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Bleak is boring: Why I’m finished with The Walking Dead game

In the Walking Dead Season 2 Clem’s not the scared little girl we met in the first episode of Season One. Clem is world-weary now, traumatized by what she’s witnessed and what she’s had to learn to do. She has learned, and it’s why she’s still alive.

Telltale Games

Sometime very soon the second chapter of The Walking Dead, Season 2 will arrive for download, but I won't be playing it. Despite Telltale Games' excellent writing and accomplished design, bleak, frankly, has become boring. I'm ready for some sunshine.

Let me start by making it clear that if you haven't finished playing through the first season of The Walking Dead, then you should not be reading this. I'm going to give some details from the first episode of Season Two as part of my reasoning for why I'm done with this game. It won't spoil anything from the plot, but there's no way to talk about what's going on in Season Two without potentially dropping a few Season One spoilers. Just so you know.

"All That Remains," is the first of five episodes in the second season of Telltale's take on the zombie apocalypse comic by Robert Kirkman, which has been popularized by the AMC television series. You play as Clementine, and while other characters have come and gone, she's been with us since the start.

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Clem's not the scared little girl we met in the first episode of Season One. But her protector and teacher from Season One, Lee, is no longer by her side. Instead, Clem is travelling with two other characters from the first season. She is world-weary now, traumatized by what she's witnessed and what she's had to learn to do. She has learned, and it's why she's still alive.

The Walking Dead established itself as being a game that kicks at the heart and goes for intense emotional reactions from players – it's a big reason the series has been so successful – and that's certainly true here. Within the first five minutes of "All That Remains" another person close to Clem dies, and the player and the character are dealing with yet another loss.

If you've played the first season, you know this kind of heartbreak is to be expected.

This is an adventure game, played the same as the previous episodes. You'll walk around and explore your surroundings, discovering items and solving environmental puzzles. You will occasionally have to guide Clem through intense scenes of danger, and in these moments you'll need to respond to on-screen prompts quickly enough to keep Clem alive. Because as with Kirkman's comic, The Walking Dead game is about surviving.

And despite being a young girl, Clementine is a survivor. She's not an innocent, she's not naive. Not after what she's seen. Still, Clem is visibly uncomfortable with the notion that in order to survive people have to lie, steal and even kill. Which makes it a real struggle for players, because we control Clem's actions.

When she needs fuel for a fire in "All That Remains," Clem only has a couple of pieces of paper in her backpack: a drawing and a photo of Lee. One of them has to burn, and I agonized over which to make her choose.

This is the root of what makes The Walking Dead difficult for me to play, because I don't like having to make Clem do something I know she's reluctant to do. Maybe it's because I'm the father of a young girl who could be Clementine, but I had a difficult time putting myself through the emotional ringer this time.

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But there is no room for sentiment in this post-apocalyptic place, where the choices available to Clem are often limited to "bad" and "worse."

After a short prologue and the memory-burning scene, she ends up on her own, which sets the stage for a second season with a completely new cast of characters. There's a cliffhanger at the end of "All That Remains," and the next chapter will surely involve making more bleak and unsettling choices with this new group. Just don't get too attached to them. They might not be around for long.

Developer: Telltale Games

Platforms: Windows, iOS, OS X, PS3, PS Vita, Windows, Xbox 360

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