After the "every decision is a bad decision" third episode, "The Long Road Home," (my review), Telltale Games opted to follow up with a more action-oriented episode of The Walking Dead with "Around Every Corner." The continuation of the band of survivors' adventure finds them in the ruins of Savannah, Georgia on two little-to-no-hope missions: locating Clementine's parents and finding a working boat in order to possibly find an unoccupied island or safe haven at sea.
In contrast to the many emotional, wrenching decision Lee had to make in episode three, many of the choices in the penultimate episode boil down to managing the group so that you can more effectively reach the end game next episode. And while this feels like the most adventure game-y of the series, it also loses some of the last impact of previous episodes.
When we last saw the group, they'd just made it to Savannah which fared about as well as most other major cities--which is to say not at all. Plus, Lee and Kenny learned that a mysterious voice over Clementine's walkie talkie was drawing the little girl to Savannah for its own mysterious reasons. Discovering more about the faceless caller is one of several mysteries in this episode, including discovering the secret of the barricaded community of Crawford (and what its inhabitants are up to), while learning more about the group's new addition, Molly, a tough-talking scavenger with her own mercenary agenda.
The ultimate fate of Crawford is kind of a surprise in as much as it's curious that they chose an entirely different extreme than the one we were probably all expecting, but again, it's the way of the world set up by The Walking Dead. Once you're inside its walls, Crawford becomes a place where the group might be able to find some of the supplies they need to make their escape from Savannah, forming the bulk of this chapter's action. The hunt for much-needed supplies--medicine for an ailing Omid, etc.--work like more traditional find and use adventure game structure, complete with combination codes and at least one unexpected discovery about a character.
This episode also potentially brings to a head the group's relationship with chronic screw-up Ben, who continues to blame himself for the the events at the motel last episode. It would be easier to sympathize with the teen if he wasn't consistently portrayed as an almost comical goofball (in particular the bit with the hatchet which would have involved a catastrophic collapse of his intelligence in order to make sense). The character is transformed from simply misguided to outright dumb, bringing to mind some of the worst aspects of the TV series whose plots only work because at any given time one of Rick's group is likely to do something dumb to put everyone else in peril.
Chronically stupid characters aren't especially interesting and their plots more often than not feel like cheap dodges to actually developing the story, and it's no different here (although not necessarily plot-breaking).
"Around Every Corner" is the weakest entry in The Walking Dead, but thanks to two painful turns in the end, the finale promises more answers and some finality for our heroes.
The Walking Dead: Episode 4 - Around Every Corner is available now on PC/Mac, PS3, and the 360 from Telltale Games.
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