Imagine a world where a mutated virus causes the dead to rise and then stalk and eat the living. Now, throw in a few desperate survivors that will do anything to stay alive. This is the main premise of The Walking Dead (an ongoing story of survival horror) that was first released as a comic in 2003. The comic was written by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and published by Image Comics. Later developed into a TV series which aired on AMC in 2009, it is currently going into its 3rd season. Both comic and show have since become cult hits, which sparked Kirkman to team up with Telltale Games to produce the video game. Telltale Games is known for producing point and click graphic adventure games which are split into episodes and released as downloads. Other games they have produced include: Sam & Max, Wallace and Gromit, Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park.
The first episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead was released April 24th for PC/Mac, PS3, and Xbox 360. The game does not follow the same storyline as the comic or the show, but instead expands the Walking Dead world by focusing on a new character: Lee Everett. The game starts near Atlanta with the initial outbreak of zombies. Throughout the 5 episodes, Lee will encounter characters and locations from the comic and the TV show, allowing us the chance to explore the background stories of the comic book characters in greater detail.
The game starts simply by teaching you the basic controls, which are not complicated. Left thumb stick controls characters movement and the right thumb stick acts as a cursor which you move around the screen to highlight objects. Once you highlight an object or person of interest, you are given 3 options depending on the object or person. Press Y to look, X to talk to people, and A to use objects. They also toss in a few button-mashing sequences such as pressing A repeatedly then quickly pressing Y when your character is cornered in a tight spot (which seems to happen fairly often, as your character either has extremely bad luck or is very clumsy).
The game focuses heavily on story and character development and less on action. Graphics are done with Cel shading similar to games like Borderlands and Jet Set Radio, which gives the game a hand drawn feeling, similar to an actual comic. Depending on the brightness or you TV, a few of the darker areas can be hard to see. Exploration is minimal and you are kept within predefined area by fences, walls or invisible barriers. Also, you have no control over your inventory–once you pick up an object, it shows up on the side of the screen until it is used. Telltale makes up for this annoyance by the interesting way they tackled conversations and situations–giving players different options but also a limited amount of time to respond. This method of interaction adds a feeling of urgency, as well as affecting the outcome of your game. At several points in the game, your character must decide to save character A or B and depending on the choice you make–that is, if you are actually quick enough to make a choice—the result is usually a different outcome with a few minor exceptions. If you want a game that lets you kill everything in sight, then this is not the game you are looking for. While there are zombies almost everywhere, most of the zombie encounters are predetermined as part of the story and do not take away from the disturbing atmosphere. One notable example of this is an action-filled sequence where your character is tasked with disposing of several zombies that are unaware of your presence—and must be done quietly. You must use stealth and the environment to your advantage.
Overall, The Walking Dead was an extremely engaging game and a nice change of pace from the ‘over-the-top’ zombie action games, like Left 4 Dead or the Call of Duty zombie maps. Fans of the comic and show will definitely find many things to enjoy in the game’s story, especially how it expands on character backgrounds. This first episode took roughly 2 hours to play through. If that playtime remains consistent, then once all 5 episodes come out, the total game time will be about 10 hours–with great replay value because of all the different choices that can be made throughout. It’s nice to see the ‘point-and-click’ genre still alive and kicking.
On a side note, the internet rumor-mill has speculated the possibility of Telltale Games doing a reboot of the classic King’s Quest games. After playing The Walking Dead game, I do hope that’s a reality.
By Fiddler’s Elbow