An episodic horror adventure that’s really more of an interactive story than it is a video game, and that’s a good thing.
I was a big fan of the graphic adventure games of the 80’s and 90’s. I must have played every Quest game Sierra Online ever produced and have always been kind of sad that the genre died out. Part of the attraction was the puzzles to be figured out, but most what was fun in those games were the stories and humor. Telltale Games The Walking Dead brings new life to the adventure game, and puts more of an emphasis on story and character than on the point and click gameplay.
Fans of Robert Kirkmans graphic novels and the TV show on HBO don’t need to worry about seeing the same story retold in a new medium. The game takes place in the same world, but features all new characters with their own stories. I won’t give too much away, but one of the things I really liked was that instead of making the protagonist a clone of Rick Grimes, he’s almost his complete opposite. Rick was a Sheriff, while Lee Everett is a convicted murderer on his way to prison when the Zombie outbreak occurs.
The look and feel of the game is fairly unique. It’s done in a 3D cell shading style that borrows heavily from the graphic novel, and instead of the static camera point of view that is most common to these games, much of the story is presented in a handheld “shaky cam” style often used in dramas today. Combined with changing camera edits, you really get the feeling of directing a story, not playing it. You decide how to respond to people’s questions, how to distribute food when low on rations, and who lives or dies when the walkers are swarming your group of survivors. The game is delivered in an episodic format (except the iOS version apparently), each ending with a cliff hanger, much like both the comic book and show do. 5 episodes are planned for season 1.
I love this game, it gets my heart pounding like few games do, and has only a couple of negative points, which aren’t big enough to stop me from recommending it to everyone I know. The first is the controls. They are a little finicky. You have to have your cursor on exactly the right spot to work, and I got stuck at one point in episode three where I knew what I neede to do, but just could not figure out how to make the controls do what was required. I re-played the same scene about 10 times before getting it to work, which was frustrating, but fortunately one of the few times it was that difficult to play.
My second complaint about the game is more of a disappointment. One of the key features advertised was that the story of the game would change based on the decisions and choices you make. It even says it right at the start of each episode, “This game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play.” Which sounds AWESOME! Except it is misleading. Dialog changes, and people’s attitude towards you changes, but the story will always unfold in the same way, no matter whos side you choose in an argument, or what you say to anyone. Even when you choose to save character and another dies, it ultimately doesn’t matter as they both play the same role in subsequent episodes. So the re-play value was nowhere near as high as I thought it would be. What is cool about it is that at the end of the each episode the game shows how your choices compared to those of others who played the game, and when each new episode starts, the “Previously on The Walking Dead” clips reflect your decisions.
Overall, it’s one of the best games I’ve played in a while, simply because of the emotional impact the story and characters deliver. I can’t wait for the climax in episode 5.