It could have gone so horribly wrong. One of the greatest successes of the first season of The Walking Dead was the ever-changing nature of the relationship between protagonist Lee and his young charge Clementine. An uneasy alliance blossomed into something akin to a father-daughter relationship, the escaped convict teaching his surrogate offspring how to survive in a world where death is around every corner. So the news that Clem would be the playable lead in Season Two was naturally greeted with a little suspicion: would we really be able to empathise with the thought processes of a young girl? Could playing as Clem potentially cheapen the impact of the previous season's devastating finale?
All That Remains offers pretty conclusive answers to both questions. One thing is immediately apparent: TellTale isn't going to sugar-coat things for Clementine, nor the player. The world is every bit as nasty and unforgiving as it was before, as an emotional gut-punch of a prologue makes clear. And there's worse to come. This is a brutal opener in places, most notably in one scene that lulls you into a false sense of security before a sudden, dark twist forces you to re-evaluate. Later, there's an extended interactive sequence that is genuinely hard to play through, in the best possible sense. Make no mistake, you will feel Clem's pain, both physical and emotional.
Expect squirms and shocks, then, but plenty of quieter moments, too. Though in the main it makes a pretty clean break from previous events (Clem aside), TellTale can't resist throwing in a few nods to the first season, mostly as sad reminders of what you've already been through. Clem still wears That Hat and carries around a photo of Lee, though an early vignette invites you to consider whether it's worth clinging to the past when letting go might help safeguard your future - if only for a little while.
Though Clem isn't on her own for too long, the episode allows us time to get to know her better. 16 months have passed since the events of the first season and Clementine isn't just a little older, she's a good deal tougher. Sure, there are reminders that ultimately she's still a vulnerable young girl - though she's honed her survival skills, she's still no match for a swarming mass of lumbering walkers - but now she's hardened from experience, wiser and more world-weary. While Melissa Hutchinson won plaudits for her portrayal of Clem during the last season, at times it was hard to ignore the occasional awkwardness that resulted from an adult playing a child. Now Clem is a little more grown-up and both the script and the performance feel like a more natural fit.
Story is everything in The Walking Dead, of course, and it would be remiss to give away too much of what follows. Suffice to say that we're introduced to a new group of characters who aren't quite given enough screen time to develop any real personality, even if their responses to Clem's presence will likely have you picking a few favourites - and one you might prefer to pick a fight with instead. Beyond that, you're given scant idea of what's to come: you'll learn that there's a secret this group isn't prepared to divulge just yet, and encounter another bunch of less friendly survivors. But that's about it. While the teaser for the next episode introduces an intriguing possibility that'll have forums excitedly predicting what it could possibly be, it's a pity there aren't more threads to really grab hold of.
A shame, too, that at times TellTale is content to retread old ground. Two moments in particular are merely variants on choices we've seen before, and while one of them looks set to have a long-term impact on the narrative, it's a hint at what we hope doesn't turn into a full-blown creative malaise. The interface has been tweaked very slightly, but it could still do with further refinement, and while the quicktime events during the action sequences are often fittingly frantic, some of them are also awkward and overly familiar. It's still blighted by technical problems, too, including a stuttering frame-rate, halting transitions and stilted animations. We've grown accustomed to clumsy camera shifts and invisible walls, but there's no real excuse why a game that can hardly be pushing the 360's architecture should run so poorly at times.