The Walking Dead Season Two Episode One: All That Remains PS3 review
Just as the credits roll on Telltale’s characteristically brutal opening episode of a whole new season of episodic walker-bashing, art editor Milf walks into the room. “Have you… have you been crying?” He asks. There aren’t many games out there capable of orchestrating such a scenario.
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I totally wasn’t, by the way, but I came closer than I’m proud to admit. Season One lit a trail of emotional gunpowder from the beginning that took two or three episodes to ignite into the kind of drama that requires a few minutes of quiet time afterward, but the unbearable decisions, sense of loss and dwindling hope are positioned front and center in All That Remains. It’s a notable shift in Telltale’s pacing that runs the risk of pushing you away before it manages to get you to care about its new characters.
You’re never in danger of feeling ambivalent towards Clementine, though. The girl you raised as Lee Everett last season now becomes a player character wise beyond her years, capable in all the ways you trained her to be. It’s a touching payoff to see Clem wield a gun with confidence and face walkers with a cool head.
It’s also a neat bit of writing on Telltale’s part to begin the episode so that it makes sense for both veterans of season one and of the 400 Days DLC (your decisions carry over with your old save file in either event). Less adroit is the jarring sixteen-month jump that takes place between the first and second chapters of the episode, while you’re still getting used to living in Clem’s skin and acclimatising to your surroundings and company.
Mis-steps are rare in The Walking Dead’s storytelling but that sudden time shift, followed by a parade of hastily introduced (and often just as hastily dispatched) new characters gives you the sense that Telltale’s more concerned about loading the bases for later episodes than immediately drizzling you with white-hot emotional engagement, or indeed fleshing out the new faces in particular detail. Look, when you set the bar as high as TWD: Season One and The Wolf Among Us, you’re going to attract more fastidious levels of criticism than in the days of Jurassic Park: The Game.
“Above all there’s the lure of watching Clementine mature into adolescence & the ingrained instinct to keep her safe”
Even though it sometimes feels like you’ve accidentally hit the fast forward button, All That Remains does manage to sink its hooks in good and deep. Above all there’s the lure of watching Clementine mature into adolescence and the ingrained instinct to keep her safe – after what Lee went through, you’re just gonna walk away and leave her? Thought not.
But there are also fascinating characters to explore like Sarah, a girl a little older than yourself who lives with a household you become embroiled with midway through. Her naivety and unnerving insistence that the two of you become best friends is a ticking time bomb.
Plenty of debuting faces to get to know, power struggles to observe, and a particularly strong player character who asserts herself more now when the grown-ups raise their voices – a recipe with enough bite to justify another season pass, plainly. But while the story gallops along at newfound speed, the nuts and bolts powering the point-and-press gameplay system remain largely untouched but for a slight UI tweak.
All That Remains is pretty in its own way, and though its look-use-talk interaction wheels circa 1996 aren’t going to be the talk of chic indie dev soirées, they keep the action rolling with minimal fuss. After all, the best design is as little design as possible, as a clever German bloke said once.
If you were determined to ally yourself with the ‘I don’t get it’ brigade, you could make a big deal out of the wildly exaggerated Sims-esque facial expressions that sometimes find their way onto people’s faces, or the simplicity of the puzzles. Have fun with that. You’re missing out on some of the best storytelling going on in gaming right now – a series that explores risky themes, never resorts to stock characters, dodges cheesy dialogue and outright forces you to care about its cast. Now hand me the tissues, you heartless beast.
“If you ally yourself with the ‘I don’t get it brigade’ you’re missing out on some of the best storytelling in gaming”
Season Two begins with some odd pacing and a deferred gratification approach to storytelling, but Telltale hasn’t rested on its laurels after its previous successes – the punches land as hard as ever.