The Walking Dead. I loved the comic up to a certain point. I somewhat like the tv series too, although to be honest I haven’t watched the second season completely. There’s plenty of potential in the franchise, but it seems some of it is being squandered. To my delight the new adventure game shows none of this.
The TWD adventure game by Telltale Games tells the story of Lee Everett, who’s on his way to prison when everything goes to hell. Lee’s story runs parallel to the comic book’s, and there are some cameos – at least Glenn makes an appearance in the first episode of the game.
Yes, episodes. Something of a trademark of Telltale Games, they tend to release their games in tv-series like episodes. Each episode provides 2-3 hours of gaming, and five or so episodes compose a season. I found the format enjoyable when playing the new Sam & Max, and it works equally well with TWD. Why? I don’t always have a lot of time for gaming. Sure, I can stay up until the small hours, but that means shambling zombie-like into the office in the morning. The ability to play through an entire adventure game in pretty much the same time it takes to watch a film is simply excellent. The short length of individual episodes means a coherent story and zero filler material. Everything in the game furthers the story, enhances the characters or otherwise contributes to the whole.
The story? It’s naturally filled with the typical zombie genre tropes. Loyalties, conflicting interests, tough decisions, jump scares…it’s all there. Thankfully it’s executed with class. Telltale obviously has some talented writers, as the game just works. Having seen a fair few zombie movies and read a lot of zombie literature, I’ve definitely seen my share of bad writing, hollow characters and other similar annoyances. None of that here. The game is very much like the first graphic novels in that regard. There are some scary moments, some actually touching ones as well as humour thrown in. None of it breaks the atmosphere of the game. All in all it’s an immersive story, helped along by the game mechanics. Furthering this immersion is the fact that the game changes depending on your choices. A bit of dialogue just might be referenced two hours later and affect how a character treats you.
TWD works well and sounds and looks nice. The game runs smoothly on my several years old PC, and the cel shaded graphics really make for a great comic book look. See below for yourself, this is an actual in-game graphic.
Click for a larger version
The voice acting and dialogue is top notch. There is a lot of talking in this game, but it isn’t wearisome. In most dialogues you don’t have the option to go back, and there’s a time limit to pick your answer. Miss the limit, and your character just stands there silent. None of that traditional god-awfully boring tediousness of going through every single dialogue option to find the relevant info. Bioware, I’m looking at you. The dialogue mechanic actually sometimes leads to you blurting out the first thing that comes to mind and regretting it later, or staying silent since you don’t know what to say. I love it!
As a game, TWD is standard adventure fare. There are puzzles, picking up objects, clicking the right hotspots and the like. As it is a zombie game, there are some action sequences too. These are usually pretty simple stuff, and mechanics-wise tie in well with the rest of the game. These offer some really tense moments at times, and are used sparingly to keep them effective. The puzzles aren’t very difficult, and the game plays more like an interactive film than a hardcore adventure game. Some people might not like this, but I really enjoyed not having the story stop for hours because I couldn’t figure out some inconsistent problem.
Honestly, I can’t think of a lot of bad things to say about this game. To a genre fan, some of the tropes might seem too familiar or some of the plot turns too predictable. Then again, I’m a genre fan and didn’t mind at all. At the moment my biggest gripe is having to wait for the next episode to come out.
Overall verdict: The Walking Dead is a great adventure game, that plays pretty much like an interactive zombie movie. The story is compelling and the execution brilliant, so if you’re looking for a great zombie game experience, look no further!
The first two episodes of TWD are currently out, and the third one is coming in August. The game’s RRP is $24.99 which includes all five episodes. You can get the game from Telltale’s own site or Steam, where it’s currently (July 17th, 2012) on offer at -25%.