When we last saw Clementine it was at the end of a journey in which she had just witnessed the death of Lee her protector, savior, and surrogate father.
It was a journey filled with moral ambiguity, death, betrayal, and even hope. Those final moments of Season One were some of the most emotionally charged in video game history. It may not have been the ending many players wanted, but it was the ending that the game deserved, and one that was well earned. We were left to wonder what would become of that once scared helpless little girl. How would these events shape her, and how will she cope now without her protector?
Season Two is that answer. This is Clementine’s journey, and if history is any indication of what is to come, it will not be pleasant. For anyone.
Anyone who wondered whether the transition to a preteen female protagonist would dilute the experience or change the tone of the game has no need to worry. Telltale appears set to put Clementine through hell, both physically and emotionally. She will be tested and abused, trust will be lost, and betrayals will come from unexpected quarters. This story feels more personal, and every violent act hurts the more for it.
There is an almost sinister edge to many interactions now as Telltale plays up the disparity between the player's adult perspective to that of a naive but guarded child. Adults here are both salvation and menace in equal measure, and while there is no overt threat offered the tonality of the the whole episode is exceedingly uncomfortable, as if something very bad is about to happen. It’s delicate balancing act that Telltale executes with finesse, never pushing too hard, nor forcing the tone in a needlessly seedy or predatory direction.
But for all it does right Telltale still relies far too much on the weakest aspects of its games. Quick-time events return, as do the directed action sequences. These populate much of the first half of the episode, and annoy far more than they thrill, and the sin here is not merely their inclusion, but the omission of latter interaction opportunities. Ultimately this leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion to the episode, with no real payoff, and limited emotional heft outside of a few isolated incidences.
There is a lot of promise here however, and it’s a strong opening but the reliance on future episodes delivering on the drama means that this entry is lacking some substance when considered alone. This is always the risk when producing an episodic product, but by now Telltale has no excuses for not delivering within its chosen format.
Anyone who enjoyed Season One will find a lot to like about the first act in Season Two, and in particular the promise it shows for future installments.