In Episode 1, we were introduced to The Walking Dead’s tired cast of survivors. We got to know them, befriend them, and depending on the choices you made, you probably made a few enemies along the way. Tough decisions were made, people died–sometimes by the decisions you were forced to make–and by the end, some hope still remained. Episode – Starved for Help promptly tosses that hope into the gaping mouth of a nearby walking corpse and lets it chew it up real good before it spits it out onto the ground. See that crumpled mess on the ground? Yeah, that used to be your hope. In true The Walking Dead fashion, the undead aren’t the scariest thing you’ll come across. This time there’s something far more terrifying and ultimately far more dangerous out there. People.
The Baby Factor: If Mass Effect’s fucking impossible choices got together with one of the most intense episodes of The Walking Dead TV series, this would the result.
I promise I won’t spoil anything, because there are more than a few twists in this episode that will blow you away. Starved for Help picks up three months after the events in Episode 1, where the group is literally starving. Food supplies are dangerously low and the tension between the two louder voices of the group–Kenny and Lilly–are about the reach a boiling point. They each want to be the group’s “official” leader because they feel the group needs real leadership.
Lilly’s doing everything she can to keep everyone alive, Kenny’s deciding whether or not he should take his family to the coast, and Lee is caught in the middle. One of the bigger decisions you’re going to have to make during this episode is deciding which side you’re on. Will you side with Kenny, who you’ve known the longest, or Lilly, who is arguably a better leader and whose dad knows about your dark past? You can also decide to stay neutral, but that position is a temporary one as you’ll have to make a decision eventually or take on the role of leader yourself.
What the group really needs is a light at the end of the tunnel. Three months of being stuck in a motel with dwindling food is quickly depleting the group morale. So when a couple of strangers come up to the camp promising to offer their abundant amount of food in return for gasoline, the survivors are quick to pounce on the opportunity.
If you’ve seen a zombie movie, or a post-apocalyptic anything, really, you know that when people have no rules, laws, or hope, that’s when they become the most dangerous. The idea of there being consequences for your actions keeps most of us in line–if you’re familiar with the internet you’re undoubtedly also familiar with the fact that inside each of us is a total psycho waiting to be unleashed, whether that’s through online anonymity or a more drastic, post-apocalyptic scenario. When that’s gone, it’s all about survival of the fittest, and some people will do anything to survive.
I feel I’ve thrown out more than enough strong hints as to what happens later in this episode, so let’s move on.
These new strangers come from a dairy farm, a supposed safe haven that looks a lot like Hershel Greene’s farm from the second season of The Walking Dead. It’s safe because of an impressive electric fence, fueled by a generator (hence their willingness to trade food for gasoline) that spans the entire property. At first glance it looks like a place the group can call home, but is something lurking underneath the warm, smiling faces of these new strangers, or do they sincerely want to help Lee and his friends?
Starved for Help has a lot going on. There’s some group politics, a few new faces, dangerous bandits, and more then a few difficult choices. Everything about Episode 2 builds on what happened in the previous episode, and overall, the story is much more intense. Throughout the course of the episode there’s a slow build up that eventually ends in a climactic revelation that will leave you stunned. This is mature storytelling that we’ve come to expect from The Walking Dead, and it’s at its finest here.
Like most Telltale games, there’s an overall lack of visual polish that can get a little irritating. People and objects clip through each other pretty often. There’s also some graphical stuttering and the game tended to freeze for a few seconds when it was auto-saving or when I unlocked an achievement.
One thing I loved about this episode was the music. It’s used brilliantly, adding a sense of foreboding when it needs to and, at times, it was actually a little haunting. This is already a very emotional game, particularly for those of us who have really invested in the story and characters, but the this time around the music packs an incredibly emotional punch.
By the time the credits start rolling, you’re going to feel like a lot happened. That’s because a lot did happen. Starving for Help is as unpredictable and as well crafted as some of the best episodes the TV series has to offer, only it also lets you determine the outcome. I hope this is only the beginning and that the series keeps getting better from here, because so far, I’m hugely impressed.
The Final Word: Buy it. Buy it now. Seriously, stop reading this and go buy it.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of The Walking Dead.