The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 1: All That Remains Review

Grab a bottle of whiskey and brace yourself for some emotional trauma, because Season 2 of Telltale Games’ thoroughly excellent “Walking Dead” adventure game is upon us. Season 1 was my game of the year 2012, and despite one major flaw its DLC “400 Days” was largely very good, so does this new season meet the same standards? Note that this review will contain spoilers for the ending of Season 1. If you haven’t played and finished it, go and do so now. It’s alright. I’ll wait.

Set a bit over sixteen months after the end of Season 1, Season 2 puts you in the role of Clementine- the genuinely awesome and lovable little girl you were charged with protecting last time around. Slightly older and far wiser than before, she is now tasked with surviving in the zombie apocalypse, both alone and with a new group, and that’s all I can say plot-wise without veering into spoiler territory. Clem is just as likable here, and the decision to change the player’s role from teaching Clem how to survive through another player character to directly controlling Clem herself is a great one. It does feel like a natural progression to the events of Season 1. The story is largely set-up but has some genuinely harrowing, horrible moments that give you a severe punch in the gut, and the whole thing works well as a bridge between the end of Season 1 and the episodes of Season 2 that are still to come. Clem’s character is, obviously, player determined but can be any mix of her Season 1 sweet, kind attitude and a colder, more serious tone. There are a few references to Season 1, mainly in regards to Lee’s death, how it’s effected Clem and their relationship in the first game. The references are nice, but there aren’t so many as to alienate new players and said new players should have no problem picking the story up here. Having said that, I haven’t seen how “400 Days” ties into this season, but I guess that’s still to come.

Gameplay wise it plays a lot like Telltale’s recent “The Wolf Among Us” (episode 1 of which I reviewed a little while ago): it’s a point and click adventure game with action scenes that use quick time events and contextual actions. The HUD shows what you can do and interact with clearly and, like Season 1, solutions to problems are often straightforward or at the very least logical. A new action has been added in the form of holding down a button and moving the analogue stick to perform certain actions, but it isn’t used much. The fighting system is more involving than Season 1, and overall it controls well. The graphics have had a boost, also, and the cel-shaded look is still gorgeous (in a bleak, sparse way given the setting) but with added sharpness. Of course the main parts of the gameplay are the conversations and choices you have to make, and they’re back with a vengeance. Conversations still provide a range of interesting options often set to a tight time limit, and the choices are still hard to make- harrowing and set to that same panic-inducing time limit. I will say, however that the choices in this episode did seem easier when compared to some of the ones in Season 1, but that’s not really a problem as such.

There was one main problem I had with this episode, and that was a distracting but not game breaking glitch. Long story short at one point Clem is sneaking around a cabin looking for certain supplies, being careful not to alert the occupants of said cabin. All of whom were downstairs. While searching the upstairs rooms I found said characters standing motionless in the rooms, staring into space. They couldn’t see me and I simply phased through them if I walked up to them, seeing as their models weren’t supposed to be there. As I said, this wasn’t game breaking, but it definitely pulled me out of the experience. Fortunately it didn’t last long.

Overall, “All That Remains” is excellent. The control system carried over from “The Wolf Among Us” is still great, the graphics are sharper and the great storytelling and emotional gut punches are still in full effect. That glitch was annoying but not nearly enough of a problem to seriously alter my opinion of this episode, and this is a must for anyone who can handle the bleak, brutal world and story shown here. Between this and the remaining episodes of “The Wolf Among Us”, 2014 is going to be pretty well covered for great stories told well.

Now if you excuse me, I need a sit down and a strong drink.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Advertisements

Rayman Legends Review

legends header

Why hello there dear readers. It’s that time again, when I try and make up for letting James do the bulk of the work on this here blog, by submitting a paltry review of my own. I’m going to do this more often I swear. Which I’m pretty sure is what I said last time. But I will, really. I promise. Honestly.

So then, Rayman Legends. The 12th game in the Rayman franchise, this title is a more specifically a sequel to 2011’s Rayman Origins. As such, it’s a 2D platformer which blends colourful 2D environments with fantastical worlds and generous helping of co-op goodness thrown in for good measure. The story is basic, functional and largely unimportant: Rayman and his buddies have been taking a well-deserved snooze after all the excitement of Origins. However said sleep over has accidentally taken 100 years. In that century, the Nightmares, evil creatures from the Land of the Livid Dead, (see what they did there?)  under the guidance of the Dark Teensies  who are different from their peaceable Teensie cousins by dint of their top hats and sneaky expressions,  have run amok, capturing peaceful Teensies, harvesting the benevolent Lums and generally being dicks. As such the Bubble Dreamer, who may or may not be God, and who is definitely a frog with a beard and a pipe, has awoken our heroes to kick ass, recuse the Teensies and generally be all heroic and stuff.

The plot is simple but effective, which seems to be a methodology applied to Rayman Legends liberally. The art style feels like a natural evolution from Origins beautiful simple cartoon backgrounds and characters. Each of the 5 main worlds has a distinct theme, from the fantastical Teensies in Trouble, 60’s James Bond parody of 20,000 Lums Under the Sea; to my personal favourite, the sugar coated Mexican anarchy of Fiesta De Los Muertos. However it seems the increased budget has allowed Ubisoft Montpellier to add more elaborate environments as well as some 3D animated models to some enemies and backgrounds. The most common use of these models is on the boss enemies you’ll fight in each world, and it says something about the quality of the animation that there’s no noticeable disconnect from the 2d playable characters and the much larger 3D enemies. Much like Origins before it, Legends proves (as if any of us really needed convincing) that simple, colourful designs are a viable and preferable alternative to the ‘brown, brown, bullets and brown’ aesthetics present in so many other titles.

Level design is impeccable throughout, the beautiful backgrounds zooming by as you jump, punch and glide through searching for hidden teensies and collecting every last lum. Legends is an innocent looking game, but make no mistake, it’s far from child’s play. The difficulty curve is pretty smooth, but it’s pretty large with it. Legends does a good job of marking the levels and worlds with a 1 to 5 skulls difficulty rating, and it’s only when you attempt your first 5 skull level that you realise that it really means it. That said, it almost never feels unfair. If you die, it’s a case of starting again from one of the generous checkpoints and giving it another go. There are odd instances of unavoidable frustration however, more on those below.  Each world has about 6 vanilla platform levels, and then 1 Boss level as the penultimate challenge. As mentioned above, the boss fights are challenging battles against beautifully drawn enemies that wonderfully sum up the style of the world you’re fighting in. but my personal favourite comes at the end of each world, the final level is a fast paced run through a challenging obstacle course, set to music. Again, my favourite is at the end of Fiesta De Los Muertos, Mariachi Madness; where the backing track is Eye of the Tiger. These levels are hard as nails, reminiscent of the chase levels from Origins, but whole level, jumps, enemies and all follows the tune. These are easily the most fun and unique levels in Rayman Legends. And if you manage to unlock the final bonus world Livid Dead Party, you can race through 8-bit version of each level, which somehow manage to up the challenge level to a whole new level.

Legends other real strength is the sheer mass of content included. There are 5 main worlds, with the aforementioned Livid Dead as the final challenge for anyone who collects 400 teensies. Which is a lot. But not quite as much as you might think when you consider that the total teensies available in the game is 700. Collecting the aforementioned pixie people unlocks new levels and worlds, and, as you progress through the game, will unlock Invaded levels. These are time trials based on previously completed levels that give you a set amount of time to reach the end to save the maximum of three teensies. If you want to fully complete these levels, you’re going to need to complete each stage in 40 seconds or less. So have fun with that. Lums, meanwhile have their own uses specific uses. As well as gold, silver or bronze trophies awarded for how many you collect, which can vary from 150 to 600 depending on the level, collecting a specific amount in each levels will unlock a ‘Lucky Ticket’. These care then access from the menu, and ‘scratched off’, in what I suspect was a minigame designed for the WiiU version of the game, to reveal a prize. This can be either a free teensie, a bulk deposit of Lums, a Creature which goes into the gallery and generates lums daily, or an Origins level. That’s right, you read correctly. In addition to all the new stages, the Ubisoft people have thrown in a selection of the best levels from each world in Rayman Origins. On the disc. For free. Because why the hell not I suppose. Add to this the new daily and weekly challenges, where players compete to post highscores and time trials in exchange for yet more lums and the fact that the final unlockable can only be accessed by reach 1,000,000 Lums, and it’s clear that this is a game with some serious longevity.

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops in Legends land however; like any game it’s not perfect and the superb quality of the rest of the game makes the niggling flaws all the more noticeable. The first and most major of my gripes is the presence of Murfy the fairy. He’s supposed to function as a sidekick to Rayman and co, appearing in certain levels to move platforms, tilt levels and do other fun little functions. The problem however, is that he’s a massive pain in the neck. Legends started life as a WiiU exclusive before worries about potential market limitations shifted it to the other consoles. However this means that many of the features designed for the touch screen pad, like the Lucky Ticket minigame, and Murfy’s controls are clumsy and clunky with a regular game pad. It’s by no means a game breaker, but it’s annoying never the less. My other issue is the co-op mode. Much like Origins, Legends allows up to 4 player local co-op. which is nice. It also allows you to slap you friendly players about with almost no consequence. Almost. Because you can hit, collide, bounce off and in some cases, outrun your fellow players, the more delicate platforming sections can become a bit of a chore. That said, that might have something to do with the quality of players I played with. Or more likely, with me.

But overall these are minor quibbles with an otherwise stellar product. Rayman Legends is the sequel Origins deserves and one of the best platformers to be released in a long time. In a world where Mario is considered the be all and end all of 2D platformers, it’s nice to know that there are other characters ready and willing to throw their hat into the ring. Or crown, if you play as King Teensie. Although Rayman doesn’t wear a hat. Neither does Globox. But the point stands dammit! Whatever the hell it was…

Rayman Legends: tons of fun, tons to do, buy it, love it, get some friends round and slap them silly. And then play Rayman Legends with them to make up for it.

Reuben Williams-Smith

@rwilliamssmith