Tag Archives: Clementine

The Walking Dead is a lot less game, but still fun

TWD Carver season 2 overall imps

I’m not really here to talk about the unfolding events of Telltale Games’ season two for The Walking Dead and what latest hole Clementine and company have dug for themselves this time. In short and without spoiling things, people get hurt, both by zombies and their fellow humans, and there’s traveling and dashed dreams and madman-inspired plans and–everyone’s favorite–many soul-crushing decisions, which you have to often make in a split second. Y’know, basically everything that was great from The Walking Dead‘s first season is back once more. Well…maybe not everything.

In this episodic adventure series’ first season, back when you controlled smart, encouraging Lee Everett, it was very much a traditional point-and-click experience, but on a console and with a focus for storytelling and action-heavy sequences. You still explored scenes, talked to people, collected clues and items for your inventory, and solved puzzles using those items on other things. However, over the first three episodes of season two, namely “All That Remains,” “A House Divided,” and “In Harm’s Way,” I’ve noticed the game losing most of those elements, turning into more of a linear product of pure interactive fiction than anything else. I still love it and have a blast deciding who is going to remember what, but it does kind of bum me out that there’s less to do creatively–and, for lack of a better word, videogamey–between big scenes. I mean, remember when you got to play detective with Duck and actually solve a mystery; those days are long gone, I’m afraid.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that The Walking Dead has now infected–yes, pun intended–every piece of technology capable of playing a videogame. Yup, talking about mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. You can clearly see the developers thinking about this subset of gamers, given how many more action scenes rely on “swiping” as a means of a quick time event instead of just button prompts. It’s a little weird using a controller to press down via the analog stick to have Clementine hide from an incoming zombie, but maybe it feels more effective on a touch-based device. That said, it’s now a game series of dialogue choices (good!) and QTEs (bad!) and backseat steering (very bad!), which probably works better on mobile devices than the places The Walking Dead was initially born.

Let me slightly spoil a section from the latest episode–“In Harm’s Way”–to get my point across about how stripped and, dare I say, dumbed down The Walking Dead is at this point. Gameplay-wise, people. Gameplay-wise. So, Clementine is sneaking into an office to turn on a PA system for…well, reasons. You get into the office via a cutscene, walk over to a desk and inspect the PA system with the press of a button. Upon a closer look, you can then press a switch to flip on the external speakers. You do that; there is no other way to try things, you only have one choice to move forward with the “puzzle.” Then you are told to turn on the mic, so you try, and it’s not working. A quick cutscene has Clem then following the power cords from the PA system over to the CD player, which you try to turn on, only to find out there is no CD in its tray. The camera then does this back and forth motion, as if searching, and you instantly see a CD right next to the CD player. Sigh. You click on the CD, and the puzzle, if you want to call it such a thing, is does. Your hand was held the entire time, and there weren’t even any options to try things differently or mess up. Like, all you had to do, Telltale Games, was hide the CD in the room, anywhere, and have Clem actually search for it.

Trust me when I say that I’m, without a doubt, finishing this second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. I’m too invested in the story at this point, but knowing how much has changed with the gameplay bums me out enough to wonder that, if I have a mobile device capable of playing the probable, but not yet announced third season when it does drop in late 2015 or early 2016, I might just experience it there. True, I’ll be losing all of my choices I’ve made up to that mark, but what do choices matter in a world where you are no longer in control? Yes, Paul will remember that.

Also, I’m deeply worried about what Telltale Games is going to do with Game of Thrones. We all remember how Jurassic Park: The Game turned out, right?

2014 Game Completed Comics, #27 – The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 2 – “A House Divided”

2014 games completed 27 twd a house divided resized

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

Telltale’s season 2 of The Walking Dead bites off a new adventure


Despite there only being a couple days gap, it feels a little weird writing about a 2013 game in 2014, especially now that I’m doing comics for each one that I complete. Sorry, episode 1 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead; all you got was a stinky ol’ haiku. But I’m sure you’ll get at least four comics out of me this year, since I bought the season pass and am already hungry for more since the beginning of the second season, much like the appetizer that 400 Days turned out to be, doesn’t really satisfy one’s hunger, only starts to fill you up with characters and places and problems to be. Y’know, for down the line.

Some quick catch-up, and I’ll do my best to be as unspoilery as possible for those that have not yet experienced the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. But really now, shame on you. Just do it. I think the first episode is constantly being thrown out there for no cost, so snatch it up, love it, and burn through the remainder eps one after the other like I did, without having to wait months between story breaks. Anyways, by the very end of the Savannah storyline, Clementine is all by herself in the zombie-infested wild, eventually taking notice of two people in the distance. Flash-forward several months, and Clem is now travelling with Omid and a visibly pregnant Christa in search of…well, somewhere safe. We pick up as the three reach a gas station to scavenge for supplies and rest before getting back on the road.

Naturally, as things tend to do in zombie anything–films, books, TV shows, games–things quickly take a turn for the worse, but thanks to everything that Lee taught Clementine in the previous season–well, my Lee taught her, but your mileage may vary–she can mostly handle herself just fine. Alas, there’s a tragic encounter with a stray dog that really puts Clem in a dangerous spot, and a big portion of episode 1’s latter half is righting this error. Medically speaking, that is. She eventually becomes part of a new group, though they don’t trust her, and the best sequence has Clem sneaking into their safehouse to steal enough vital supplies to heal her own wounds, since the others are waiting for her to turn into a walking dead girl. This shows off just how brave and independent she’s become over the past several months, now a young woman of action and not hesitation. So far, there’s no real clear objective like season one’s “find a boat,” but I guess staying alive–and keeping those we like alive, too–is game enough for some, though I’d like to see Clem eventually have some kind of concrete plan.

Not much has changed in terms of how The Walking Dead plays from the previous episodes, and that’s fine. Always a mix of adventuring and stay alive moments, with enough of both to keep me satisfied. You still look around for items, talk to people and make choices, and explore confined locations for clues or bits that flesh out the story. I did notice that Clem now has an inventory sub-menu, where she can grab items to use on other items, making this a bit more like a point-and-click adventure game than it probably wanted to be at the beginning of its creation. Action scenes are still, more or less, dominated by quick time button prompts, but now with the added innovation of swiping left or right, using the analog stick on the controller, which leads me to think that some of these scenarios were designed with tablet and iPhone users in mind.

For “All That Remains,” there’s a couple of somewhat minor decisions to make along the way, as well as a number of unavoidable deaths. That’s right. Try as you all might, you can’t save that certain four-legged critter from its depressingly authentic conclusion. I only know this because Tara checked online. She had to. Come the very end of the episode, like it’s last two minutes, you do get to save someone’s life over another’s, and that decision will most certainly play a part in the events to come, but again, this is only the beginning, a nibble, and I’m hoping we get the second episode sometime early in February. Still also waiting for a connection, big or small, to 400 Days; that better not had been all for naught.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #63 – The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 1 – “All That Remains”

2013 games completed twd S2 all that remains

Clem finds herself out
In the wild, a new group
Awaits, curse that dog

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

“400 Days” bridges the gap and teases you along the way


Here’s the straight dope: I bought “400 Days,” the latest episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, the day it dropped on July 5. However, I did not play it immediately, and there are a couple of reasons for this. One, I was reeling–and still am–over the loss of Ryan Davis a few days prior, and two, I knew in my heart of hearts that this was no new full season, brimming with story and content that would linger with me just like Lee and Clem and Kenny have ever since the first season ended. It was created to whet one’s appetite, not sate it.

Two months later, I started up “400 Days” and played through it in a single sitting. Tara watched, too, as well as made a key decision during Vince’s slice. More on that later. Anyways, it’s not very long, but it’s fairly enjoyable, with two of the five character storylines really exciting and engaging. In the end, it does feel like a big tease for what’s yet to come; however, even a carrot on a string from Telltale Games is better than nothing, and certainly more enjoyable than some games I’ve played this year (see Fable III and The Cave).

“400 Days” takes place around Gil’s Pitstop, a truck stop set against a Georgia highway. You play through the point of views of five different survivors, with each story set at a different time since the dead began to walk. Some are right there at the beginning of the outbreak, and others have been at this game of live or don’t live for some time now. There’s Vince, an arrested criminal; Shel, a young woman taking refuge at the truck stop with her younger sister; Bonnie, a coming-clean junkie; Wyatt, along with his druggie friend, are trying to escape a man in a truck; and Russell, a young boy hitchhiking down the road. You can please these stories in any order, but that’s how I did ’em: Vince, Shel, Bonnie, Wyatt, and Russell. After you play all the individual stories, there’s an epilogue to experience, which hints at what will be happening in the next season of The Walking Dead, and who from “400 Days” will be there to live the tale.

I urge anyone that hasn’t played “400 Days” yet to begin with Vince’s story. It packs the most punch and feels the most chaotic, with some hard and harsh decisions to make. I left one of those to Tara, and we both now have to live with that choice, while someone else has to live without a certain appendage. It’s mostly set in a bus on its way to prison. Next, I’d suggest Bonnie, which features some fun conversation bits and a nifty stealth sequence set in a cornfield. The others you can kind of do in any order and are much tamer in terms of action, though all are consistent with the quality writing and gray characterization previously found in characters like Lee and Kenny. I particularly found myself hating Nate in the same way that one hates a villain in Game of Thrones.

You’ll notice that I have not delved too deeply into the details about each of the survivors and their respective stories. It’s not that there isn’t much to share, but rather you should really experience it for yourself, in your own way. Though I wouldn’t blame you if you waited until the night before The Walking Dead‘s season two dropped to do it. Otherwise, you’ll be hungrier than some of the zombies you cross in this short, but sweet tease. And now I wait, stomach all a-grumble.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #3 – The Walking Dead, Episode 5 – “No Time Left”

the walking dead no time left games completed 2013

Get Clementine back
Escape city, keep moving
Then Lee can let go

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

The highs and lows of Telltale’s The Walking Dead

telltale the walking dead thoughts so far

At this point, having completed four out of five episodes for season one of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I know exactly what I like about it and exactly what is not working. It’s a shame there’s some good and bad here, as the good has the potential to outshine the bad, but then the bad is just so disappointing that it could bury the good. Yeah, that was totally clear writing.

I like adventure games, especially the point and click ilk. Please note that I didn’t say love, as I’ve really only fully experienced a few, such as Wadjet Eye’s The Blackwell Legacy series, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, The Sea Will Claim Everything, and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, but I had a pretty good time with those. In the past, I’ve tried playing games like Hector: Badge of Carnage, Machinarium, and Beneath a Steel Sky only to get stuck and give up in  obvious frustration. The things I often like in adventure games are the stories and the ability to click on lots of things for fun (or even bland) descriptions, and the parts I often find unwieldy are inventory management, obscure puzzles, and pixel hunting. The Walking Dead does a lot of great story work, but is hampered by none of the previous things mentioned, rather modern day quirks that really take it down a notch. Let’s start with the bad, then the good.

To begin with, the Achievements. Yes, they are meaningless things, but their inclusion in The Walking Dead is so noticeable that they have to be accounted for. Some have funny titles, often silly or referencing pop culture or even snide, especially based on the group’s current situation. The Walking Dead is not a very funny game, though there are the occasional moments or quips, but the premise itself is rather bleak, and seeing how episode four ended, it’s only gonna get darker. So earning Achievements with names like “You Fight Like a Dairy Farmer” and “Too Much Salt Will Kill You” right when emotional moments are trying to sink in is a bit like losing a loved one and then getting slammed in the face with a custard pie. Again, in the end, the Achievements are completely meaningless, it’s just that they are quite invasive when one is immersed in a world overrun by zombies.

The next problem I have might only be related to the Xbox 360, but I don’t know. It could be on other platforms, and it has to do with loading screens. They come up at the worst time, with the worst transitions to them. It’s just a simple cut away to a boring screen that says NOW LOADING… on it. For instance, near the beginning of episode four, Lee is climbing a ladder in a house to see what’s up in the attic. You actually control Lee as he climbs the steps, one by one, music swelling, the promise of something major soon to be revealed. You get to the top step and…loading screen. This is just one example, but the pacing and tone is often knocked aside on most of the loading screens as they often happen during large moments. I dunno, just like with the Achievements, they really took me out of a great gaming adventure.

Lastly, and don’t worry, I’ll get to some good stuff shortly, when you fail an action scene, more often than not, Lee dies and you reset to the start of the action. For me, this was particularly jarring. These moments where you have to shoot a zombie in a particular spot within three seconds are disappointing in that you are just thrown into it with no guidance and will most likely lose the first time. After you fail that first time, then the game tells you what you’re supposed to do. Gee, thanks. In episode two, at the motel, you used the four-pronged cursor to highlight enemies and shoot with the A button, but this time around they switched to a more traditional RT shooting convention; either way, these moments are not the greatest and seem ham-fisted for gamers that want more out of their puzzle games. I could do without, personally.

So those are the things about The Walking Dead I’m not digging. Otherwise, wow. The story is riveting, and each character comes across fully realized from the word go, making every choice a struggle, whether it’s simply a line of dialogue or a heart-breaking decision. Or, in the case of Ben, an easy one. The timer on dialogue options is a wonderful motivator, and my Lee is the kind of guy that cares deeply about Clementine and tries to keep the group happy; at first, he worked hard for Kenny’s respect, but now that matters no more. I understand that a lot of the finer plot points can’t be changed, but the small interactions between characters and the relationships you construct are where this game shines. I do play with the notifications turned on, something I’ve seen others suggest turning off, as they can potentially negatively future decisions. So far, I’m okay with them.

I will most likely be finishing up episode five tonight or this weekend, and I don’t expect any new gameplay twists to really shake up the formula. Hopefully it’s all story to the end, but I’m sure I’ll have to stumble my way through an action scene or two before the credits roll. Regardless, I’ve been pretty impressed with the effect The Walking Dead has had on me, even with a few problems. I’ll definitely be playing season two as it comes out, episode by episode, whenever that is, ready to make some choices.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #2 – The Walking Dead, Episode 4 – “Around Every Corner”

games completed 2013 twd around every corner ep4

Looking for a boat
Not simple, zombies mew up
Radio taunts Lee

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #37 – The Walking Dead, Episode 1 – “A New Day”

2012 games completed walking-dead ep1 a-new-day

Lee in a world of
Zombies, must make hard choices
All for Clementine

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.