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July 19, 2012
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By Matthew Scott Hunter

‘The Walking Dead: The Game — Episode 2: Starved for Help’

(M)

****

Telltale Games

Xbox Live Arcade

Unlike most zombie video games, but very much like the best zombie movies, the eponymous ghouls in “The Walking Dead” aren’t the focus of the story. Sure, the undead and their corresponding apocalypse are the catalyst for the plot, but once they get the show started, they’re more like extras than featured players. In Episode 2 of Telltale Games’ engrossing narrative, you’ll have the gruesome task of leaving a few shambling corpses in shambles, but most of your three to four-hour play-through will be spent conversing with your fellow man, which can be every bit as tense and disturbing as any confrontation with a ravenous brain-eater. As the title hints, you and your fellow survivors are running low on sustenance, which makes everyone less worried about being food and more worried about finding food. And hungry people are seldom polite.

In the first episode, protagonist Lee Everett was an outsider, focused on concealing his dark past. This time around, he’s a full-fledged member of the group, which enriches his social interactions and leaves him with some difficult choices (like who gets to eat when there isn’t enough food for everyone). Though the game plays very much like an old-fashioned point-and-click adventure, it keeps the pace swift by giving you a limited amount of time to choose from less-than-ideal options. Different choices can drastically change the course of the episode, demanding multiple play-throughs. And since “Episode 2” takes into account your actions from “Episode 1,” you’ll likely want to replay the first chapter a few different ways as well. That should be plenty of content for hungry players to feast on until Telltale serves up “Episode 3.”


‘NCAA Football 13’

(E)

***1/2

EA Sports

Xbox 360

You’d have to play “NCAA Football 13” and its predecessor from last year on side-by-side screens to spot the differences, but they’re there. Speedier animations, motion blur and subtle tweaks to the A.I. are welcome, if somewhat imperceptible, changes. Fortunately, “Madden,” the annual precursor was a pretty decent game of pigskin to begin with. That said, it’s not as though there’s nothing left for developer EA Tiburon to improve. While the ESPN-style presentation is top-notch, the dull, menu screen-heavy Dynasty Mode remains a persistent source of annoyance.

‘Metal Gear Solid HD Collection’

(M)

***1/2

Konami

PlayStation Vita

“Metal Gear Solids 2” and “3” sneak onto Sony’s flashy new handheld, looking better than they originally did on PS2. But stealthy as this anthology is, the absence of “Peace Walker” won’t slip past hardcore “Metal Gear” fans — especially since that excellent PSP addition to the series was included on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of this collection. Still Naked Snake’s romp through the jungle and Solid Snake’s nuclear war averting efforts are a blast to play on the go, even if one Snake is sadly missing in action.



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