The Walking Dead: Season Two Episode 2 - A House Divided Review

Moppet ninjas and existential crises.

Clementine kicks ass. Episode two of the second season of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead adventure series may be about more than just this pint-size survivor of the zombie apocalypse impaling undead skulls and blasting away with a handgun. But the lasting image that I'm taking away from A House Divided is of the lovable moppet whirling around like a ballcap-wearing ninja who can clearly take care of herself better than any of the adults she encounters.

This isn't a problem for me. As much as Clem's action-hero moments strain believability a bit, her zombie-slaying skills are offset by how much this lonely little girl depends on the kindness of strangers, and by a reminder at the conclusion of just how vulnerable she still is. The result is a superb episode that balances action with a story that picks up the pace from the snoozy episode one and serves as both an intriguing foundation for the season to build upon and a satisfying one-off story in its own right.

From good pals to masticated corpses in less than a minute. Such is life for Clementine now that she's on her own.
From good pals to masticated corpses in less than a minute. Such is life for Clementine now that she's on her own.

Nevertheless, storytelling is still settling in for the long haul. Just like Clementine, we are still getting to know this new group of survivors that she hooked up with in episode one. There isn't any easy empathy for the plight of this group. Still, personalities are developed much more thoroughly here. Pregnant Rebecca is no longer a one-note misanthrope. Nick isn't just a teen rebelling against whatever you've got. Luke seems like he could become a reliable friend, or even something of a younger Lee substitute. Alvin and Carlos are no longer wallflowers. Only Sarah remains the same, and even her childlike attitude is expanded upon in a couple of scenes that make it clear she had problems long before the "hell is full, dead will walk the earth" stuff went down.

Even better, the situation is taking on a personality of its own, and a cloud of mystery and dread hovers in the background of everything. Fear of other people and always taking account of where you are and how much you can safely let your guard down with strangers have been major themes in the Walking Dead game series, but here, everything goes into overdrive. Clem is completely on her own, cut off from all of the support she had during the first season and even during the start of the last episode when she was still traveling with Christa. Her isolation is underlined even further when she meets what should be an old friend, only to find out that this former pal is no longer the same person that she knew. (Also, keep an eye out for the appearance of some other old acquaintances from the 400 Days episode released as a stand-alone installment last summer.)

With A House Divided, season two of The Walking Dead is up and shambling.

Clem is forced to constantly ask herself whom she can trust, if she can actually ever trust anyone in a world where a can of peaches is the difference between life and death. Fighting zombies is easy, even in the white-knuckle brawls highlighted here, such as the railroad bridge showdown and the climactic shootout at the ski lodge where Clem whips under a picnic table and spears a zombie like a fish. What's tough is dealing with other human beings. Dialogue choices get tougher and more pragmatic as the episode goes along. Most of the time it seems like the only sensible option involves telling someone an unflinching truth or taking a hard line that everyone is better off thinking of themselves first. Clem seems to be applying the harsh lesson that she learned from Sam in the first episode to everyone she encounters now, which turns the entire game into one long, absorbing existential crisis. I was almost expecting True Detective nihilist Rust Cohle to be waiting for Clem in the ski lodge, sitting at a picnic table with the world's last six-pack of Lone Star, ready to deliver a lecture about the pointlessness of it all.

You can't say that Clem's pessimistic approach is wrong, either. Something is wrong with this entire group. Bad things happen to everyone they encounter. And they are hiding something, especially when it comes to the mysterious Carver, who makes his first appearance here after being the subject of ominous discussions in the last episode. Thankfully, Carver debuts as a multifaceted villain. He seems motivated by a desire to bring the group to a safe settlement, yet bodies still mount by the end of the episode. Carver has no problem threatening to kill Clem to get what he wants. So he's still a bad guy, albeit a potentially sympathetic bad guy with tinges of a messiah complex reminiscent of a cross between Rev. Jim Jones and Negan, the megalomaniacal monster in the current Walking Dead comics.

Clementine is smart and tough...but she's also four feet tall and 11 years old, making her a perfect portable hostage for gun-toting madmen.
Clementine is smart and tough...but she's also four feet tall and 11 years old, making her a perfect portable hostage for gun-toting madmen.

The bleakness is so overbearing, in fact, that A House Divided steps perilously close to monotony. Every kindness is rewarded with brutality. You just know that any act of generosity will soon be followed up with either a bullet to the head or a bite to the neck. The guy at the ski lodge is willing to give a box full of food to a stranger he just met? OK, just throw yourself off the mountain already, pal. This sort of thing has gotten so predictable that it wouldn't be a bad idea for the developers to pull back from the brink in future episodes before the series ventures into self-parody. Grim is one thing; slaughtering every guy who offers you a friendly smile along with some peaches and beans is something else entirely.

With A House Divided, season two of The Walking Dead is up and shambling. While the first episode was too perfunctory in how it set the stage and got everything into motion, you can now see both the story and the characters taking shape and evolving. This slow-burn approach should continue to pay dividends as the saga matures in future episodes.

The Good

  • More of a self-contained, satisfying story than the first episode of season two
  • Introduces a promising new villain that could rank with the Governor and Negan in the Walking Dead franchise's rogues' gallery
  • Absorbing plot that turns into one long existential crisis

The Bad

  • Unrelenting brutality swerves too close to self-parody

More Platform Reviews

About the Author

Brett Todd bashed zombie skulls and felt really, really sorry for Clementine while taking the two hours needed to play through this episode of The Walking Dead.
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Gelugon_baat

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There sure are a lot more short-lived characters in Season 2 than in Season 1.

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RobGrizz

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Edited By RobGrizz

This review makes a great point about the kindness/brutality thing. They're really pushing it.

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DiverseGamer

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What a cheap reason to knock off two points. I mean, really?

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SnakeWesker

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Really looking forward to playing this series as one big game once they are all out. I'm sure decisions I made last summer in 400 Days mattered in this episode..I just don't remember them.

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dnpmonk25

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This was such a treat to the player who played ALL the episodes. Old friends make an appearance. 400 days decisions now affect this season. This is beyond better then I ever thought! If you didn't play everything in the series (season 1 - 400 days ) DO IT!! I want to play the whole thing over again and see the results. Replay value is off the charts!

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Thesuperstar2k

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Completed the second episode and this episode was great. Was feeling a little rusty at the beginning with the choices I will make because I don't remember a tiny bit the choices I made from the first episode. I also don't remember some interactions I chose to other people, but now I get what to do a little bit. Nice stuff including the comeback that now it made me pay attention to the story.


8/10

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Stu-pendous

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There is a hell of a lot to enjoy about the second episode, but for me the most distinctive feature is Clementine herself. She loans a provocative and potentially rewarding character examination to the player's experience.

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ringringabel

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just finished this episode, and I've gotta say it's the best one I've played out of both seasons. The story just had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, gonna have to check out 400 days while I wait for the next episode, it's good that at least some developers out there care about a decent narrative.

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pip3dream

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@ringringabel I completely agree with you. This was fantastic.

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Thesuperstar2k

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Can't wait to play this episode.

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001011000101101

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I still think it's silly to talk about individual episodes working or not working as a standalone stories.

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hadlee73

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Edited By hadlee73

@pip3dream @hadlee73 Don't get me wrong I like them a lot, but I do miss some of the puzzle-based gameplay we used to get in games like Sam & Max and Back to the Future. Thankfully there are still some indie studios and Jane Jensen trying to keep those alive.

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Gelugon_baat

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@hadlee73

You could have provided a simpler answer by saying that you are of the old-school sort. :P

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feared4power

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Unrelenting brutality swerves too close to self-parody

what

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Gelugon_baat

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@feared4power

Well, this particular episode seems a hell lot gorier, but then, has there been intestines in earlier episodes, including Season 1's?

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Thesuperstar2k

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@Gelugon_baat


Yup, there was one of each episodes that has more gore in episode 1.

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godfather830

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Edited By godfather830

@pip3dream @godfather830 The episodes take forever to come out. It's far smarter to wait till they're all available and buy them at a discount.


Telltale takes forever to make them. Often, by the time a new one comes out, I will have forgotten some of the details from the previous ones.


In the case of A Wolf Among Us, the game went on sale even before the second episode was released. Early buyers always pay more, but they especially get screwed by Telltale.

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pip3dream

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@godfather830 @pip3dream Oh you have no argument from me about the episodic release - i dont like it at all. i dont have your great patience to wait for them to all be released before i play them though. I didn't find out about TWD season 1 until all of the episodes had been released, and i much enjoyed that play through since i could consume it exactly at my own pace.

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GOGOHeadray

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Edited By GOGOHeadray

I'm hoping that the holidays was the primary reason that we had to wait so long between TWD episodes. I would like for these games to go back to the bi-monthly release dates.

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hadlee73

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I guess these types of adventure games are selling so well that Telltale are moving away from the traditional point and click puzzle-based formula and just concentrating on cinematic quick-timers. At least that's the way it seems to me anyway.

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pip3dream

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@hadlee73 Coming from a veteran of point and click adventure games: I think this is an appropriate move. Point and Click games are a product of their time and were a response to how to handle scenarios on the given technology back in the day. You couldn't really do much with really detailed graphical games besides having a static scene that had maybe 1 or 2 moving parts. With the current technology it makes sense that these games have evolved more from a static comic (which is what you could think of the old adventure games) to an animated that has a mixture of all these things. i think its a really great evolution too, i found myself thoroughly engaged. did you?

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godfather830

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Edited By godfather830

I'll buy it after all the episodes are released. And it goes on sale. Every time you buy these episodic games early on, you're getting screwed. Never again.

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pip3dream

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@godfather830 im getting screwed? I paid 19 bucks for the game. 5 episodes at like 2+ hours each?? This seems like a fantastic deal in gaming.

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GuardianofHonor

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Edited By GuardianofHonor

At this point zombie games are just cliche, "yawn" moving on now

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t1striker

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Edited By t1striker

@guardianofhonor

Good thing this isn't like most zombie games, and shows that people are much more dangerous than Zombies. The walking dead is about the characters, and not the zombies.

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Gelugon_baat

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@guardianofhonor

Don't ever be caught praising a zombie-themed game then.

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ziproy

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@guardianofhonor So in your mind, you are not going to play a good game because there are already so many bad games released?? Doesn't sound like a very healthy way to think to me

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hadlee73

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@guardianofhonor What non-cliche game are you moving on to? There aren't many. :)

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samus_my_life

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i'm really glad for having the season pass for second season lolz :)

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t1striker

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@samus_my_life

I didn't think it was possible, but from the first 2 episodes I'm starting to think it's going to top the 1st season, and possibly the comics.

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cgobeil

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I was hoping for something "nice" for this series but I'm sad that it's going the way of the bad guys... the inhumanity!

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Ultra_Taco

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"Unrelenting brutality swerves too close to self-parody"


What?

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SoNin360

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@Ultra_Taco I think that's concerning his complaint that there are almost always ridiculous consequences for anyone who does something nice in the game, though that's a weird way to word it I guess.

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pip3dream

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Edited By pip3dream

@SoNin360 @Ultra_Taco exactly. something i talked about earlier on the thread- you just get so use to the formula


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mruizinho

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I cant imagine adding a score of the original Walking Dead, if i didnt play the whole game.

If i played the original episode by episode i probably add given an 8 while for me its an obvious 10, about this game i will wait until we have all episodes and hope someone review it as a whole.

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SoNin360

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@mruizinho I agree, it's hard to rate individual episodes because you're only getting a chunk of the game. That's like playing the first portion of a game for a few hours and rating/reviewing it.

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RickPhoenixxx

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Edited By RickPhoenixxx

Clementine is garbage as a main protagonist, hell she was useless as a supporting character even. The decision to kill off Lee was horrible, as he was the only likeable character in the whole last game! The game boasts that it lets you make "choices" that affect the story going forward, but that's bullshit since all the predetermined things happen anyway. Why was I even given a choice to cut off Lee's arm if he was just going to die anyway at the end? That would be like Rick cutting off Herschells' leg at the prison on the tv show, and then him dying a few hours later it makes no sense! How these "games" get such good scores I have no idea, just read the comics or watch the show it's just as interactive an experience.

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pip3dream

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@rickphoenixxx Dude, just no. Clementine is fantastic as a protagonist. I wasn't as sold on her in episode 1, but in this episode it did the trick. I really lost myself in her character and found myself imagining the choices I would make as an 11 year old girl yet with the knowledge i have now and i found it incredibly rewarding.

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jadaski1

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@rickphoenixxx Clementines awesomeness is universally recognized amongst anyone with a pulse! You lost all credibility with that first sentence.

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MlauTheDaft

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Nicely written Brett.

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Pierce_Sparrow

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Just finished it and, man, Telltale really knows how to toy with you. What a great episode. A little too short in my opinion, but what little there is sure packs a punch. And the new antagonist is a great character. I love the developments with Clem and how she can become the character you turn her into. She's becoming pretty badass. Overall, the new season is shaping up to be fantastic. Not sure it will surpass the first yet, but I sure hope so. I want this series to get better and better.


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D-MonDRV

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I didn't like this episode nearly as much as quite a few people did. Nowhere near as intense as the last episode.

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pip3dream

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@D-MonDRV Very true- and its something I noted too. I think this is actually a good thing though, ya know? This episode showed MATURITY and RESTRAINT on Telltales part. I feel like a lot of the walking dead games have become too formulaic in terms of like.. okay here we go , meet someone, yay they are nic-OMG THEY GOT SHOT THROUGH THE FACE AND I HAD TO SHOOT THEIR LEG OFF TO SAVE HIS DINGO. rinse and repeat. I actually aprecaited that this episode really stretched its narrative out- it didnt just rely on horrible set pieces to hit you in the gut - it used skillful writing to set scenes, and really actually immerse you more into the story and environment. I've always love this series, but this was the first episode where i REALLY FELT ENGAGED in a sense i hadnt before... like I was riveted not in disgust, or fear or terror- but i was just riveted because the pacing is so natural that it doesnt really every pull you out of the story, because you have to look away or yell gross, or whatever, you just go deeper and deeper under the narratives spell, almost hypnotically. anyway, a long way of saying i appreciate what you're saying, but i actually liked that this episode stretched out its scares and intense plot elements... i think it generally made it a more effective story vehicle.

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dmblum1799

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dmblum1799  Online

I assume this will be coming out on the IOS for Ipad, right? I have the first episode of season 2 but it doesn't seem up on Itunes.

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SoNin360

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One of the best episodes yet in my opinion. It leaves a lot to think about and there's some good character development and overall great writing.


I pretty much never look at reviews before playing games, but wow, this one is full of spoilers, albeit mostly subtle ones. That goes for the photos too. I know it's hard to review a game without going into some detail with its plot, but come on now.

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pip3dream

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@SoNin360 these games are especialy difficult to review because it's not about the gameplay, it is about the gripping narrative and the fact that you're IN the narrative as a character. If they didn't go into details i think the review would just be like "it's awesome, go play it." but yes, i tend to never read a review for a game until ive either won the game, or ive played the game for significant hours. Granted, if im curious I'll jump to the score of a game just to get an idea of what im in for... but in general, i find that my experience is MUCH better when i dont read deep into reviews, because i get to enjoy things fresh and for myself first hand. reviews spoil so much, without even trying or realizing it sometimes. its hard not to.

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pip3dream

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Writing wise, this was one of the best episodes in the series so far. Everything flows very natural, with context, and is consistent with the game logic. I just want the whole game, damnit. :)

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Cloud_imperium

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Will wait for series to complete before touching it again .

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The Walking Dead: Season Two - A Telltale Games Series

First Released Dec 17, 2013
released
  • Android
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One

The Walking Dead: Season Two - A Telltale Games Series consists of five episodes and will continue the story of Clementine, a young girl orphaned at the outset of the undead apocalypse, now left to her own devices to seek safety and survive in a world gone mad.

9
Superb

Average Rating

586 Rating(s)

8.3
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco