Unlike the majority of content that comes from developer Telltale Games, The Walking Dead is a dark and depressing experience that embeds itself into the player’s emotions and never lets go. Episode 1 – A New Day was filled with death, loss and other heavy themes that not only serve to tell a captivating story, but also add weight to the consequences resulting from the decisions made by the player. Episode 2 – Starved For Help takes all of these elements and cranks it up to eleven, delivering one of the most engaging, haunting experiences I have ever had with a video game.
First off, may I just say, I love the episodic style of this series. With television-inspired “previously on” and “next time on” segments bookending each episode, I feel as though I am watching an epic drama — and in many respects I am. You see, the writing in Starved For Help is some of the best I’ve witnessed. With believable and instantly relatable characters that you can’t help but care for, I found myself on the edge of my seat, eyes pinned open in fear that I would miss even a second of the experience. I’ve seen the first season of AMC’s The Walking Dead television series, and let me tell you, it’s got nothing on this video game interpretation.
As I alluded to a moment ago, the real strength of The Walking Dead lies with its cast of compelling characters. The relationship between the main character Lee Everett and a young (likely now orphaned) girl Clementine is emotionally captivating and oddly reminiscent of the bond between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. There are a slew of other characters, each with their own backstories, motivations and personalities that serve to fuel the drama of this second episode. Make no mistake, while on the surface The Walking Dead is a story of survival during the zombie apocalypse, at its core it is so much more. It’s a fight for survival, and in a world with limited resources, it’s kill or be killed.
This second chapter in the series peers so deep into the darkness of humanity it’s unnerving. So many games try but fail to utilize violence and strong language in a contextually appropriate way that enhances the experience. During my time with Starved For Help, I found myself shocked, horrified and disgusted, but always for the right reasons. The story starts off with a bang and never lets up — but let me clarify what I mean by that. It’s not all action all the time – this is an adventure game after all – but even when you’re simply engaging in dialogue or observing the environment, your brain is constantly racing, contemplating either the ramifications of a prior event or what kinds of horrifying surprises lie around the corner. The two hours of content that make up this second episode was perfectly paced, keeping me glued to the screen the entire time.
If you’re reading this review, then I assume you’ve already played the first episode, so there isn’t a whole lot to discuss with regards to the visuals or gameplay, as the core design foundation seen in the first episode remains very much intact. As one would suspect, part two features new locales, but nothing drastically different from the first. That said, the game looks gorgeous, with a bright and vibrant palette that benefits from being set mainly during the daytime. Likewise, the controls work exactly the same as A New Day, and serve their purpose nicely. Seeing as how this element is of less importance for a game of this genre, I’ll leave it at that. If you’d like to read up on the controls, head over to our review of Episode 1 – A New Day for all the details.
Of the games I’ve played this year, only a handful stand out as truly memorable experiences and The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved For Help is undoubtedly one of them. Player choice is a huge part of the experience and the moral decisions you are forced to make serve as some of the most emotionally demanding moments I have ever faced in a game. As such, this title is not for the faint of heart. The choices you make have severe consequences that directly affect the outcome of the story. I wish so badly that I could offer up a few examples, but I would hate to ruin any of the experience for you. Let’s just say that the choices I made won’t be fading from my memory anytime soon.
Telltale Games has a gem on its hands. If the remaining three episodes of this series are anything like the first two, The Walking Dead may very well go down in history as the greatest adventure game of this generation. Starved For Help improves upon the storytelling of its predecessor and treads into darker, much more mature territory. With an engrossing narrative that molds to your decisions, populated by a cast of compelling and relatable characters that you can’t help but care about, this is one zombie apocalypse you won’t want to miss.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Elements of player choice and consequence add weight to every decision.
+ Mature approach to heavy subject matter.