sprouts out of the dairy.
Fans of the first episode are in for a real treat with Starved for Death. This is a gripping installment full of smart writing and great voice work. There are a number of new locations to explore, fresh faces to see and even a mystery to solve. So, what's locked inside of that barn anyway? You'll find out when you play through The Walking Dead: Starved for Death.
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