It’s Halloween! Or it was when I started writing this. If, like me, you hate dressing up because it’s biased against the overweight and bearded, you’ll want something to keep you occupied whilst everyone else is “having fun” or “falling in love” on the 31st. But it’s Halloween, so it has to be spoooooky, right? No? Come back here…
If you’ve never played a Telltale game, let me enlighten you. Telltale games work like the red-headed stepchild of point and click (hooray!) adventure games – however the emphasis lies not with puzzle solving, but with quick decision making. You interact with other characters constantly, and the decisions you make – and the things you say to your cohorts – can often result in drastic consequences. With this being The Walking Dead, you can put ‘eaten and made deader than before’ right at the top of that list of consequences.
Make no mistake, these games are text driven monsters. It’s essentially a ‘be a decent person’ sim. If you think talking to people about their feelings sounds like your idea of game hell, it’s likely that nothing that happens within will change your mind – but I would urge you to give it a try. Quite frankly, you don’t know tension until you’ve played The Walking Dead.
You play as Lee Everett, a former Professor of History, who at the start of the game is handcuffed in the back seat of a police car, on his way to his life sentence – the reason why unfolds a little more as you play through the game.The driver of your car is an incredulously nosey prick, to the point that he stops watching the road to turn and talk to you. In doing so he hits a zombie and crashes, and you’re free! You meet a young girl named Clementine, who has been surviving alone in her treehouse. You decide to pair up and try your luck on the road, where – as is to be expected – basically anything and everything you do or say goes horribly awry.
Top notch. The Walking Dead draws it’s inspiration from the comic series rather than the television show, and it shows. Rather than the grit and misery of realism, Telltale opted for a warmer, hand drawn look – and it’s probably a good thing. If The Walking Dead were hyper realistic, it might’ve made a few folks queasy. As it is, you’re gonna see some stuff that might make you wince! The voice acting is superb; each character reacting to the stakes with the appropriate cadence. All except for Katjaa, Kenny’s dead-eyed Belgian wife, who sounds like a beta test of Siri.
The Walking Dead really isn’t for everyone. It’s very measured in it’s storytelling, and some of the objectives you’re set might seem bizarre (at one point Clementine asks you to find her hat, because she has no grasp of THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION! THERE ARE ZOMBIES AT THE LAUNDRETTE, CLEMENTINE!).
The meat of the “gameplay” boils down to chatting. There are some QTE’s thrown in to keep things spicy/make sure you’re paying attention – though I would argue that technically all games are QTE’s, so stop whinging. But yes, chatting. You’ll talk to members of your group, and they’ll ask for your opinions on their plans or actions, at which point you’re given an option for each button on the controller face and a timer.
>Wanna tell Kenny to stop being SUCH A DOUCHE? You can. And then for the rest of the game he will side-eye you, and sling catty comments in your direction. Wanna save the chubby I.T geek instead of the hot news reporter who has a gun and is useful? Do it! I did. The chubby nerd told me off for not saving the useful person. Wanna tell Clementine to sack up and grow a pair? You can’t, that’s reductive and stupid, but you get the idea.
If you’re not up for investing in a story or in characters, there is literally nothing here for you – you simply will not enjoy it. But if you do, you’ll find the most gut-wrenching experience in all of gaming. You start to genuinely worry about these characters, and how they see you. And the feeling of absolute dread that creeps up towards the finale hasn’t been matched by any other form of The Walking Dead. It truly does start to feel futile, as your group falls apart, dies, or gets stranded in the middle of nowhere by you for being a know-it-all….hypothetically.
MARMITE! It’s never been truer. If cutscene based storytelling makes you want to jump off a bridge, well fucking do it then. I mean, don’t play this. Sorry.
But for those like me, who appreciate narrative and character growth (not to mention constant harrowing suspense), there’s few better. The minor points would have to be the lack of replay value, coupled with the relatively low impact your decisions have in the grand scheme. Still, The Walking dead is stomach churningly tense, exciting and heart-wrenching all in one package. Fun for the whole family! Let your babies play it!*
*Seriously, don’t. Don’t be an idiot. 18+ only. Don’t be a dick, I don’t need this kind of heat.
Pros – Great look and voice acting, SUPER tense, Glenn is in it for a little bit, Clementine will tug your heartstrings and you WILL keep her safe, satisfying length (WHEYYYY!)
Cons – Arguably not much of a game in the traditional sense, not much replay value unless you really want to see the alternative decision outcomes.
Back In The Day
TWD shifted over 8 million units in 2013 (though I’m not sure if that’s cheating or not, as it was released episodically), and despite critical praise; still divides fans to this day – the argument with many being that Telltale games aren’t technically games. Reading is for LOSERS, amirite?!