After a disappointing effort with Jurassic Park, TellTale Games went back to the drawing board with this year’s The Walking Dead. The first episode, A New Day, introduced a new set of characters dealing with the zombie apocalypse. Lee Everett, Clementine and company struggle to survive the infamous events of the Walker uprising in Georgia. Big decisions have to be made for the whole group to stay alive together, but there are definitely consequences that will stick throughout TellTale’s five-episode series. If you thought the first episode put you in tough situations, in terms of decision making, this second episode, Starved For Help, gets more intense as you’ll be put on the spot more to make decisions that will change relationships for better or worse for the future of the series. I enjoyed the first episode a lot, but Starved For Help pushes things to a whole new level, forcing me to make arguably the toughest decisions I've ever made in a video game.
Starved For Help takes place three months after A New Day, where the group is staying at a motel as their food supply is nearly gone—hence the title. A struggle of power of who is leading the group has been making things stressful between Lee, Kenny, Lily and company. You’ll get put on the spot on numerous occasions throughout the episode of which side you’ll be on when it comes to group decisions. There are also other arcs going on with other characters, such as Lee’s relationship with the young Clementine. They’re still improving that they have each other and it is one I pay special attention to because how much of a father figure Lee is becoming to her during these tough times. A new character—Mark—was introduced in between the two episodes, but more new characters enter the fold when they want to trade gas for food. The deal becomes more than just supply as the St. John brothers take the group to their big dairy farm, where it is protected by an electric fence against the Walkers. It seems like things are going in the right direction for Lee’s group with a new change in scenery, but the St. Johns’ questionable actions might be a problem, in that it was not the paradise they wanted in such a desperate time.
If you played the first episode of The Walking Dead, the core gameplay has not change significantly in the second episode. There are dialogue trees with the characters that affects your relationship with them, whether or not Lee did the right thing. You still control Lee around in certain environments interacting with items that are useful for the short-term or long-term. Also, unlike most of TellTale’s past adventure games, there are not many puzzle elements in order to progress to the next scene, so you’re not going to be that stuck. The tough and emotional decisions are the marquee focus of The Walking Dead and there are plenty to the point that they are some of the toughest decisions I've made in a video game, due to my attachment to the characters. If there is a character I want to keep a good relationship with, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep them happy, even if I have to jeopardize another friendship when times are rough. In other words, the old saying that actions speak louder than words matters big time here. Numerous playthroughs are also worth it to see the other side of what you didn’t decide on the first time around and also having multiple saves of the first episode are also useful to seeing everything the game has if you’re a completionist. Also like the first episode, stats of you and others’ big decisions will be shown after beating the game, which is a little longer than A New Day, clocking in at three to four hours.
While the comic book-esque art style of The Walking Dead continues to look great, the game is still hampered by numerous technical issues. This is expected out of TellTale when scenes don’t lead seamlessly well, compared to most of today’s games. The game usually stalls for some seconds before it loads up the next scene and I hope it gets fixed for the future episodes, but I don’t really see it happening if they are still going by the monthly release schedule. Also, keep in mind that Starved For Help came out nearly two months after A New Day, which is not usually the standard for TellTale’s adventure games. Despite the technical issues, the game’s music and voice acting are superb from the whole cast of characters.
The first episode of the Walking Dead game started things well—establishing the setting, situation of the zombie apocalypse and, more importantly, the characters. Starved For Help keeps things strong as you’re starting to be attached to certain characters and hating others, making big decisions benefiting certain relationships while risking others along the way. I liked how the storyline played out in this second episode, even though as you progress, you can predict what will happen next, especially if you’re familar with the franchise through the comics or the television show on AMC. The continuous technical issues from past TellTale releases are still a problem, but the emotional experience still overshadows those flaws. I’m excited what is next for Lee and company in the upcoming episodes, since you start to truly establish which friends you side with, while potentially making enemies with others. The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved For Help is definitely worth your time and money for either the PS3, Xbox 360 or PC. It is personally one of my favorite gaming experiences of the year and ensures that decisions do matter then, now, and the future.