First episode in ‘The Walking Dead: Season 2’ off to slow but promising start
This is not the Clementine you know. The secondary character we fell in love with thanks to her tenacity and endurance in Telltale’s Game of the Year “The Walking Dead” returns burdened with loss and heartache so terrible, so acute it overwhelms just about everything else in its wake.
But the beauty of “The Walking Dead: Season 2’s” debut episode, “All That Remains,” is that you get the choice to let the past go. You have a future in front of you that needs to seized. It’s up to you and your choices on how you want to accomplish that.
Returning us to a world devastated by an undead apocalypse, “All That Remains,” the first of five episodes following the events of the first season, quickly reintroduces to Clementine and, as its predecessor did, focuses on how the decisions we make — or don’t make — help us survive the danger surrounding us: both undead and human. It’s obviously from the start Clementine is a different creature from the girl we knew. Strong and independent, she’s a case study in how to cope with losing everyone and everything.
For those who’ve played Season 1 (or Telltale’s other episodic interactive, “The Wolf Among Us” — click here for the review), you’ll feel right at home as Telltale focuses on cinematic storytelling over actual gameplay. It’s a shame the latter had to sacrificed for the betterment of the former, but that’s the name of the game here.
Most actions are point-and-click no matter the system, similar to those deployed in other Telltale games. The interface has been updated, taking tips from “The Wolf Among Us” for a cleaner functionality. But, as with its predecessors, “All That Remains” comes with a choppy framerate and some stunningly awful camera transitions. We’re talking about taking inversion to a whole new level.
As for battle, again, Telltale doesn’t do battle so much as quick-timed events mixed with focusing on a particular part of the screen. If you need to attack a zombie, you first need to find a weapon of some type. The sense of realism (because how many of us handily keep bricks near us?) is a nice touch, but the transition in speed regarding controls is striking. I went from checking out the environment at a leisurely pace to a frenetic chaos as I had to smash the button prompts in order to survive. A bit jarring, to say the least.
But back to that exploration. Clementine is able to sift through her environments, pick up various items and chat with other humans. There’s a sense every action, no matter how mundane, has a point to it. You may not know what it is yet, but that sense pervades every choice you make.
Which is nice, because the story here isn’t particularly engaging. We begin two years after the final events in Season 1 (though it seems those decisions don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things here), and Clementine finds herself in the midst of trust-lacking strangers after they discover her alone in the woods. It seems everyone has a motive or agenda, and a certain name keeps getting tossed around, but the game centers on our small hero, so we don’t get the answers to those questions just yet.
The group has some interesting characters of its own. Pete, the leader, has a similar vibe to Season 1’s Lee Everett, but we know how that ends. Clementine befriends a young man named Luke, who seems trustworthy and level-headed. A girl around Clementine’s age, however, who has little idea of what carnage lies just outside her door, stands out as the ripest area for connection, and it will be exciting to see her develop.
We don’t learn much about the group, but we do know one factor: a sinister character lurks just around the periphery, waiting to pounce on our group of survivors.
Though whether Clementine will stick with this group, for better or worse, is a whole separate question. “All That Remains” has a brilliant way of pushing her further from those she trusts and cares for, and the ever-present tension — both simmering and outright — would make Season 1 creators proud. Plenty of scenes will resonate with you, so prepare yourself. (Especially those who get queasy easy.)
In fact, you might find yourself wondering if some of these scenes are a bit much. Vicious attacks, gory injuries and shocking brutality abound, but this is the world Clementine lives in now. Like her, we just have to deal with it.
Because Clementine has to deal with it. She has to survive. We need her to survive. You’ll rarely find a character so worthy of investing your feelings in. She possesses an authenticity and resolve not seen often enough in video game characters. Plus, she’s completely beast. You’ll see what I mean.
In the end, “The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 1 – All That Remains” is a bit slower than I would like, and it has the disappointing feel of being expository. But Clementine’s development is absolutely engrossing. And though the main story can feel a bit vague, leaving you to wonder why you should bother caring about what happens next, Telltale rarely disappoints. Besides, you all want to know what happens to Clementine next. How could you not?
Four undead stars out of five.