Tag Archive: season two

Actions have consequences

Editor’s Note: In order as to not spoil the events from previous episodes in this and/or the first season, the language used will attempt to remain as vague as possible. That being said, some situations may still be specifically referenced and thus, if you do not want anything spoiled, we recommend you fully play previous episodes and then return. Consider yourself warned.

After finally catching a little bit of the magic that made Season One so great in its previous episode, The Walking Dead: Season Two hoped it could continue its rebound from a slow start in Episode 4 – Amid the Ruins. Picking up right where Episode 3 left off, much of this latest chapter deals with the fallout of Clem and the gang’s escape from Carver’s compound. Decisions you’ve made along the way once again dictate the kind of dialogue you’ll have with your remaining compatriots as new bonds are formed and others are pushed to the breaking point due to the stress of your ever-changing group makeup.

While Amid the Ruins starts off strong, rich in the drama you’ve come to expect from anything based in The Walking Dead universe (especially when several problems come to an unexpected head in this episode and not the finale), the storytelling rapidly devolves about halfway through. The group splinters up to accomplish a necessary task more quickly, with Clementine moving between different cliques to help speed the process along. Besides the fact that the “fetch quest” nature of this section of the game left a sour taste in my mouth, the group physically drifting apart also signified (rather bluntly I might add) a newfound lack of focus on the common goal of surviving as a collective, punctuated by infighting and bickering becoming staples of nearly every conversation.

Though Amid the Ruins does introduce some major threats to the group in order to replace those that were solved when you left Carver’s makeshift bastion, the division of the group introduces a multitude of nagging problems that make it hard to focus on the bigger picture. Season One’s penultimate episode was so phenomenal because at the end, there were only two situations you had to focus on: Lee’s bitten arm and Clem’s kidnapping. In Season Two’s fourth episode, however, the new problems that arise are sullied by the childish spats between the group’s core members, like a swarm of buzzing flies circling your head as you try to focus on the more pressing and delicate matters at hand. And it seems that Telltale would rather have left some of the strongest new characters of the season, especially Luke, in the background saying nothing at all if they weren’t adding to the unnecessary squabbling, leaving me as puzzled as I am disappointed.

Despite the sad storytelling decline after the spike in Episode 3, Amid the Ruins does at least provide enough interesting situations to keep you on your toes. After all, in between the war of words, there’s still a zombie apocalypse going on around you, and just when you feel like you’ve had enough of Clementine being the most mature character in the game, an action-packed zombie sequence kicks in to ratchet up the tension again and remind everyone why they’re here and what they’re running away from.

The good news with Amid the Ruins? Telltale seems to have left more than enough room to top this episode and still finish the season strong, and we’ve seen from this season alone that they have the potential to bounce back from a narrative misstep. Season Two – Episode 4 of The Walking Dead, however, feels like a weak stitching together of what I hope will be the two best episodes of the season.

Developer: Telltale Games • Publisher: Telltale Games • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 07.23.14

Too many random problems arise and detract from the main issues of the story, leaving Amid the Ruins feeling like a weird valley right before the hopeful peak of the season finale.

The Good Some of the best zombie encounters yet.
The Bad Too many new problems crop up with just one episode left.
The Ugly Kenny’s face isn’t going to be getting better anytime soon.
The Walking Dead: Season Two: Episode 4 – Amid the Ruins is available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and iOS. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360. Review code was provided by Telltale for the benefit of this review.

There are worse monsters than zombies…

After the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead set such a high bar, the beginning of Season Two was really nothing short of a letdown. This became particularly evident after Episode 2, since the first two episodes would’ve made a lot more sense as one longer setup.

On top of this, thus far, Season Two hasn’t seen the stellar pacing and the drama of the first season, and the void of the Lee/Clementine dynamic still hasn’t been replaced. Fortunately, Season Two: Episode 3 – In Harm’s Way gets the narrative back on track and captures a lot of the magic that put Season One in everyone’s 2012 Game of the Year discussions.

After the cliffhanger ending of Episode 2, which saw the group forced to confront Carver before being dragged back to his compound, Clementine knows if they want to survive being in this madman’s clutches, they need to get out—and fast. She’ll need to make some new allies, and lean heavily on old ones, before Carver dooms them all.

In Harm’s Way features many more decisions with the potential to divide the group, leading to some fun dialogue choices that could emphasize and solidify the kind of character your particular Clem may be turning into. With the way I play, this had the added benefit of leading to Kenny and Luke starting to fill the hole of Lee’s absence, both as Clem’s protectors and as people she could look to for guidance.

This doesn’t mean that Clem becomes completely helpless, though, because she’s also always the first to volunteer to diffuse every dangerous situation—and often leads the charge to rebel against Carver. Unfortunately, like in much of the current season, this results in less puzzle-solving and exploration, but the tense and frantic action that replaces it is more than enough to take solace in.

While much of the episode did everything I wanted to renew my faith in the series, one nagging issue is the poor payoff from 400 Days. Although Carver’s compound and Bonnie, one of the five characters around which 400 Days revolved, are indeed focal points for this episode, the other characters from that narrative who joined Carver have nothing but throwaway cameos and maybe a single line of dialogue. In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t feel like anything was missing by not having Wyatt or Shel (there courtesy of my personal results from 400 Days) as integral parts of the action, but I still would’ve enjoyed a couple of lengthy conversations with them to make those final decisions in 400 Days feel worth it.

Despite this lackluster payoff from a previous episode, In Harm’s Way gets the series back on track. It returns to the first-season trademark of ending on a note that makes sense but leaves you with plenty of questions that have you begging for more. It also reminds you that no one is safe—this episode hammered that point home again. The group and its relationship dynamic can be turned on its head in an instant with just one or two poor decisions, which now will hopefully play out in spectacular fashion in Episode 4.

Developer: Telltale Games • Publisher: Telltale Games • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 05.14.14
Although the repercussions from decisions in 400 Days don’t prove as critical as Telltale promised, In Harm’s Way still gets Season Two back on track after it appeared to be losing itself in the first two episodes.
The Good A return to storytelling form.
The Bad Not as much payoff for 400 Days as anticipated.
The Ugly Clem accepting the fact that she’ll have to do everything herself.
The Walking Dead: Season Two: Episode 3 – In Harm’s Way is available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and iOS. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360. Review code was provided by Telltale for the benefit of this review.

The defending champ looks for a repeat

When Kinect launched last year, several titles showed off the possibility of the peripheral, but few had the lasting appeal of Kinect Sports. Fun when played individually—but truly appreciated with a group of friends—the game made a clear, lasting impression on the casual market. Now, Microsoft looks to see if they can reel in soccer moms again with Kinect Sports: Season Two. American football, baseball, golf, darts, tennis, and skiing are all featured in this newest iteration—and if you thought you broke a sweat before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I tried out football first—and it was easily the most grueling, as I had to run in place for receptions and kick returns. On top of this, I had to get down under center; standing signaled my virtual center to hike the ball. Though I had a lot of fun playing offense, I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if I could’ve also played defense instead of just watching the box score to see how my AI opponent did during its possession. But when it comes to picking-up, throwing, and kicking motions, the game’s almost more exciting than a real-life pick-six.

Moving to baseball, I tried my hand at a home-run-derby-style minigame before stepping into the batter’s box for a couple of quick two-inning games. Again, a lot of running was involved, as I beat out ground balls for infield singles whenever I couldn’t drive the ball into the gap or over the fence. But there was just one problem: The game seemed to have issue with my swing—because of my power-hitting demeanor, I have a big leg kick. Anyone who’s hit the diamond in real life knows that the leg kick comes first, but I guess I have a few too many moving parts in my stroke, and I’d sometimes trigger the swing a couple of seconds too early. Once I reined in my herky-jerky motion, though, the game worked a lot better.

Darts was a lot less involved physically—but also much more frustrating, because I just couldn’t seem to get my shots lined up correctly. It was also the only game where I couldn’t even beat the Rookie CPU, because I’d always just miss my mark. Skiing was also relatively simple, as I leaned left and right to make it through the series of slalom gates, but I had a lot more fun with the obstacle course, since that was a lot more involved—I jumped, ducked, and swerved on a much more regular basis.

Tennis wasn’t very involving, either, since the game controls all of your lateral movements. You’ve just got to focus on your swing, whether it’s a forehand or a backhand. In fact, the best part of tennis might’ve actually been the hot chick doing the tutorial tennis video!

Finally, it was time to hit the links, and this was the first golf game I’ve ever played where the putting mechanic worked so well that I actually ended up with a score under par. Between my practice swings, my caddy offering advice, and the Kinect sensor picking up my movements precisely, I started to realize why some people actually enjoy playing a sport that’s so horribly boring to watch on TV.

All in all, each game’s quite polished, and the sensor bar does its job throughout—which, to me, is the most critical element of a Kinect game. My only concern is that Season Two could lose its luster in single-player, so you’ll need to rely on the Xbox Live challenge mode, where you and your pals try to one-up your best scores, or get really obsessed with the new calorie counter. Also, hearing a British dude talk about American football felt weird, but I can forgive that because of the awesome licensed music. All in all, Kinect Sports: Season Two is a worthy successor to the first—and easily the premiere casual Kinect experience.

SUMMARY: A worthy successor to the first—and easily the premiere casual Kinect experience.

  • THE GOOD: Six new sports in the vein of the original Kinect Sports
  • THE BAD: Some motions—especially in American football and baseball
  • THE UGLY: Several of the sport-tutorial video models (not tennis girl, though—she’s hot!)

SCORE: 7.0