The second episode ultimately feels very unique from the first, with a greater emphasis on the threat of fellow survivors and the extreme sacrifices made long after the opening days of the zombie apocalypse. Though the tone of Starved for Help is certainly grittier and harder to swallow at times, there is a dash of humor and romance that really adds another layer to the cast. Watching Clementine childishly fib and Larry aggressively flirt, for example, reminds us that these characters have personalities and gives us a moment to breathe amidst all the tension in the storyline. Beyond that, Episode 2 also seamlessly continues the overall narrative of the game, with the group migrating to new locations and taking on new challenges. Telltale does a great job with keeping personalities and pacing consistent, quelling some fear that characters and events would be all over the place in this five part series.
In terms of graphics and visuals, nothing’s really changed here. The cell shaded look meant to imitate art from the comics is still beautiful, though it’s pretty low-poly/low-res. New locations are filled with intense character and a fair amount of detail to explore as Lee. Animations are pretty good overall, but they get bogged down by lag as the game processes your decisions. Actually, the lag in this game is worse than in the last, and what makes it so annoying is how it always seems to interrupt pivotal moments in the story. The developers definitely need to address this issue in time for Episode 3.The gameplay’s also pretty similar to Episode 1. You’ll be killing fewer zombies this time around, but the second installment feels more intense right from the start when you have to do something pretty unthinkable to save a life. Controls are the same, with you moving Lee around and using a cursor on the screen to perform actions. There’s the same variety of tasks you’ll have to perform; stuff like clearing dead walkers, tinkering with a generator, searching a closet, etc. Again, as you explore different areas you’ll encounter some irking camera angles and invisible walls. There are also a few childish moments with the puzzles, like how easy it is to get past a certain locked door towards the end of the story. It’s not as bad as having to teach Carly how to put batteries in a radio (from the first episode) but sometimes the puzzles are just too basic and make great characters seem unbelievable.
Choosing dialogue while a timer counts down still works great, and conversations never feel tedious. Decision making also feels like it actually has an effect, and things never feel entirely one sided; that is to say, you’re never really the good guy or the bad guy in this game, which is perfect given the circumstances in the story. A great example is right at the beginning of the game when you, as Lee, have to ration out the food to members of the group. There’s not enough for everyone and you have to prioritize who gets what. It’s not an easy task, especially if you talk to everybody before deciding.
One thing that should also be mentioned are the glitches I encountered loading up Episode 2. I’d completed Episode 1 with one character chosen over another, but when I booted up Starved for Help for the first time something goofed up and she was dead. Long story short, I had to reload the game and the file a couple of times before all my decisions from the first episode were back and I could be satisfied diving into the new campaign. The thought of losing my version of Lee was a little terrifying (I’m really attached to the decisions I’ve made), but overall the glitchy start wasn’t too big of a hassle. That said, hopefully this isn’t something we’ll be experiencing again mid-August when part 3 comes out.
Episode 2: Starved for Help is just as good as, if not better than, Episode 1. Having tackled exposition superbly in the first installment, Telltale Games is now diving into the juicy, twisted stuff by showing how far people will go to survive. There’s more interaction amongst survivors this time around, and you realize that walkers aren’t the scariest threat in the takeover. Some issues with lag and loading old files are frustrating, but overall this game is completely worth getting. It offers the same great gameplay and controls from Episode 1, and about 3 hours of intense storyline that smoothly continues the game’s overall narrative. There’s also plenty of gore for those fans craving more of it, as well as a few shocking moments that really affect where things are headed in the story.
If you liked part 1, there’s no doubt you should be playing Episode 2. It offers a lot of promise for the rest of the series, and by the end of your first play-through you’ll most likely be itching to get your hands on the next one. I know I am.