The first episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead shot a jolt of energy back into adventure games. Episode 2, Starved for Help, continues the story that A New Day started a couple of months ago. While this is a continuation of Telltale’s story, we see just enough of a shift in certain gameplay mechanics to give gamers a different type of experience. More action and fewer puzzles drive the gameplay, and the story elevates the plight of the characters to a much more terrifying level.
Starved for Help picks up around three months after where A New Day left off, with Lee and the other survivors still holed up in the motel where you left them. After a quick and somewhat jumbled recap of your time in the previous episode, the scene opens in a forest of autumn-colored leaves as Lee sneaks up on a zombie and drives an axe into its head. After that, you’re introduced to a new character almost immediately while he and Lee discuss the past three months. You discover that the group isn’t faring well as tempers have started to flare and alliances have started to form.
Starved for Help throws you into the same great adventure mechanics that made the first game so memorable. You are quickly tasked with a decision between life and death for a newly-introduced character whose leg is stuck in a bear trap. You have an axe in the reticle and the target is over his leg caught in the trap. You make the choice to save him, minus his leg, or leave him to the undead. Later, the difficult continue as you must decide who to ration food to, as there isn’t enough for everyone. Each choice pushes you closer to some characters and farther away from others, and in times like these, a shaky friendship can turn deadly quick.
The tone from the previous game has been heightened in this new episode. The confusion mixed with building dread is replaced by complete desperation and times of terror. The motel compound isn’t working out as the undead come ever closer and the numbers increase. Food and patience are in short supply, shelter is limited and dwindling, and humanity is dissolving at a rapid pace…and I’m not talking about the undead. Every time a choice is presented, you can bet that you will sit and think about what exactly could come from your decisions. A New Day showed you that choices could be important, but Starved for Help takes it to the next level and makes you worry about what you are about to do. Now every choice is life and death; yours and probably someone else’s.
The story here is much more intricate. The zombies aren’t the only threat this time around. Starved for Help continues to show the deeper dark side of the human race when faced with an apocalypse, and players will find themselves fighting against greed, selfishness, betrayal, and desperation in order to survive. This rings even truer at the climax of the episode when a shocking revelation comes to light.
As I stated above, the mechanics have been shifted slightly as far as what is important and what is put on the back burner. The limited puzzle solving from the previous game is almost non-existent. Instead, they are replaced by more set piece moments and quick time events to move the action sequences and the story along. Some may miss more puzzles, but I felt that this made the story a much finer tuned machine. You are given just enough time to start to relax before something goes awry and all hell breaks loose. Puzzles are fun and definitely and big part of the adventure game, but in the situations presented in Starved for Help too many would merely slow down the great pacing.
Starved for Help takes almost everything A New Day gave us and takes it further and makes it better. The gameplay is sharper and more exciting, the story is darker and more engrossing, and the characters are deeper and easier to connect with (or easier to hate). It will be interesting to see how much farther this episodic tale can be taken and what other gameplay changes may be implemented for Episode 3.
FINAL GRADE: A+