The entire story and conclusion to Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead season 1 was so utterly fantastic and provided such closure, the series could have ended right there. Fortunately for us (and financially for them), it made sense to create another season starring possibly the most likeable child character in any video game ever. This time around you play as Clementine, whom we protected in the first series as Lee, which presents its own set of gameplay limitations. Because she’s still young, she’s not going to run around blasting zombies, but as it was with the first series, story and the weight of your decisions are key, and there are some moments which can only be pulled off by a “little girl” that made me feel like completely empowered.
There was a little ambiguous teaser after the ending credits of the final episode of the first season, and this game picks up right after that. Clementine is surrounded by familiar faces, and things seem bleak as before, but it’s comforting to be in the presence of NPCs that you knew from the last game. Unfortunately in this world, not only do you have to watch out for zombies, but other people are a very real threat. You are immediately taken from your comfort zone, and Clementine has to fend for herself for a bit. And it’s here where you feel really helpless. The game keeps reiterating that you cannot fend off the undead by yourself, and soon enough you encounter other survivors.
But can you trust them? And perhaps most importantly, can you manipulate them into thinking you’re a defenseless little girl to get them to do what you want. That is a way I have never felt playing a video game before, and there was one moment where I really started to set up these mindgames that felt as satisfying as pulling off a headshot in another video game. I’m very intrigued as to where the story will progress from here. The episode feels a bit on the short side, and the problem-solving is pretty easy at this point, but it feels like a lot of story threads are getting set up for the remainder of the episodes.
Like I said earlier, you won’t be getting payback on zombies as Clementine, so moments where you encounter them require quick thinking and fast button response. If you are not a fan of quick-time events, then you might find some of the gameplay annoying. The game now uses similar controls with Telltale Games’ other video game series Fables, which can take a little getting used to because you need to be aware of which analog stick to use and which button to press. Adding to some of the annoyances, I also thought a couple of the dangerous situations Clementine got herself into felt a bit contrived; I almost wanted to yell at her horror-movie style not to do something. But for the most part, Clementine is one smart kid. She should be, after all, you spent all the last game training her how to survive. The game ends on a cliff-hanger with one of your usual either/or choices affecting the rest of the game (and slightly altering playthroughs).
To Play or Not to Play: If you played the previous The Walking Dead game, then most likely you are going to play this game regardless of reviews. If you are new to it, or a fan of any of Telltale Games’ other games, please play the previous season. Yes, you can just jump into this game without feeling lost, but there is so much more value and heartbreak if you played the first season that you’ll be missing out if you didn’t. The game engine feels a bit dated, and stuff will lag at times, but the story is so compelling and these tailored story games are so different and interesting it’s a small sacrifice to make.