You might recall that with The Walking Dead: Season One [Free], we did something of an unorthodox review due to the episodic nature of the game. There was a basic overview that was appended to with a review of each episode as they released, with the score adjusting appropriately. As it worked pretty well last time, we'll be doing the same thing here. I'll do my best to avoid any serious spoilers for the current season, but I'm going to talk frankly about the first season, so if you haven't finished it yet, consider yourself warned about possible spoilers.

Telltale's been doing their brand of episodic adventures for just about 10 years now, moving from beloved franchise to beloved franchise with varying degrees of success. While The Walking Dead: Season Two [$4.99] by no means represents the first time Telltale's revisited a property, it certainly represents a difficult challenge in that it directly continues off of the first series and takes all of the choices the player made in that story into account. On top of the technical issues, there's a serious creative challenge in following up a story that met with such wide acclaim, especially given the way it all ended. With the main character meeting his demise along with almost everyone else, the choices are between following an entirely new cast or trying to make a protagonist out of a very unlikely character. Telltale has opted for a heaping helping of the latter with a generous sprinkling of the former.

While in the last game, we played as Lee, an intelligent, strong, adult male, this time, the playable character is Clementine, the young girl who we spent a large part of the last season protecting. Clem is still no more than ten years old, and the way that potentially changes how the player will interact with the world in this season is exciting. For her age, Clementine is certainly quite clever and strong, but the world of The Walking Dead is full of monsters, zombie and otherwise, and there's no question she's more vulnerable and less powerful than Lee was. One of the challenges of this is balancing between giving the player agency in the world without giving Clem influence she shouldn't have from a narrative point of view. This is going to have to be a very different story, and with the setup, it's somewhat hard to see how it will pay off the way the first season did, but we'll have to wait and find out.

In terms of gameplay, very little has changed from the first season. Most of the important interaction comes from dialogue choices, with QTEs and a few simple fetch quests tossed in to break things up. Like in the original, you will sometimes have to make some tough choices, and the game will keep track of how you choose, leading to slightly different situations. I sometimes miss the more difficult puzzles found in Telltale's earlier titles such as Tales of Monkey Island, but their more recent games seem to be going for a different type of genre, so it's probably best not to make direct comparisons. This is less an adventure game and more of a visual novel, albeit one that does a very good job of keeping the player within the lines while simultaneously making them feel like the story is their own. Perhaps things will change up in later episodes, but I don't really think they have to if the main concept is pulled off properly.

screen1136x1136-9

From a technical standpoint, well, this is an iOS version of a Telltale game, so things aren't going to be completely airtight. In particular, I should give a clear warning to people on older hardware. If your hardware was not officially supported but could run the first season in some fashion anyway, don't count on the same here. Things went pretty smoothly on my iPhone 5S, but I've seen tons of complaints from people on circa-iPhone 4 tech. Given Telltale's history, don't count on much technical support after the fact, either. One thing that did work quite well is the save game import. As long as you kept the first season on your device, you'll be able to import your final data for that. There aren't many ramifications in the first episode apart from the "Previously" opening, but I'm sure things will come into play in less subtle ways eventually.

From here, I'll write up a bit about each episode as they're released. As with the main review, I'll do my best to avoid spoiling anything current when talking about each one, but there may be spoilers for prior episodes as we go along. Tread at your own risk!

Photo 1-8-2014, 11 59 30

Episode 1 - All That Remains

When we last left the main story, most of the characters were dead, and Clementine had escaped Savannah safely. We saw her sitting in a field, with two silhouettes off in the distance. It was left ambiguous as to whether or not those two people were the friends she was supposed to meet up with, but as soon as Season Two starts, it's confirmed that Clem safely reunited with Omid and Christa. Things actually seem pretty good for the trio, but this is The Walking Dead, so it doesn't take long for things to go to hell, leading to Clem being separated and out on her own in the wilderness. It's not long before she runs into a whole new cast of characters, and as ever, the relationships between everyone aren't idyllic by any means.

This episode is short, much shorter than the first episode of season one, clocking in at about an hour and a half. While we're technically visiting about the same number of areas or more than we did in the first season opener, a lot of those areas feature Clem on her own, squeezing all of the character interaction into a brief segment at the end. By the end of A New Day, I could tell you all about Kenny, Larry, Lilly, Doug, Carley, and their motivations, but at the end of this episode, I can't say I know very much at all about the new characters. It goes without saying you have to make some difficult choices, but you don't get much of a chance to make any emotional connections with the new cast, so some of those choices lack the weight they should carry.

Photo 1-8-2014, 12 00 14

Someone from Telltale said that they like to avoid right or wrong choices, and that they measure success in how lopsided the player results are for each choice. If that's the case, All That Remains doesn't really meet expectations. Apart from one choice, the players overwhelmingly favor one option in every scenario going by the stats, and it's not hard to see why. The way the game sets up those choices makes it clear which one is the right one. Part of the problem, of course, is that we are playing as Clementine, a character who is well-defined by our experiences in the first game. She's not a blank slate the way Lee was, so Telltale's probably going to have trouble getting people to play her away from her established character.

This episode also struggles with the balance I talked about earlier. Clem is thrust into some unbelievable situations, and I just can't buy into an adult directly and aggressively confronting a ten year-old the way it happens here. It's a very different situation from the first game, where the main character could believably get in anyone's face, or make a genuine life-or-death difference in tense situations. It's not always like this, though. There are some situations that do a good job of showing off Clem's diminished power compared to Lee, even using QTEs to good effect in that regard. It's just inconsistent throughout this episode, and it's something I hope the writers can nail down before too long.

Photo 1-8-2014, 11 59 55

As an opening episode to a longer story arc, it does do a pretty good job of setting certain things in motion. We're given very little information in this episode, but it's clear business is going to pick up in a hurry, and the final stinger after clearing the episode is guaranteed to have you wishing the next episode was here already. It gives me hope that while Season Two might not turn out to be quite the revelation that Season One was, it will at least deliver another satisfying story for the many people who enjoyed the first game. We'll just have to wait and see where it all goes from here.


walkingdeads2e2

Episode 2 - A House Divided

Luckily, we haven't had to wait all that long for the second episode to arrive. Before I start the review on this episode, I'm going to once again remind the reader of how I'm handling spoilers in this review. I won't be spoiling anything major that happened in the present episode, but anything up to this point is fair game, which does include Episode 1 and its teaser for Episode 2. If you haven't finished it yet and don't want to be spoiled, this is your last chance to turn back. You have been warned.

With that out of the way, let's talk about Episode 2 - A House Divided. Last time, we saw Clem through losing one friend and getting separated from another, meeting a new group of people who were altogether less welcoming to her than we're accustomed to, trying to gain their trust, and finally, having to make a life-or-death decision about two of them even though we didn't get to know them very well at all. It was a brief episode, and Clem spent a lot of it by herself, so we didn't get to see a lot of the character interactions that the first season was famous for. On top of that, there was a lot of weirdness with how some characters treated Clem, most notably Rebecca, who came at an 11-year old kid as hard as she would a fully-grown adult. It was a pretty soft start, especially compared to the first episode of the first season. The preview of the next episode showed a lot of promise, though, and as a stinger, promised a shocking return of a character Clem thought was dead.

wds2e2

I'm happy to say that Episode 2 is considerably better than Episode 1. In contrast to the heavy lean on puzzle-solving and action found there, A House Divided is almost entirely dedicated to developing the new batch of people, with a couple of action sequences and virtually no puzzles at all. I'm okay with this imbalance since it makes up for the first episode's opposite direction, and, well, Walking Dead is at its best when it's exploring relationships anyway. That's not to say things don't happen, of course. In many ways, this episode moves the story forward far better than the interesting but ultimately quite meaningless second episode of the first season. Still, even as things are happening, the focus this time is on getting to know people. That goes for both the player and the characters themselves.

There was some concerns from players that the stinger at the end of the preview for this episode wouldn't deliver. After all, Clem's known a lot of people who she believed to be dead, and there was high potential for the identity of the person in question to be either too much of a stretch to explain or just not that exciting. I'm actually satisfied with the choice Telltale made. They kind of gloss over the how, but it looks like the character in question has an interesting new arc ahead of them and isn't just put in for fan service alone. It also creates a very believable sort of conflict for a kid.

wds2e22

In Season One, Lee was often torn between two very ideologically different philosophies for the survival of the group. That kind of situation isn't going to work as well with Clem, because one little kid probably isn't going to directly swing the most important decisions. What does work well with Clem is this struggle she has between her new clique and the other group they encounter that has a familiar face among them. Since she's the only real link between them, both sides understandably look to her for assurance about each other. The most gut-wrenching choice you have to make in this episode doesn't involve life or death, but which table you choose to sit at for dinner. It's a great way to use a player's nostalgia in an interesting way that aligns in a very fitting way to what Clem must be feeling.

Season Two is already shaping up to have a very different feel from the first one. It's without a doubt a more purposeful tale, and one of the clearest signs of that is that we seem to have a persistent antagonist, voiced wonderfully by Michael Madsen. Season One had a very episodic feel to it, with each installment feeling kind of self-contained. The revelation at the end of the final episode with the Stranger was an interesting twist, but on the whole, it was very "villain-of-the-week" type stuff. This time, we finally meet that Carver guy the characters were talking about in Episode 1, and he looks to be heavily intertwined with where things are going.

In keeping with that more purposeful direction, there is no resolution to be found at the end of this episode. It's very much a mere step in a larger narrative. As a result, you might not feel quite as satisfied when the credits roll here as you did after the thrilling rain-soaked climax of Season One's second episode. There's no emotional release, no feeling of victory or inspiration. Things go from bad to worse, and perhaps even more heart-rending is that between past feelings you're carrying forward and the greater story focus on getting to know the new guys, the stakes are increased considerably. As players are used to by now, there are some heavy losses in this episode, but the potential for future tragedy feels so much heavier.

I have to tip my hat to Telltale on this one. A House Divided has steered this ship back on course. I care about the new characters, I'm pleasantly surprised by the purpose and restraint of the returning elements, and Clem's character isn't nearly as jarring here as she was last time. As a stand alone story, it doesn't work as well as Starved For Help's tale of cannibalistic farmers, but the amount they've built on the foundations of All That Remains is very impressive. My only concern now, supported by the preview of the next episode, is that we're not going to be hitting any kind of climax anytime soon, so it's going to be challenging to keep people interested in the meantime.

twd_203_carver

Episode 3 - In Harm's Way

Once again, I'll start off with the usual spoiler disclaimer. From this section of the review onwards, I will be talking freely about the events of the first two episodes, but I'll avoid spoiling anything specific about this third episode. If you haven't played the first two episodes, you'll want to stop reading here. This is your last warning.

So, previously on Walking Dead Season Two, Clem's new group of friends met up with another group who had a very familiar face among them. Being reunited with a familiar face, and set up in a nice, friendly, safe atmosphere, anyone who knows how this series works knew full well things would quickly go to hell in a handbasket, and they sure did. With almost everyone captured by Carver and his cronies and at least one member of your group dead at his hands, things were looking pretty grim. I worried last time that this third episode was going to be something of a filler episode with no real climax on the horizon. Well, as we all know, if there's one predictable thing about Walking Dead, it's that it's unpredictable. Quite a bit happens very quickly over the course of this episode's hour and a half, though it lacks the emotional ups and downs of A House Divided.

twd_203_captured

You can expect to do a lot of talking in this episode, and very little else. We're now well into this season and it's clear that Telltale has decided to gut out what little puzzle-solving the first season had in favor of leaning completely on character interactions. There are probably only three or four occasions in this episode where you can even so much as move Clementine around. There's also very little in the way of extra details to examine. In the first season, we got to hear Lee comment on a bunch of unimportant stuff by clicking on it, and it was something that helped you connect with the character. That's missing here.

It's rather fortunate that last episode saw the return of Kenny. Whether you like Kenny or not, he was one of the more developed characters from the first season, and he's a ray of shining light compared to the underdeveloped new crew. There's a fair bit of Kenny in this episode, and in some ways, I feel like he's being used as a crutch to cover the shallow development the others have had. That feels like the true casualty of the shortened length of each episode. Season Two's playtime after three episodes is about where the first season was about one and a half episodes in, and it shows. Resident bad guy Carver gets the lion's share of face time among the newcomers in this episode, and while Walking Dead usually likes to explore the gray areas of morality, you really get a lot of reasons to hate Carver this time around, as if you didn't already have enough.

twd_203_hoard

In Harm's Way unfortunately falls victim to many of my initial worries. Clementine is made to do pretty much everything here, and the contrivance they rely on to explain that away is a bit too blatant. At the same time, I feel like they've done something clever here with Clem's relationship with Sarah. In the first season, the player, as Lee, was made to be responsible for Clem, which helped believably explain some of the strength he found in the face of despair. Similarly, Clem is being made to watch out for Sarah, though admittedly, she's more Duck than Clem in her behavior. I can see what they're going for, and it does help give the illusion of Clem being older and more responsible than you might have previously considered her to be.

After last episode's more divided choices, we're once again back to the big choices having one answer favored by the overwhelming majority. The interesting thing this time is that those popular choices are not what you would expect. They aren't clearly right answers so much as they are answers that feel good or cathartic in some way. There's a ridiculous conversation that takes place between Clem and Carver in this episode, but by the end, I couldn't help but feel like he made some good points in that sit-down. If it's intentional, Telltale is pulling off something very interesting from an interactive fiction point of view. I'll talk more about that in the next episode's review when I can spoil this one without fear.

The big problem I have with the overall story at this point is that there doesn't seem to be any central narrative forming. Things went differently in this episode from what I had expected, and what I thought was going to be the backbone of the story ended up just being another episode. I'm not sure where we're going from here, but it's all starting to get the disjointed whiff of Telltale's Back To The Future [Free] series. I hope I'm just missing something and it all comes together in the last two episodes, because as of now, past the midway point, Walking Dead Season Two is falling far short of the first.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • MiloTheBadKitty

    You know, I came here thinking, "3 and a half stars, seriously?" But frankly, you make some very valid points...

    Being such a die-hard fan of the first season, it's a knee jerk reaction to wanna defend the series. But I agree, this episode was a bit of a let down. There just wasn't the same wow factor that the first season kicked off with.

    Possible spoiler: I'm really hoping those characters from 400 days come into play soon.

  • Himmat Singh

    Yeah well S2 was always never gonna live up what with playing a tween girl as your character. As a result, among other things we see much less casual profanity.

    • dariusjr98

      Wow, how sexist..,

      • Himmat Singh

        How's that sexist? If anything, I'm discriminating against the age, not gender.

      • dariusjr98

        Well, you're doing a bit of both. I mean, if you didn't mean anything by it, never mind it then.

      • OrangeJews

        Stating that little girls swear less than grown men? That's so sexist.

      • dariusjr98

        You obviously don't know what I was referring to. Drop it.

    • nini

      Missing out without casual swearing yknow, all games could do with a little of it.

      Imagine if you will yourself playing a light and breezy game of Threes and the 192 tile just says "fuckin' A!", you wouldn't smirk at this? Of course you'd smirk, you're not entirely heartless and a numbered card told you "fucking A!" for a real crafty move. You'd be happy for the rest of the day had you not been driven cynical by too many unwarranted bullshit three and a half star reviews for games you swear are worth five stars.

  • wim

    Kenny is alive!!!!!!!!

    • armilla

      Seriously with the spoiler.

  • UnSurreal

    Can you invert the y axis? That's the reason I still haven't bought any of their games yet.

    • Louis Ace

      You'll barely even use a Y-Axis. Buy season one!

  • rewind

    Seriously, the first episode is $5 and then the rest are an additional $14. The game description doesn't really make this clear, and anyway, that's insane. I feel like I'm walking dead into a trap.

    • dariusjr98

      Okay, first off, that was the worst pun I've ever read.

      Secondly, I'm pretty sure Telltale wouldn't make each episode $14 without a good reason. They will obviously have the content to back it up. And if there are five episodes like the first season, then the price will still be about the same as a retail game.

      So, stop whining :)

      • marc0313

        It's 14$ for the rest of the four episodes, not each one, dude.

      • dariusjr98

        All the more reason he should stop whining. That's an EXCELLENT deal!

  • aleXXXps

    Can I install this, play it, and delete it without losing my save and then install the other episodes as they come out? Or do I need to keep every single episode installed on my iPad to keep it?

    • Shaun James Musgrave

      There's no iCloud support, so you have to keep the App on your device if you want to keep your saves. New episodes are delivered as DLC to the main App, though, so you don't have to keep five different Apps going just to play it.

    • Nekku

      You can delete each episode after you beat them, your savegame will still be persistent. So no, you don't have to keep all episodes on your device to keep the save file.

  • ThePersonDerp

    When will the second episode come out? I've beaten the first, and can't wait for more.

    Also, the ipod 5 runs great sometimes, such as in the house it's fine , but in the forest it gets a bit choppy.

  • ThePersonDerp

    The ipod. 5 runs well in some area, like the house, but in the forest it gets a bit choppy .

    Anyone know when the second episode comes
    out?

  • hippiesrlame

    The forest area runs choppy on my ipad air too.

  • Derprozess

    IMHO this game is more and more like TWAU. The changes you make are as little as choose the dialog line, touch the WD to kill him and so on.
    The thing is you don't have to think too much in the second season. I liked in the first one when i chose someone to live and with that to change the story too, or when i had to combine a lot of things to escape from the bar or from those cannibals house. Not the case in this season so far.

  • Darkenroll

    I have to agree with most of this review. I found the second episode much more satisfying than the first in season two. I still feel sort of a disconnect with clementine. I felt that Lee generally steered in the direction I wanted him too but Clem handles a bit more unpredictably.

    • Darkenroll

      Just played episode 3 and again I'm sometimes feeling a disconnect in some of the choices with what the character does. For example, during a major point in the episode I chose to try and stop a character from doing something, but the choice instead ended up being direct consent and approval of the act I had been trying to prevent. The first season was better at steering the conversation to avoid these weird behavior swings. The game is great, but it lacks some of the attention to detail that made the first season run smoothly.

  • DestroyerX

    It is pretty cool that I can run it even on an iPhone4 but I play it on my iPad Air. : - ]

  • bigjack66

    Did anybody else have trouble picking Nick at the end of season one? No matter what I tried the second zombie got me even anticipating the swipe move didn't help, in the end I had to pick Pete cause I had no other choice. Playing on ipod 5 with latest update.

  • Dueler

    Haven't even started season 2 because I expected the reaction your having to it.

  • Tommmy

    Making her a playable character was a great idea and episode 1 proved it. Unfortunately episode 2 and 3 don't keep up the pace. Especially the 3rd one. What is more, Telltale grabbed a bunch of other IPs and now the period between each episode is 2 months, which is really unacceptable.

Walking Dead: The Game - Season 2 Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 3.5