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'The Walking Dead: Season Two' tests a little girl's (and the player's) limits

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The Walking Dead: Season Two - Episode 1: All That Remains

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Telltale Games mostly abandoned the puzzle mechanics of its previous adventure titles with The Walking Dead and chose to go the emotional story-telling route instead. The opening episode for Season 2, released to the PS3 and PC Tuesday and Xbox 360 on Wednesday, makes that abundantly clear as the perspective shifts from a grown man to a little girl trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. In the end, you’ll probably want all the humans to die.

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Alone in the Woods

Episode 1: All That Remains is about as dark a journey as one can expect a game to reasonably get away with when the playable character is a little girl. The tone for the entire two-hour episode is set quickly in the opening scene following the recap of events from Season 1. It is several months later and Clementine is understandably down but Omid and a pregnant Christa are in somewhat good spirits as they banter about what to name the baby. That last all of about two minutes before things go horribly wrong with a heavy reminder that the world is now kill or be killed, even for an eight year old.

The game then jumps ahead another 16 months and a run in with other human survivors results in Clementine by herself and alone. The weight of this predicament continues through the rest of the game there's never the same sense of belonging to a group that was present in Season 1 between Clem and Lee and the other core survivors.

Clementine is now the outsider and isn’t even trusted by those that appear to be nice to her while others initial dislike grows even worse. This shines a whole new light on the character as it forces her to be sneaky, confrontational and even manipulative whereas she was always the moral compass in Season 1. It makes you wonder if all the sad-eyed looks you received playing as Lee was real or just a form of manipulation.

Still, the world of The Walking Dead is all about survival and Clem proves that she is a survivor in a scene that pushes the boundaries of what can be done with a child character and will surely make players squirm in their seats. Compare that to a sheltered girl who Clem meets and it’s clear which one will make it through and which one will suffer some tragic, unfortunate end.

The Only Road Traveled

While the story of Episode 1 is a gut-punch due to Clem’s struggles, it’s also extremely uni-directional with the only divergent path coming at the very end. The decisions you make as Clementine can affect how others perceive her but the path she travels will always be the same regardless. That’s been a failing of Telltale Games’ efforts with The Walking Dead Season 1 and The Wolf Among Us and it unfortunately carries over here even when there are clear points where forks in the story might exist, no matter how slight.

The other issue with the opener to Season 2 is that there really is nobody to like outside of Clementine. In Season 1, the character roster was divided between those you liked and those you didn’t. Episode 1: All That Remains is full of the latter to the point where you expect the little girl to have a Dark Helmet from Spaceballs moment and scream, “I knew it. I’m surrounded by assholes!” The personality traits and conflicts are firmly established but there's nobody that you'll become attached to even after the requisite heartbreaking back stories.

Interaction with the environment and during action scenes is slightly tweaked from Season 1 but functions the same. Hovering the cursor over marked points on the screen will give options to look or use an item and there’s the occasional need for the simplest of navigation. Action scenes stick with the quick-time event formula that works well for the game and the fact that you are playing as Clementine creates intense moments where you will be furiously tapping buttons to survive.

Are you Clementine?

The Walking Dead: Season 2 – Episode 1: All That Remains, is the beginning of a dark journey for Clementine from being protected to being a survivor. Telltale Games took a big risk by making Clem the focus of the game and it pays off. Hopefully, the linearity will be addressed better in subsequent episodes but the rest of Season 2 has a strong narrative setup even if it doesn't have strong gameplay elements.

Title: The Walking Dead: Season 2 – Episode 1: All That Remains
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Price: PC - $24.99 for the full season. PS3 and Xbox 360 - $4.99 for the single episode.
Release Date: Dec. 17 (PS3, PC), Dec. 18 (Xbox 360)

A review code for the PC was provided by Telltale Games for the purposes of this review.

You can follow Scott via Facebook, Twitter, RSS feed or email alerts for all the latest game news and deals as well as the weekly Furious Fourcast podcast/videocast. All game news on Examiner can be followed at the Game On Facebook page and Twitter feed.

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