The Walking Dead Starved for Help

They could have called it "Where Shit Hits the Fan".

"A New Day" was a very strong opener in Telltale's The Walking Dead series, which makes the improvements in "Starved for Help" that much more impressive. This episode, set three months after the first game, finds the survivors fortressed in a motel, with little food left, and morale at an all time low. Who should lead the group? Who should be allowed to eat? Who should live? Who should die?

That might sound like a video game marketing blurb, but I'm being quite literal here -- those are just some of the choices you'll make within the first ten minutes of the game.

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Echoes of Psycho.

The gameplay mechanism follows "A New Day" closely. You have some very simple inventory-based puzzles; there are action sequences, most more challenging than in the first game; and you have timed dialogue trees and actions, where your choice will affect other characters's opinions about you and the world around you.

And rest assured... Something, somehow will blow up in your face here, no matter what you decide to do. A quick throwaway comment made early on in the game -- or in the last episode for that matter -- can have surprising ramifications toward the end. Other games have tried to incorporate morality choices with mixed success (hello Fable III), but The Walking Dead is proving to be different. Whatever good feeling you may have about your choices will soon be replaced by a sinking feeling when you face the consequences of your action. Things might sometimes seem black and white at first, but it's never quite that simple.

Choices made in "A New Day", as mentioned, really do affect parts of the gameplay in "Starved for Help", enough so that I'm playing the game on two different paths both through Steam and Xbox. The base gameplay is obviously the same, but there are enough differences to make the overall experience surprisingly different.

"Starved for Help" has shed many of the bugs from the earlier episode, and I had no crashing issues with the Steam version this time around, though there were one or two graphical slowdowns and audio glitches throughout the game. This happened in both versions of the game, though more so with my Mac.

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Idyllic, isn't it?

Gameplay wise I have a hard time putting my finger on anything particularly off-putting. The pacing throughout the first half of the game might be a wee bit off, with the jumps between action and exploration seeming a bit less than fluid. That's a minor complaint, mind you, and it improves during the (intense) second half of the game.

Really, the game works very well for me on all levels. The writing, flanked by the atmosphere, is top notch. There is a twist to the story that might be -- and take this as a compliment -- the most bizarre thing I've ever seen from Telltale.

This is, of course, only the second episode of The Walking Dead, but I can't help but feel that it has the potential to be Telltale's finest game yet. Old-schoolers will probably have issue with the lack of real puzzles, but the mental anguish you get from seeing the consequences of your actions more than makes up for it for me.

Telltale should, if anything, be applauded for finally pushing the boundaries of adventure gaming. This, to me, is the first successful Adventure Game 3.0. "A New Day" is a roller coaster ride from start to finish, with a story that will stick with you long after you've played through it. I can see no reason why you wouldn't want to play this. Unless you suck. In that case, you probably should shy away from it.