In its second chapter, the downloadable Walking Dead video game continues to hit the right notes from Robert Kirkman's source material while making me wonder why the AMC television series can't approach the quality of the game.
The start of chapter two finds our protagonist Lee, the young girl he rescued Clementine and the band of survivors he's hooked up with still holed up in the fortified motel they found at the end of the first chapter. Three months have passed and the group finds themselves arguing over the meager remaining rations. Starvation proves to be as large a threat as the walkers outside their barrier. This chapter finds Lee send company trying to find a way to restock their rations while avoiding both the walkers and the roaming bandits that steal and kill from other survivors at will.
Telltale Games promised the decisions you make throughout the game will have lasting effects on the story and how it plays out. Decisions you made in Chapter One have repercussions both in this chapter and the subsequent ones. You start to see that early on as different characters react to you in a positive or negative way based on how you interacted with them in the previous chapter. At first playthrough it appears Telltale upped the number of diverging paths this go around by giving the player more points in the story to choose different dialogs or action options. The result of your choices often have repercussion moments later as factions and alignment change. One character I was on very good terms with entering the second chapter would barely acknowledge me by the end of my first go around.
Without spoiling too many plot points, the emphasis of the Walking Dead game remains on human drama and interaction with the undead providing a constant background threat. It's nothing like the Dead Island or Dead Rising games which provide nonstop actions and zombies filling every corner of the screen. The life and death decisions you need to make (often on the fly with a countdown giving you a short time to make your choice). Instead of searching for weapons that decapitate the undead as quickly as possible, you're left scurrying for loose change in order to remove screwed in items blocking your path. While this could make for a boring game, the writing remains top notch providing characters you care about and scenarios that have you sweating bullets.
If you've played the first chapter, both the visual style and gameplay elements remain in place. The controls still appear a bit stiff and clunky and are better suited to the point-and-click style of PC gaming rather than the console experience. They don't take too long to get used to and are offset by the stunning, comic book inspired visuals. The Walking Dead simply looks like a gorgeous animated film. At the low cost of $5, The Walking Dead remains an essential purchase for anyone that considers them selves a fan of the original series.