Contains minor spoilers
Clementine is growing up before our eyes. The Walking Dead: Season Two has begun, and just in time for the holidays. If The Walking Dead doesn’t say holiday season cheer, I don’t know what does. Telltale had revealed that Clementine would be returning as a playable character, so that isn’t so surprising. I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but this will by nature contain some. The story picks up where it left off (the scene after the credits) with Clementine beginning to adjust to her life without Lee. Telltale wastes no time in the first five minutes to pull out heavy emotional stops that will put you directly back into the severe mind frame that The Walking Dead so successfully evokes.
After a heartstring-tugging scene, 16 months pass to a noticeably older and more mature Clementine. She is heading into her pre-teen years and is becoming a young adult, but by all intents and purposes, is still a child. Will this change the way I play, I wonder immediately. Controlling Lee never felt much like role-playing. Lee was a very relatable character – despite being a murderer – and his actions always felt very natural. The product of clever writing, Lee felt like an everyman that would always make a sensible decision no matter how you chose to play. With Clementine, I’m not so sure. I don’t relate to being a preteen, yet Clementine is wise beyond her years. As I begin playing after the prologue, I still play as if it were I making the decisions in the same predicament. However, after a few plot points are set in motion, I begin to start to role play. Furthermore, I’m using my knowledge of how other adults view children to make my decisions in order to “game the system.” By “game the system” I mean, attempt to play on others’ sympathies to better my (Clementine’s) situation. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. Though it might, I have only my play through experience to draw from. Adults in The Walking Dead universe appear to have no sympathy for children.
And why should they? Can they pull their weight? Aren’t they just another helpless mouth to feed? Telltale begs to differ, and is going to use you, with Clementine’s help, to prove that kids can be more than just dead weight. Clementine is much more willful, aware of her surroundings, and self-reliant than in the past season. Clementine will have to make tough decisions on her own. It will be interesting to see if how “your Lee” raised her will have any impact on game play choices.
There is also a greater emphasis on action this season. As with Telltale’s last release, The Wolf Among Us, based on the comic series Fables, this season features quite a few more quicktime events, that are often lengthy and more complex in scope. There are still plenty of quite times though. Many scenes feature Clementine making her way through the woodlands, the struggle to find food and shelter is alone enough to drive home the severity of the situation. The need for survival trumps societies’ niceties, or does it? The puzzles are still naturalistic, as with last season, and probably the most realistic I have seen in any adventure game. There are of course surprises, and when in The Walking Dead are surprises ever good? Telltale proves that they are still as willing as before to stab you in the back with your good intentions and twist the knife for good measure.
The one spoiler I will reveal is probably one of the most difficult scene in the episode, so feel free to skip this section. Clementine must attempt to clean, suture, and bandage a bad wound. The wound is potentially lethal and particularly gruesome, so she doesn’t have any choice but to do it. Looking at the wound is horrific, even for an adult. Thinking back to the role play scenario, how would a normal child react? The game reminds you that Clementine is a child when she first whimpers in pain when she cleans it with the alcohol. She then begins to sew her own skin in order to thwart an infection or worse. The game mechanic to pierce the skin takes a few moves and a little time to work. As she presses the needle to her skin she cries. When she pierces her skin she wales. And it only gets worse until you are done. It is truly traumatizing. Taking off Lee’s arm was optional, this scene is not (to my knowledge). Not only are you inflicting pain on Clementine, you are also inflicting it on yourself. The player is simultaneously sympathizing and empathizing with Clementine. It is scenes like this that make The Walking Dead games so great. On a lighter note, the most entertaining part of the scene is where Clementine drops the alcohol or the bandage (I can’t remember which), and mumbles to herself, “Shit.”
The Walking Dead: Season Two is off to a smacking start. I hope that Telltale continues with the quality of writing and complex characterizations it has created last season. They are juggling an awful lot, simultaneously working on The Wolf Among Us, and the newly announced Borderlands, and Game of Thrones adventure games. But if episode one “All That Remains” is any indicator of where the season is going, I have nothing but confidence in Telltale.