Not Child's Play…
Telltale has done a lot to not just revive but revitalize the adventure game genre; indeed you could say that Telltale has done a lot to bring it back from the dead, but considering the subject of this review that would be a truly awful pun. One of the showpieces of Telltale's current product line is their Walking Dead series based off the work of Robert Kirkman, and which is now in its second season. The first season focused on Lee Everett, a former history professor who was arrested for murder and on his way to jail during the outbreak, and his relationship with a little girl called Clementine. The second season is very much Clementine's show but, in many ways, In Harm's Way is where Clementine takes center stage.
The story of In Harm's Way is that Clementine and company have been captured by William Carver, the man who was searching for Clementine's new companions, and has delivered them back to his base of operations located inside an old hardware store. They have food, they have power, they have protection, but sadly they also have to deal with Carver, a man who is trying to establish a new community within the confines of the old store. That doesn't sound too bad, but Carver takes his responsibilities very seriously and feels that no method is too brutal to preserve what he is trying to build. For Carver, there is always a second chance, but you never get a third.
One thing that may initially seem like a point against this episode is how the emphasis on characterization that has been a staple of the series so far seems to take a backseat. In Episode 2 there was a lot more discussion and interaction between the characters, which makes sense as they were all getting to know each other for the first time, but in Episode 3 everyone in the group is more concerned with getting out then with chatting with each other. This makes sense from a story perspective as they just want to get the hell away from Carver as fast as they can, but it felt as if all the characters but Clementine took a backseat on this trip. However this really isn't that big a deal for me as the character development that Clementine shows during this episode more than makes up for anything the other characters could have said or done.
In Harm's Way is basically Clementine's show and she shines throughout it; she's rapidly earning her place in the coterie of tough girls that have been been making their presence felt in the gaming industry lately. Ellie from the The Last of Us, Jodi from Beyond: Two Souls, and yes, indeed, Clementine are all proving themselves to be characters who never stop trying to survive even against the more dangerous of adversaries. The challenge the player has in this episode is to determine what kind of Clementine you will have at the end of the episode; will she be the same resilient yet still childlike or will she start to shed her innocence in order to increase her survival and the survival of those around her? Just how far will she go? Answering these questions were my favorites and often most unsettling parts of the episode, like in the screenshot seen below.
The rest of the game is pretty much what you'd come to expect by now. Controls, graphics, and audio are up to Telltale's usual quality but I do admit to having a minor beef with the load times. These seemed to be very slow and there were times where the audio playback would start up even before the graphics had finished loading. The action sequences and conversation choices worked very well in maintaining of level of drama and helped to keep me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the episode.
The third entry in an episodic series is often where you seen just how much of a success or a failure a game will be. Fortunately both Clementine and In Harm's Way weathered their own mutual challenges well with quieter scenes that set the state for more drama later on and white knuckle moments that only lead to bigger scares down the line. It may not be much fun for poor Clementine, but for fans of Telltale or The Walking Dead, it is.