Sunday, May 11, 2014

Clementine Comes Of Age In Season Two Of The Walking Dead Telltale Game

By Mickey Jhonny

No more waiting! It's arrived. All the navel gazing style dissection of the trailer no longer has to suffice to feed our appetite. The Walking Dead Telltale game, season 2, episode one, is here. And all is good in game land, for it is, like, awesome and stuff.

The Walking Dead franchise has been a major boon for the creative explorations of the interactive fan base crowd. Elsewhere on this site, we've looked at the booming role of the Walking Dead fanfiction . The Telltale game provides another, more structured, but still interactive experience with the world that Robert Kirkman created.

Fans of season one will certainly remember Clementine. She was kind of the object of the first season. The subject, if you will, the acting protagonist, Lee, was largely driven by his desire to protect her. However, as such fans will know, Lee is gone, and now Clementine has to fend for herself. Thus she has graduated to protagonist of season two. When we meet back up with her in season two, we already see how she has had to grow up, forced to make the hard decisions to survive the zombie apocalypse.

The extensively decorated game, with award wins and nominations coming out of the wazoo, in this first episode of its second season continues to show its excellence, continuing to breathe new life into the adventure game genre. Likewise it continues its winning strategy of avoiding the risk of lapsing into mere puzzle solving and emphasizes the dynamic of interactive story telling. And these aren't empty choices.

The character's decisions about what to do, and even what to say, lead to real, often surprising and sometimes tragic outcomes. Furthermore, the game keeps track of decisions, many of which come back to haunt our main character - Lee last season, Clementine this season - from episode to episode. Indeed, it appears choices from last season can still have an impact in this new season.

As happy as I am with this continued emphasis on the interactive dynamic, not everything is the same. Mostly, though the changes are improvements. This is particularly notable on the technical side of things. The graphics are greatly improved: richer and more detailed. The frame rate too is better. Clementine walks more quickly than we saw in season one. When you're gripped in suspense at the prospect of a walker attack, that's a great add.

My one complaint was that too often I thought the dialogue choices were too extreme. Either Clementine had to be harsh or childish. That's the way I read it and I didn't think that kind of limitation gave either the character or the story the fullness from which it could have benefited. I'll be keeping an eye on that development going forward.

On the flip side of the coin, though, playing a young girl does provide for some interesting options that weren't available by playing Lee. Clementine can be coyly manipulative. This is a new and interesting option - especially for those of us who have never been young girls!

I am happy to report, though, that Telltale's greatest strength is still well on display in season one of The Walking Dead. I'm referring here to the moral ambiguity and dilemmas the player must navigate in finding the protagonist's way in the game world. For instance, are you prepared to make Clementine a killer right from the beginning?

Lots of people already have. What are the consequences of that? Only future episodes will tell the tale. This is why the Walking Dead Telltale games have been so successful and so compelling. So far, the future looks bright. At least, from outside of the zombie apocalypse...and all that.

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