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The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 3: ‘In Harm’s Way’ | Review

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Platforms: PC/ Mac OS X/ PS3/ Xbox 360/ iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Rating: M (ESRB)
Review code provided by Telltale Games

 

We’re more alike than you think.” Carver

Family is important, yet so is safety. After being captured by ruthless Carver and his group at the end of ‘A House Divided’, living in his strict community of labour and punishment proves to be tough. It’s a jail sentence for them all and breaking free won’t be easy—it’ll be almost a death sentence. Hope of escape is doubted, trust is a risk, everyone is on edge, herds of zombies are gaining in and a psychopath threatens everyone’s fate. Welcome to Episode 3: In Harm’s Way.

Depending on your choices in the previous episode and who is still alive will change certain scenes. I won’t go into any spoilers, but if Alvin is alive in your playthrough, you’ll see an awesome, heroic side to him, I’ll say that much.

Hands Tied

Hands tied and no going back, the group is taken to their old ‘home’, a place they dread, while Clementine, Kenny and Sarita have a fair idea what to expect and it won’t be pretty. Forgiveness is one of the main themes in this episode, and trying his best to forgive the escapees, Carver welcomes them back and ensures they’re safe and secure as though as they play by his rules and try not to escape again. But let’s face it, we all know that isn’t going to happen.

With a few questions answered about the community and the group’s past, prepare to meet some new faces—one of them being a new badass female character named Jane who will most likely be favoured by many—along with others you may have seen before. Friend or foe, trusting others is a gamble.

No one is safe and not everyone will agree with you and the plan. But one thing is for sure, everyone in the new group wants to leave and it’s only a matter of time. With herds of zombies approaching and suspicion rising within the community, time is of the essence. Is Luke the group’s only hope?

Escaping is only just the beginning and a rough road will be ahead of them.

The Fight

Along with forgiveness, responsibility is another key theme in this episode. The group look up to you now and you can’t help but feel responsible for each of them since most of the time they’re counting on you to do almost everything. Your selflessness will be tested, leaving you with choices to take the blame for other’s actions and risk possible punishment, as well as the decision to put others before your own self.

Some parts will frustrate you, shock you and even make you question yourself and your choices. Will you be the stone or will you be the heart? Whichever way you choose, buckle up for a new bloody adventure, Prison Break style.

The Walking Dead - Prison Break

Although Telltale delivered another engaging episode with smooth gameplay and detailed artwork as usual, it did have its drawbacks. I found the beginning was a little slow but it definitely intensifies later on, the main choices you have to make didn’t affect or have a huge impact on anything—not in this episode anyway—since they focussed on Clementine’s character and her morality more than anything else, there weren’t any twists and the gameplay felt quite narrow/linear and controlled since you couldn’t explore and interact much.

As for the gameplay, it’s exactly the same as the others, though there is a new ‘hold A’ action key which, honestly, threw me off a little. Compared to the last episode, In Harm’s Way felt a lot shorter and contained more cinematic and dialogue scenes than exploring and interaction which is a bit of a disappointment. In my opinion, I think it would have been a cool idea if they added the choice of which new characters you want to take into your group and plan to escape with, or make a sacrifice between two characters with a tough choice of who stays behind—that would have spiced things up a bit.

Hope

Overall, In Harm’s Way definitely wasn’t a bad episode. It was a lot more violent and brutal than the others, especially if you choose to stay during a certain scene, but A House Divided still remains as the best episode yet. It could have been better if more interaction and exploring was offered and if your choices deeply affected the storyline.

When you’re in harm’s way, who you can trust and who you forgive is up to you, but one thing is certain: survive. The group looks up to you, they trust you, and when all hell breaks loose, you can’t help but feel responsible because…you are.

The Walking Dead Season 2

The Walking Dead: Season Two can be bought on Steam, PSN, Xbox Live, iOS App Store, or through the Telltale Games website

Stephanie is an aspiring novelist who loves writing—both fiction and non-fiction—and enjoys editing. Having graduated from University studying Professional Writing and Editing, she continues to do what she loves most: writing novels, short stories and poetry, as well as writing and editing articles for the site and listening to her favourite band, Linkin Park. But apart from writing, there is one other primary passion of hers. Video games. From playing Monkey Island on Microsoft DOS, to Doom, Mario, The Sims, Grand Theft Auto and Tomb Raider, her love for video games became a part of her life at a young age and they always will be.

Review

Stranger Things 3: The Game Review — Mindflayingly Average

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Stranger Things 3: The Game logo

The Stranger Things series has been a big success for Netflix. A love letter to ‘80s pop culture, with a focus on the science fiction and horror movies of the time, the show has been hugely popular, with the latest season screened on over 40 million accounts in its first four days. Accompanying the launch of the television season is Stranger Things 3: The Game. Developed by BonusXP Inc, which previously created Stranger Things: The Game for mobile devices, the game is an isometric brawler which competently retells the story of Stranger Things 3, but has little of its own to say. Mild spoilers for Stranger Things 3 ahead.  

The game opens one year after the events of Stranger Things season two. While trying to contact his camp girlfriend with a high-tech ham radio, Dustin overhears a strange recording spoken in Russian. Determined to figure out what it means, he teams up with Steve and his coworker Robin to try and decode the message. Meanwhile, strange occurrences have been happening around Hawkins, with rats devouring fertiliser and chemicals. Max’s brother Billy is looking decidedly unwell, thickly wrapped in jumpers while he works as a lifeguard. A tingle at the back of Will’s neck tells him the mindflayer’s presence still lingers around the town. As events progress, a group of average kids must save the world from an otherworldly monstrous threat once again.  

Stranger Things 3: The Game takes place in a semi-open world, with more locations unlocked as players progress. The player starts out in control of Mike and Lucas, who wield a bat and slingshot respectively. Two characters are always on screen, with the other person controlled by AI. Local co-op is available and seems to be the intended way to play—the AI for the second player is not very smart. When in single-player mode, the player can switch between the two characters on the fly, and any unlocked characters can be swapped to as well. The other characters unlock over the course of the story, with a total of 12 to choose from. Each character can attack and block and has a unique special move, such as Max’s healing hearts or Jonathan’s stunning camera flash. Special moves cost energy, which can be replenished by drinking New Coke or picked up from defeated enemies. With each character playing so differently, the game would benefit from restricting which characters can be used in each scenario, as finding a favourite combination and sticking to it is far too easy. This lack of restriction also caused some weird story occurrences, like Nancy wandering around the void or Hopper hanging out with Mike while he mopes about breaking up with Eleven.

Exploring Hawkins involves lots of switch puzzles, and using characters’ special abilities, like Dustin hacking into a locked door or Joyce cutting the lock off of a gate with her bolt cutters. The puzzles are generally straightforward, with the Russians inexplicably leaving clues in English for the player to find, but more complicated riddles can be found by wandering off the beaten track. The creepy deserted pizza place has some based on pi, and exploring optional rooms in the Russian base will reward the player with rare crafting items.

Crafting in Stranger Things 3: The Game is poorly implemented. Items can only be made at workbenches, which makes sense for complicated contraptions, but is annoying at other times (for example, having to retreat out of the pool area because Eleven needs to put duct tape on her swimming goggles). When looking in a store, no indication appears on what items are already in the player’s inventory. Apart from plot items, the player can also make trinkets, which improve the party’s statistics. A wide variety of trinkets are available, from improving a single character’s attack to increasing the health of the whole party. Finding the missing items to create a trinket is tricky due to the poor shopping interface, and the sparse placement of workbenches gives the player few chances to actually craft the items. Fortunately, fighting enemies is easy enough that crafting can mostly go ignored.

Combat is simple, for the most part, with the player smashing everything on screen to progress. Hawkins is absolutely infested with rats and Russians, with even the library packed to the brim with bad guys. Though the excessive numbers of similar enemies is normal in the brawling genre, more variety would have been appreciated. The late game Russians become more interesting, with knife throwers, chemical spills, and grenades, but the first three-quarters of the game consists of the same baddies over and over.

An exception to this repetition is the challenging boss battles, which are far tougher than the average gameplay. Bosses will need extra conditions to be met before they can be damaged, like switching lights on, dodging charge attacks, or keeping several baddies away from each other. Some work better than others—for example, one battle relied on keeping two boss creatures apart to prevent them from healing each other, which simply did not work in single player since the AI fighter closely follows the main character. Instead, defeating the boss required exploiting Nancy’s critical hit ability to do enough damage to kill the monsters before they could heal, a strategy that required some luck to succeed. Other boss encounters fared better, with the trial of constantly repairing Hopper’s cottage as slimy creatures crawl through the windows proving tough and intense.  A dodge button would be a useful addition to the movement options, since the bosses run so much faster than the player does. The game is also a bit stingy on providing a place to stock up before a boss battle, which should be included considering the spike in difficulty they represent. Still, these battles are where the game shines brightest, showing creativity and variety that is sorely lacking in other areas.

Stranger Things 3: The Game is faithful to a fault, feeling like a very detailed recap of the season. A few sidequests tell their own story, like doing chores for the creepy Granny Perkins or exploring the abandoned electronics store, but for the most part, the player will be re-enacting scenes from the television series, with a bit of extra rat murder and crafting thrown in. Clinging so closely means the story has nowhere exciting to go since the player has presumably already watched the season. If the player has not seen the show, that would be even worse, as it is a non-scary adaptation of a horror show that completely loses the tone. The occasional dialogue choice is thrown in, but the response makes no difference either way. Adding in some choices alongside possibilities of events going differently would make things far more engaging. 

A highlight of Stranger Things 3: The Game is the art direction, with some beautiful 16-bit recreations of the cast and environments. With the exception of Jonathan, who looks like his pointy-chinned cousin, the sprites are a good resemblance of the cast. The monsters are appropriately fleshy and gross, with the final boss, in particular, looking foreboding. Environments can get a bit repetitive, with one sprite for all the beds, one for all the cupboards, etcetera. Sprite laying issues do occur on occasion—the ashtrays all hover in front of the characters, for example. The chiptune recreation of the show’s music, however, is spot on, and converting the title theme into a Zelda-like solved puzzle jingle is impressive indeed.    

Stranger Things 3: The Game gameplay

Stranger Things 3: The Game is only for really big fans of the show. Even then, the title is hard to recommend since it is an inferior version of the television season. While the gameplay is not bad, it is too repetitive to be enjoyable on its own. The game would perhaps be best played just before season four comes out, as a novel way of recapping the previous season.   

OnlySP Review Score 2 Pass

Reviewed on PC. Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android devices.

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