mildmolasses's The Walking Dead: Season Two (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

Let’s torture an adolescent girl! (Episode 1: All That Remains)

Warning: Probably some spoilers

I’ll admit to be very skeptical in regards to the second season of Tell Tale’s The Walking Dead games because I’m very much of a mind that lightning can’t strike twice. That first series was so unexpectedly amazing that I the bar is now so high that I can only assume that there will be all sorts of attempts at emotional manipulation to get people sucked into these new episodes.

So far, I think I’m right.

All That Remains comes across like Wally Lamb style misery porn where the throw as much awful shit at a 10(?) year old girl as they can to create some sort of emotional investment into the proceedings. For all of the negative reaction that Crystal Dynamics got for their wanting of the player to feel they need to look after Lara Croft, that is the exact sentiment that is on full display here. Maybe it is more acceptable given that we are talking about a child here and not an adult, but Clementine has proven to be able to handle herself. Hell, the first time you meet her she has already been surviving on her own for some time.

The game picks up several months after the conclusion of season one with no explanation of how Clem managed to get back with Christa and Omid. The only evidence of the passing of time is Christa’s considerable more pronounced pregnant stomach. However it doesn’t take long before things go real bad, the body count starts to rise, and we jump forward 16 months to Clem and <redacted> forging ahead. Shit goes bad. Rinse. Repeat.

Ultimately Clem finds herself amongst a new group of survivors, including a really terrible doctor who is unable to distinguish animal bites from human ones, and must fight for her acceptance. Very little time is given to establishing many of these new characters, so its hard to grasp their behaviour. Perhaps most confusing is a woman who is in that way that is remarkably hostile towards a child clearly in need of help.

As is the way, more bad stuff happens and then the episode ends with a teaser for the following episode. There still people unaccounted for, though assumptions can probably be made, and I didn’t notice any connection to the 400 Days episode that Tell Tale added on to season one. I understand that this is largely an establishing story meant to set up the remaining episodes, but beyond some typical shock visuals, not much interesting happens. For a series that is so character focused, we’ve been provided will very little character to get attached to.

Posted by smcn

I didn't complete the episode, but in what I did play, Clementine held her ground against an armed assailant ("Where did you get that hat?" "I killed someone for it."), called the attention of a group of scavengers in an attempt to save Christa's life, fought tooth and nail to get away from a scavenger that caught up with her, and brained a zombie with a stick before yanking the knife out of its arm for later use.

To me, SHE did those things. Part of consuming any fiction is suspension of disbelief, but an even more important aspect of story-based video games is becoming the character. If there is a problem with the writing or gameplay that inhibits the player's ability to do so, then that's something to talk about. But to me, the first half of this review (especially mentioning Tomb Raider) makes it sound like you were looking to be offended.

Other than that, you've reinforced my decision not to finish the episode or the season. I hadn't played a Telltale game before the first season so it was easy to look past how stupid zombies are as a general concept--but I can't any longer. Bring on more The Wolf Among Us!

Posted by MildMolasses

@smcn said:
But to me, the first half of this review (especially mentioning Tomb Raider) makes it sound like you were looking to be offended.

Super late reply, but thanks for reading and your feedback.

Maybe I explained it poorly, or you interpreted differently than how I meant it. I wasn't trying to imply that I was offended by what they were doing, because I wasn't. What I was getting at was that everything that was happening seemed so contrived in order to build sympathy. It wasn't enough that she was already in a bad situation which would have been hard enough to deal with, but it was that the start of the episode seemed like it was the writers saying "what's the worst thing we can do right now to make Clementine's life more difficult" rather than just crafting a compelling story. We've already seen her grow and adjust over the course of season one, all the stuff that happened through the first few sections of this episode seemed to only exist for the sake of having bad stuff happen. She was separated from Omid and Christa at the end of the first season, so it seemed like the only reason they brought them back was so that they could do awful shit to them. They could have easily gotten Clementine to the new group of survivors without showing the shooting deaths of Omid and a teenage girl, and having Christa be pregnant just so that the baby could die. This is why I compared it to a Wally Lamb novel. Bad shit happening repeatedly for no reason other than to have bad shit happen.

I was never trying to imply that she couldn't look after herself (in fact I clearly acknowledge that she can in the same paragraph you're referring to), but that the writers were trying to stack the deck against her as much as possible just for the sake of doing so, not because it was a natural progression of the story.

Also note that I said "(f)or all of the negative reaction that Crystal Dynamics got...", as in how other people reacted to them. I loved Tomb Raider and it was my game of the year.

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