The Walking Dead: Episode 2 review for XBLA, PSN, PC

Platform: XBLA
Also On: PSN, PC
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Medium: Digital Download
Players: 1
Online: Yes

If you at all slept on checking out the first episode of Telltale?s The Walking Dead game, then you?re seriously doing yourself a disfavor as the second episode strives to prove. Even if you?ve not been a big fan of their previous efforts, whether that?s from the admittedly lackluster Jurassic Park title, or the entertaining efforts of their Sam and Max, Back to the Future, Wallace and Gromit, and Monkey Island games, I?m finding The Walking Dead to be on a whole different level than their previous efforts.

And Episode 2 just helps to cement that. Despite some more technical issues which are certainly a slight smear on an otherwise excellent experience, this episode felt like it upped the ante in every meaningful way possible. Having a small cast of characters that we?ve already been introduced to certainly helps, but the danger in this episode is far more real and intimidating than just wandering hordes of aimless, hungry zombies. The starvation angle is pretty well realized, and the new cast introductions, outside of one lackluster addition that does little here, provides for some pretty jaw dropping moments.

Certain elements of this tale do tend to be a little telegraphed for horror enthusiasts, but I almost felt like Telltale figured out that most players would have a rough idea of where things were going to go, and decided to play that up by building a slow tension around the penultimate event that caps off this block of gameplay. And regardless of whether you see the outcome coming from a mile away or not, the journey is still well worth going on, and there?s some moments here that?ll stand out in your memory long after all the episodes are completed, which is certainly saying something.

It?s hard to talk about a two to three hour experience without spoiling anything, which I?m clearly struggling to do here, but suffice to say the story element of episode 2 is definitely top notch. All the great voice acting, character animation, and overall look of the previous chapter is intact here, so if you were impressed before, you?ll continue to be so.

The gameplay elements are also familiar, featuring a number of scripted events that?ll give you different moral quandaries to explore, so that the game will branch off in different paths just like the first chapter. And those choices made in chapter one effect what happens here, and thankfully those choices aren?t just left by the wayside and are also brought up more than once, making their impact felt in different ways.

Besides the various conversational paths, the whole remembering what you said to certain characters is played up again here. Hell, there were things I did in chapter one that impacted the way my cast interacted with Lee that I had kind of forgotten about myself, but I?m glad to see that those interactions aren?t forgotten by the game, no matter how minor they might have been.

And of course there?s the returning puzzle element, which isn?t what I?d call The Walking Dead?s strongest suit. This isn?t because they?re particularly hard, or nonsensical, but more so because they?re just a tad too easy and often explain what you need to do before you figure it out yourself. There are a couple instances here that allowed me to explore, but unlike the conversations with their branching paths, most of the puzzle moments only had one real outcome available, which was a tad disappointing to me. One puzzle literally tells me exactly what I need before-hand, which was a bit more revealing than I wanted it to be.

The Walking Dead Episode 2 is something that begs to be talked about once it?s finished, and not beforehand, which makes writing this review a little challenging. If the first episode didn?t convince you enough that the series is worth continuing, than I?m not sure that episode 2 really does much differently to make you think otherwise. But I felt like the stakes were definitely higher here for the cast, particularly in the second half of the story, and there?s some real standout moments that shouldn?t be missed. And if you were already in love with the game after episode 1, then you?ll find yourself extremely pleased with what episode 2 has to offer. Hopefully Telltale can continue along this path for the subsequent episodes, and hopefully episode 3 won?t keep us waiting quite as long as this one.

Grade: A-