If you have already finished the first part of this intense game, then you would already know that the developers of Telltale games are geniuses at coming up with scenarios that would make you grip the edge of your seat as you ponder with some of the most heart-wrenching decisions you could possibly think of. For the uninitiated, The Walking Dead is a 5-part series of games that revolve around the life of Lee Everett, a man who has somehow managed to survive the initial onslaught of the undead, and a young girl he has taken under his protection, Clementine. Together, the two have joined up with other survivors in order to find a way to survive. And it is up to you, the player, to make that happen.
Internal Conflicts, External Solutions
The first game ends with the Macon survivors finally finding a safe place fortify, which initially starts out like a good plan. However, when you are dealing with zombies on a daily basis, even a good plan has its drawbacks. Starved for Help brings you two entire months after the group has made a home out of the motel. After a few weeks of doing several runs to nearby stores, houses, and similar areas, it would not be surprising that they are now running out of resources to gather –and the scarcity of food quickly becomes an issue. And with that, politics rears its’ ugly head; Lily, who is apparently the unofficial quartermaster of the motel, is burnt out from having to handle the rationing of food –and it is up to Lee to find more resources for the group.
Making matters worse is Kenny –who not only serves as the protagonist’s surrogate best friend, but also as an opposition to Lily’s harsh rules. As with the rest of the events in the game, players can have Lee choose a side or keep his thoughts to himself, and you can most certainly expect these decisions to affect the way the characters treat you for the rest of the game. Things only get worse as Lee and Mark (a new character introduced in the game) bring more survivors from thier trek through the woods.
This side event serves to bring about two important things. The first is that it highlights the main issue the characters have been struggling with since the gap from the first game; deciding who is in charge. The second, and more important fact that this event points out, is the one critical factoid that separates the Walking Dead series from the rest of the usual zombie movies: everyone is infected.
This new notion is a game changer –bites are no longer the sole method for turning someone into one of the undead (but that certainly speeds things up), anyone who dies will turn into a walker. For those of you who have been watching the TV series or have read the comics, this is pretty much yesterday’s news. But for everyone who got introduced to the Walking Dead through these episodic games, then this is the big reveal.
Getting To the Main Plot
As if that was not enough, the situation quickly turns around as a couple of wandering traders approach the motel –offering food in exchange for gasoline. Apparently, the two are brothers living in a farm. And in order to keep their farm safe, they must constantly acquire fuel for their generator; which in turn powers an electric fence. The food they grow and acquire on the farm is used in both daily consumption and for trading with other survivors.
The timing of this meeting prompts Lee and the other survivors into taking a chance to visit the farm. With two children in their care and plenty of them starving badly, the concept of a fully working farm and a hot meal becomes hard to resist.
Lee and several others in the group decide to check out the place –and it turns out to be quite the safe haven it was made out to be. Plenty of space, a powerful electric fence, and of course, the ever-hospitable St. Johns family (composed of the mother, Brenda, and her two sons, Andrew and Danny). Of course, there are a few snags –there are bandits roaming the area, the cow is sick, the generator needs fixing, and, of course, the St. Johns have a dark little secret of their own. And these things will be the issues that you will be tackling for the most part of the game (along with Kenny and Lily’s squabbling).
Dramatic and Awesome
Awesome is rarely used word in our vocabulary. After all, games tend to be well delivered, solid, exciting, fun, scary, witty, and so many other things. So when we are all out of words and say that something is awesome, it is because nothing short of it justifies how great a game is; of course, that is describing the entirety of the Walking Dead game series. But when it comes to Starved for Help alone, there is one other word for it: controversial. This is not about the shock factor (the end of episode 4 does that best), this is about striking at the very core of some of the most delicate topics that are faced with apocalyptic scenarios: cannibalism, and the utter degradation of morality.
At this point, we suggest that those of you who have not played the second episode in its entirety to actually finish it first. Massive spoilers are coming, you have been warned.
The St. Johns farm produces meat as one of the products it offers, but the one and only cow it has is sick (it is up to Kenny’s wife to help the poor cow) –so the question of “where does the meat come from?” is going to be asked pretty early on in the game. The answer, no matter how obvious, does not always surface so quickly. People are likely to be in denial of this possibility until further proof is found –the St. Johns are cannibals.
And if that was not a hard enough thing to deal with, there is also the problem with the bandits in the surrounding area. In an effort to deal with the bandits, Lee and Danny venture out to raid their camp, only to find a lone woman there named Jolene. Lee also finds Clementine’s missing cap, which is a bad omen, for the cap has been missing since the time they were at the motel, long before they had known about the St. Johns farm.
The encounter with Jolene is short but eventful. Revealing much of the in-game social system (or lack thereof), and one of the more cruel atrocities that humanity performs on itself –rape and murder. The delivery of this part is quick, concluding with a simple reminder that walkers are not the worst things in the world.
After this, the story cuts back to the St. John’s farm, and how Lee and the rest of the survivors manage to find out what the farm’s dark secret is. Sadly, the events that unfold also puts players in a very harsh dilemma: dealing with the Larry. The man is known to be openly against Lee, and for the most part, serves as an antagonist designed to be hated. As a matter of fact, Larry has already tried to kill Lee at least once.
So when they are all in a locked room and Larry is having a heart attack, the group is faced with a grim choice: wait for Larry to get better on his own, or kill him instantly before he dies and turns into a walker. This is the ultimate lynchpin that tags Lee as a friend or enemy to either Kenny or Lily. Kenny worries for the safety of the group, and Lily wants to give every single possible chance to her father; the choice is up to Lee.
It is not everyday that a game developer is able to come up with a masterpiece on the same caliber as the The Walking Dead series. And this is not Telltale’s first attempt to do so. They tried it with Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and several other known series, and not always with the best results. But with the Walking Dead, they have managed to meet and surpass every single expectation of fans and then some. Like the rest of the games in the series, Episode 2: Starved for Help is full of drama, suspense, excellent voice acting, immersive graphical details and animation, easy to use controls, and more than enough zombies to keep you awake at night.