The Walking Dead: All That Remains - Honest Tale Review

Life can be tough when you’re a small kid in a world so grown up that its everyday demands often cause adults to squabble like children. And now it’s even tougher since everyone that Clementine has ever loved is either dead, missing or stumbling about somewhere performing the Thriller dance.

Starving and exhausted, there are some brief but endearing moments of respite in this season opener when she enjoys the opportunity to wash her face to see the tiny human beneath the grime, as well as a chance to play catch with an abandoned and seemingly chummy dog. Neither last long, all end in sorrow, so if you’re expecting some light relief then you’ve come to a very wrong place.

Telltale’s Walking Dead games have always been about the player putting emotional investment in characters, and by focusing on Clementine the developer has forced us to go from being her carer to actually playing as her. We see her develop considerably from when she was the frightened wee thing that Lee Everett found hiding in a treehouse, right before he beat her rotting babysitter to death with a claw hammer.

She’s grown up fast and All That Remains sure doesn’t hold back in providing situations that prove exactly how far she’s come 16 months after she gets to check her face out in a mirror as the opening credits roll, though she’s so well written that her inner strength has always shone through without Telltale needing to express it out loud for the benefit of the audience. Clem is definitely a survivor, but ultimately she’s still a young girl in a grown-up world that even adults can hardly handle. Brilliantly, while they may patronise her, this episode certainly doesn’t, instead putting her firmly on her own hero’s journey, forcing her to endure the sort of harsh trials that would have had a young Lara Croft sniffing and snuffling through some awful dialogue and practically holding up a card that reads, “I’m Really Upset And Confused!” Clementine emotes far more subtly, smartly and often hauntingly, and so as a reintroduction to her personality the episode is a triumph. What it lacks is anyone else to really care about. Once you’ve befriended someone who then goes on to die horrifically, possibly because you made a wrong (or right) decision, it’s fair to develop at least some trust issues – and by the end of the episode’s first act, Clem is once again in the company of strangers who have issues of their own. Relationships can be built and trust earned or lost, but right until the cliffhanger conclusion it’s easy to imagine that anyone other than the lead character could end up dead at any time.

Worse, because you won’t have the option to secure a door that needed to be pried open (even though Clem should be far smarter by now), you’ll be left wondering if anyone you’ve met will be alive by midway through the next instalment anyway. We’ve a lot of faith in the writers to reward, as well as punish, our investments, but should such a lack of choice lead to disaster we’re still going to feel marginally disappointed, if not that little bit cheated. That’s if we can remember such a small detail, of course. Telltale will be releasing The Walking Dead Season Two’s episodes alternately with those for the equally excellent The Wolf Among Us, which means we can expect to wait two months to learn the consequences of our enforced open door policy, if there are any at all. Unlike the otherwise elegant The Walking Dead: 400 Days that acted as a multi-story snack between seasons, there’s a finer mix of conversation and standard object hunting to enjoy and, thanks to the connection between player and the girl in the baseball hat, you’d have to be somewhere on the psychopath scale to ignore how even small actions like using the cursor to open a tin of beans further firms the emotional bond.

All in all it’s still far more a piece of interactive fiction than it is an actual game, of course, but due to Clementine being developed with such skill it feels much greater than the sum of its parts throughout, even more so that when Lee was your man. And as the first episode for a new season it’s an absolute corker that covers a lot of ground, introduces a wide variety of newcomers and perfectly thrusts you into the zombie apocalypse as viewed from a far shorter, but certainly no less smarter, perspective.

If there’s one problem with Telltale’s format it’s that the final choice you’ll have to make before this episode is done playing with your emotions feels arbitrary – and that even by making what obviously looks like the right decision given the circumstances, it doesn’t feel that much like a decision at all. The repercussions seem to be obvious so, while All That Remains retains the highest qualities found in the previous season and is up there with the best of them, we’ll still have to wait to see how it all fits together before we can say much more than that it’s of as high a quality as anything that has come before.