Life is full of hard decisions: paper or plastic, French fries or baked potato, boxers or briefs. Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead game hinges on these sort of binary decisions, forcing you to make tough decisions in a matter of seconds, decisions that will—in theory—have repercussions that will be felt throughout the game. Episode 2 – Starved for Help comes right out of the gates with a doozy: do you leave a man clamped in a bear trap, or do you hack off his leg to save him? That’s just the pace car for one hell of a wild ride through the hell that Georgia has become.
Escaped con Lee and his band of survivors have walked from one pickle to another, escaping the hell of Herschell’s farm to an even worse fate: running out of food in their secured hotel. Tensions have run even higher than before, with several of the survivors butting heads over who should be the leader, while you, as Lee, have to try and pick sides without completely alienating anyone.
A series of events send the survivors to a dairy farm, where they are once again presented with a beacon of hope. Of course, in true Walking Dead fashion, nothing gold can stay, and once again our protean group is forced to face off against the evils of this new world—both human and zombie—and simply try to survive.
The touted decision-making aspect of the game, which offered some interesting forks in the first episode, truly starts to pick up steam in episode 2, with decisions that you made both big and small starting to show their repercussions. It’s a difficult concept to truly review, or even discuss in full, as whole chunks of the story can and will change based on the choices that you have made. Kenny, the game’s resourceful and noble redneck, reminded me during a heated argument that I had told him in episode 1 that I had his back. The reporter that I saved in the same episode is a member of my crew—would the cameraman I sacrificed have filled her slot had the tables been turned? It’s an intense feeling to know that you have such control over a situation, whether or not you are really conscious of it, and that many of your choices have genuine consequences that a simple quit and reload won’t undo.
Unfortunately, having so many variables at play leads to some technical difficulties for the game. With the game working to hard to swap out it various prerecorded scenes, there were many times throughout the episode’s running time that the game seemingly locked up or froze before key moments, especially those that seemed like they were tied into your choices. It’s a fairly consistent problem, and it’s jarring every time it happens.
However, in spite of the technical difficulties, Telltale’s adaptation of The Walking Dead is an absolute triumph of storytelling. Its characters are rich and multifaceted, its story beats are absolutely harrowing at times, and it’s almost slavishly accurate to the tone of its source material.
The Walking Dead: The Game Episode 2 – Starved for Help is available on Xbox Live for 400 MSP and PC and Playstation Network for $4.99.