Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Walking Dead Season Two: All That Remains Review

The first episode of the second season of The Walking Dead tries to rise to the challenge of making a worthy sequel with a novel take on its new protagonist, but it doesn't quite reach the level of its predecessor.

This season follows Clementine, the young girl that was taken into your care in the first season.  The majority of the first episode takes place many months after last season's finale, and follows a much more hardened girl, as she's had to experience the hardships of the zombie apocalypse for so long. One of the major problems with this, however, is that the game begins at an indeterminate time after the events of last season, and then skips forward in time by more than half a year.  During that time, the fate of one character is never explained, and we are left with a Clementine that has been hardened by events that are never shown, and never mentioned.  There were time skips in the last season, but the characters discussed the events that happened in the intervening time, filling in some of the gaps for the player.  This never happens to any major extent here, and the game's narrative does suffer from it.

It is quite interesting to see a harder, tougher Clementine though.  This eleven-year-old girl is believable in the role of the protagonist, proving to herself and to others that she is stronger than her appearance suggests.  This leads to some queasy moments, where Clementine is left to fend for herself, and as the player is in direct control of her this season, we have to do so as well.  This part is handled well, though, as it does drive home the fact that this Clementine is much more self-sufficient than the one we took in our care years ago.  The surprised and nervous attitude of Clementine's newly adopted group at seeing such a young girl being able to do so much means that the group has trouble discerning whether to treat her as a child or an adult.  This is a very interesting angle that isn't explored too much here but sets things up for the remainder of the season.

The gameplay follows the streamlined format of the season one finale and 400 Days.  There are no real puzzles here, and all action is done through quick time events rather than the direct controlled action of some of the episodes of season one.  The game's main mechanic is once again choice based, where your actions will reflect the way the characters respond to Clementine.  As the first part of the game is set up as a means to get Clementine on her own, this really only comes into play in the second part of the episode.  The new group is distrusting of her, and her attitude changes the way people react.  As Clementine hasn't known these people for that long, the reactions don't change too much, but it does seem to be setting things up for what's to come.

While some of the other areas are lacking compared to the previous season, the presentation continues to shine.  The game's art style is still great, with a slight graphical upgrade, but still maintaining the excellent comic book styling that made the first season such a visual treat.  The voice acting is also top-notch here.  Melissa Hutchinson brings a lot to the character of Clementine, with a slightly older tone, but with as much emotion as she had portrayed in season one.  The other characters are performed equally as well.  Since we're dealing with a mostly new group this season, it's important that we be engaged with these characters, and their voice actors help tremendously.  They all bring out the nuances of their characters well, from the shy Sarah to her untrusting father Carlos.  The music also shines here, helping to add to the bleakness of the atmosphere, especially now that we are years into the apocalypse.

The first episode of The Walking Dead Season Two is a bit of a mixed bag.  The narrative suffers from major jumps in time without explanation. The lack of direct-controlled action and puzzles isn't belied as much by the choice-based gameplay as it is in the first season.  Choices don't truly come into play until halfway through, making them not really amount to much yet.  However, the presentation continues to shine.  The music continues to add a lot to the atmosphere, and the art has gotten a minor upgrade, while still retaining the charm of the comic-styled look of the first season. The voice actors also shine here, from the excellent portrayal of Clementine to the admirable portrayals of the characters of the new group.  Ultimately, All That Remains doesn't make much of a mark of its own and feels like it's merely a setup for the larger season arc.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

Episode Two Review

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