It was probably inevitable that The Walking Dead would start to feel familiar. Season one had some amazing twists, both in terms of unexpected violence and consequences, but in season 2, the fabric is starting to wear. Clem will have to fight zombies in a quick-paced action scene. Someone will make a horrible choice, leaving Clem to deal with the fallout where it’s impossible to make everyone happy. These same scenarios worked brilliantly in season one, so what’s changed?
The characters. In the first series, We met most of the characters the first week of the outbreak, learned their histories, their relationships, and what was important to them. As the game went on, the group became strained (and violent), but everything was based on what had come before. In season two, however, the character we know (Clem), has been dropped into a group of strangers, all of whom are cagey about their motivations, if not outright belligerent to our main character and—by extension—us.
And the new characters are pretty thinly drawn, too. In the space of what feels like three days, Clem has joined the group in their cabin home, gone on the run from them, and been introduced to more new characters that we barely get to know. The only character she spends much time with is Sarah, a girl about Clementine’s age who has been completely shielded from the horror of the zombie apocalypse, an idea that staggers the imagination when you consider that this has been going on for more than a year. I realize that the writers are trying to draw a contrast between Clem and the girl she might have been, but we’ve been with Clem on these adventures, seen her (and helped her) survive; Sarah comes off not as a vision of innocence, but as a drip.
I’m struggling to remember even the names of the other characters in the game. Machete Guy, Pregnant Mean Lady, Lady’s Husband, Guys Who Found Clem, and the Doctor. They’re obviously on the run from someone, but for some reason choose not to share this information with Clem even as they take her in to their group. They treat Clem like an outsider—even refusing to give her medical attention when they first meet—which doesn’t help me identify with them at all. I don’t care about these guys. I want Clem to take off on her own and be a fantastic character, not someone who’s condescended to and shut out.
The gameplay of this episode is weak as well. While there is one very tense scene where Clem has to deal with an armed stranger on her own, the rest of the interaction disappoints. Mostly Clem deals with the fallout of a Very Bad Choice made not by her, but by a supporting character. The puzzles in The Walking Dead were never very hard, but the challenges in this episode barely exist:
- Trapped in a car, Clem has to find a way out (someone else helps her).
- Clem has to turn off a piece of noisy machinery (the key is right inside the door).
- Clem has to find food (it’s in the most obvious place in the same room).
In season one, Clem was the “valuable object” that Lee (you) had to protect. But the endgame of season one was Lee teaching her how to survive. Now that she’s graduated to protagonist, it’s disheartening to see her in an adventure where she’s still being acted on rather than taking charge of a situation. The previous episode dealt with the terror of being alone in the world, and trying to find some sense of safety even among strangers. But this episode takes a big step back, demoting her to sidekick status.
Here’s hoping this was just a misstep.
Read our review of each episode of The Walking Dead: The Game – Season 2
Genre: Survival horror
Format: Digital download
Developer: Telltale Games
Requirements: OS X 10.6, 2.3 GHz Intel processor, 4 GB hard disk space, 512 MB Nvidia or ATI graphics card
Price: $24.99 (includes all five episodes)
Availability: Out now