The Walking Dead: Season Two Review

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Title: The Walking Dead: Season Two
Developer: Telltale Games
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download:  2.0 GB (Separate downloads per episode)
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes (Digital Download)

Visual Novels or interactive story games have slowly started being developed and getting popular in the West.  Visual Novels like Xblaze have been coming West, and there have been various interactive games coming out as well.  On the Vita, this is mostly known in the form of the Danganronpa games as far as Visual Novels go, and The Walking Dead, as far as interactive story games go.

Ever since the dawn of The Walking Dead franchise in video games, Telltale Games has been expanding on their franchises.  With The Walking Dead: Season 1 doing so well, they’ve made a lot more games an announcements in the past couple years.  They’re working on games for Game of Thrones, Borderlands, and even Minecraft.  Telltale Games clearly saw a formula that works and can be popular, as can be said for the reaction to The Walking Dead.

Going back to The Walking Dead, though, they are making a franchise out of it.  Not only have they been working on new games, but they’ve released a full-blown sequel to their Walking Dead game, dubbed “Season Two”.  Putting you in the shoes of young Clementine, this is our official review of The Walking Dead: Season Two!

Story

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The Walking Dead: Season 2 takes place several months after the events of Season 1, with an older Clementine traveling with a group of friends.  As they work their way north, towards a place known as Wellington that they believe to be a safe zone from the apocalypse that is around them every day and night.  As they work their way up towards Wellington, though, they are attacked and get separated.  Clementine, now alone, must travel and fend for herself to find a safe place to stay.

Just like in the console versions of the game, you can import your choices from Season 1 and the 400 Days DLC (included in Season 1’s retail packaging) to change things about the store of Season 2.  It doesn’t change a lot, but it will change flashbacks as well as what Clementine says in certain dialogue scenes.

The story of Season 2 depicts a lot and the unique perspective of a child in the apocalypse does give it some credit.  As the series is known for, the game makes you do some pretty gruesome and heart-tearing things, even in the first episode.  It’s definitely a story fans of the series will enjoy, though the ending chapter does feel a little rushed.  Returning fans of the previous game will be happy to know that there are a few returning characters in the game as well as new.  Many of the characters from 400 Days make appearances as well as a few of the main cast of Season 1.

Gameplay

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The gameplay of Season 2 is very similar to Season 1.  Throughout the game, you will have 3D areas to explore and certain objects and people you may interact with along the way.  Most of the game, however, is shown in dialogue choices and aiming your view at an object to interact with it.  This isn’t going to be like a huge action game.  Like the previous game, Season 2 is like an interactive story.

The game runs in Chapters, as this game was originally an episodic game, where the episodes released at different points of time.  Now that the retail release is out, they’re all in one package without requiring downloads, but you still play them from one episode to the next.  Each episode will take on choices from the previous one and you can go back and check out various episodes at any time you like.

Each episode runs through checkpoints, where the game automatically saves your progress and choices.  As we said above, you have 3D areas to explore in some parts of the game.  When you’re in these sequences, you have a field of view in the form of a circle.  Much like the function of Cross-Hairs in shooting games, you move this around the area until find something to interact with.  Then, you can interact with it, be it looking at it, opening it, attacking it, or otherwise, depending on what it is.  The main goal is to find your objective to advance the story.

The other part of the interaction is with scenes playing out.  There are two methods here.  First is dialogue.  Every so often, you will have a choice for Clementine to vocally talk.  When this happens, you will have choices as to what she can say or even what you can do regarding moving to one area to another in a high-stress situation.  These choices can affect how other characters will treat you, or even choose whether they live or die at that point of the game.  Choices are the biggest factor in the game, as they will carve who lives to the next episode as well as which of the endings you will receive.

The other part of interactive scenes is dodging and attacking your enemies.  There will be many scenes where you will be sprinting through walkers or even people and you will get on-screen prompts to be able to either attack them or dodge around them to get past them.  When this happens you will either be doing quick swipes on the touch screen or D-Pad, or aiming your view and hitting the correct button to attack to weaken or kill whoever or whatever is attacking you.  Timing is critical in these sections as you might have a couple seconds or less to use those options or you will get a game-over and have to restart from the previous checkpoint.

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At the end of each episode, all of the critical choices you make will be shown to you.  If you’re online, it will also show you what percentage of the entire gaming community for the game chose the same choice as you.  This could be a choice like helping one person over another, or something as critical as killing someone.  It affects the story, but it’s interesting to see how many others chose the same thing as you.

From a length stand-point, each of the 5 episodes lasts between 1 and 2 hours.  Playing through the entire game a single time should take you somewhere between 8 and 10 hours, depending on how accustomed you are to the system and how many times you need to replay certain areas or scenes.  It’s a little shorter than the first season, since it had the 400 Days DLC attached to it, but it’s certainly a game with a decent amount of length for what it is.

Controls

Controlling this game is no difficult task, though the timing of certain situations is.  Throughout the game, though, you will mostly be using the buttons on the Vita.  While there are many areas where you can swipe the touch screen to move and get through areas, there are also button alternatives for those.  If you don’t want to use the touch screen, you won’t have to, even in the menus.

When you’re in 3D areas, you will be using the Left Analog Stick to move Clementine through those areas and using the Right Analog Stick to move her field of view to interact with objects.  Interacting with objects is done with the face buttons.  The field of vision is set like the circle on the Vita around the face buttons, so an option by a certain area is done with the same button that’s on that area of the Vita.  You also need to use the R button in certain situations to attack your enemies.

Movement and dodging is the only other control aspect of the game.  When you’re running from or through obstacles and enemies, you have to dodge up, down, left, or right.  The screen will show you prompts for swiping the touch screen, but you can also use the D-Pad buttons for this.  I personally found the D-Pad to be more responsive to these prompts than the touch screen as far as recognizing the input before your sort window of time is over.

All in all, it’s not a hard control scheme to go through, and it does utilize the touch screen in some sections.  The only complaint about the controls is that they’re never really explained to you.  You just have to figure out how they work on your own.  Some situations have button prompts, but not all of them tell you what to press for what choice.

Presentation

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The presentation of the game is the one thing that needs to be addressed.  As far as visuals are concerned, the game looks good.  The cell-shading style of the game has transitioned over to the Vita well.  The models aren’t as smooth and detailed as they are on the PS3 version of the game, but they still look exceptional for a PS Vita title.

The problems come in how the game runs.  If anyone has played the Vita version of Season 1, they will know that it ran poorly.  Season 2 also has technical issues you will definitely want to hear about before you make this purchase.  There is a lot of lag when transitioning between scenes and the game seems to just stop for multiple seconds at a time whenever you reach a checkpoint and the game saves your progress.  There is also some input lag when you’re going into the menu from the game.

None of these are completely game-breaking for a patient gamer, but they’re a pretty large hindrance of the overall experience.  It definitely is strange to be playing the game and have the game halt on you for a few seconds when you’re in the middle of fending off a zombie.  It’s something that you’d need a lot of patience to deal with.

Summary

The Walking Dead Season 2 is: Decent
The Walking Dead returns to the Vita with a game that is just as emotional and gripping as its predecessor.  On the downside, there are a lot of technical issues that are a constant annoyance as you play through the interactive parts of the game.  However, for the calm and patient gamer, there’s a lot of great plot to enjoy if you can look past the lag issues.

6/10

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