Bite into Telltale's 'The Walking Dead: Season Two'

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Despite playing a crucial part in the landscape of modern horror, zombies have always seemed excruciatingly unfrightening and lame. What is there to fear about a herd of catatonic dead people who move at a glacial pace?
However, Telltale Games injects life into an otherwise boring genre (so to speak) with The Walking Dead, a video game adaptation of the comic book and television series. The Walking Dead: Season Two reintroduces Clementine, an intelligent and resourceful 11-year-old from the first game, but this time as the protagonist. Clementine is the soul of this game—over the course of the series, players watch her evolve from a scared girl who doesn’t know how to hold a gun to the de facto leader of a group of survivors.
The Walking Dead: Season Two features a branching storyline, a characteristic it shares with its predecessor. Every single painful decision is left to the player, effectively allowing for distinctly different stories each time you play. The game is dominated by a myriad of scenes where players choose what Clementine says and does, and then must navigate her out of tricky zombie-induced situations via quick button mashing. Moments of unassisted, player-controlled exploration, however, are few and far between (and when they do appear, the controls are rather slow and clunky), but that isn’t a dealbreaker. In fact, this makes the game easier to play for those who love a good story, but aren’t necessarily gaming experts. One has to think of The Walking Dead: Season Two as more like a playable choose-your-own-adventure novel.
The faint-of-heart should beware—this game is emotionally draining. The environment is often cold and hopeless, fitting for a world populated chiefly by reanimated corpses. While it certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the setting is eerily beautiful. Taking place in the American south, largely during winter, the game’s rustic scenery and comic-inspired art creates a chilling and unique allure.
For all its ghastly brilliance, The Walking Dead: Season Two has not achieved perfection. This installment of the game has a relatively large cast of characters, but many are so woefully underdeveloped that the player can’t form any connection with them. In the case of a character death, instead of genuine sadness, it’s more, “Oh well, they’re gone.” And there are a lot of character deaths.
Additionally, the game’s endings (of which there are five!) are all relatively disappointing and open-ended. Constant tragedy and an unrewarding conclusion don’t leave the player feeling satisfied or triumphant—just empty.
The Walking Dead: Season Two is a riveting, harrowing journey. Highly recommended for zombie enthusiasts, amateur gamers, and everyone in between, Telltale Games has created a work of art.
~Lana Heltzel, online/associate editor