|The Walking Dead: A New Day|
|Platforms||Windows, OSX, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS|
|Buy from Amazon|
Word of mouth is a powerful, but nearly impossible to control selling tool. Growing up, I rented SNES games based on friends’ recommendations; during college, PC games spread from computer to computer like viruses. But now that I’m an adult working full-time, the break room doesn’t satisfy the gaming suggestion mill. So where do I turn? Twitter.
Love it or hate it, your reaction to Twitter will be based entirely on the people you choose to follow, and I choose to follow a lot of people in the gaming industry. From developers to journalists, they all seem to be raving about The Walking Dead, Telltale Games’ newest episodic adventure for Windows, OSX, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iOS devices.
Fresh off my completion of Tales of Monkey Island, also from Telltale, I was excited to try out something a bit newer, and The Walking Dead fits the bill perfectly, especially with today being Halloween! So here’s my review of Episode 1: A New Day, I will continue to review the other episodes in the coming weeks, as long as I survive!
Happy Halloween and happy gaming!
Trying to imagine how Telltale would translate The Walking Dead into a point and click adventure game was a challenge. This has to be a point and clicker, right? That’s the only kind of game they make, isn’t it? Well, apparently I’ve been out of the loop since The Walking Dead is basically a full on Heavy Rain imitator with zombies.
Hey, I loved Heavy Rain, it had some serious issues but I was drawn into it like no other game. So color me surprised when The Walking Dead started ripping on its best aspects, complete with its dramatic, interactive cutscenes and short bursts of fast action. I came in expecting to manage an inventory and ponder through endless dialog choices, but left slightly exhilarated, if not a bit scared.
The game opens with Lee Everett in the back of a squad car being escorted to prison, but this being The Walking Dead, literal hell is about to be unleashed upon the world. As you look around the back of the police car and out the window, the driving officer chats you up, trying to figure out if you “really did it” or not, and all the while, the radio is crackling with word of riots and ambulances and other emergency vehicles are barreling down the road in the opposite direction. It’s an ominous, effective opening because we know exactly what’s going on but we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It falls soon enough, and a few minutes later you’re pointing a shotgun in the zombified face of the police officer and pulling the trigger. Like Heavy Rain, there are a lot of “cutscenes” broken up with little quick time events, nothing terrible, mostly just pointing at nearby zombie heads for targeting or mashing a particular button to ward off a bite. The responses feel natural though, and tensions are heightened by the not-so-sober state Lee is always in (not that he’s drunk, but he slips on pools of blood and bonks his head in unexpectedly hilarious fashion more than once).
You’re usually given four responses at once in a conversation, but the answer is timed so you can’t sit and think forever, this is the zombie apocalypse, after all. I never felt rushed when picking a response, unlike Alpha Protocol where I barely had time to read half the options most of the time. And there is an inventory, but items are inserted automatically and used at the proper time, so there’s little frustration with that sometimes troubling trapping of the genre.
So due to the streamlined point and click experience, it is obvious Telltale is really focused on the characters and plot. Lee quickly meets up with a little girl named Clementine, whose parents were on vacation and are now undoubtedly dead. It’s an intriguing relationship, Lee has never been a father, and knows little about taking care of children, let alone the needs of a young girl during the end of the world. During their early adventures, they spend a bit of time on a farm and revisit Lee’s past, some of the build up established early is effectively resurrected later in the episode. It’s nice seeing storylines resolve themselves earlier than later when it comes to episodic games, you know the writers are serious about covering a lot of territory.
Telltale takes advantage of the inherent urgentness of the zompocalypse and writes some terrifying scenes that feature nothing but humans arguing back and forth over whether someone should live or die. The camera cuts are frequent and disorienting, and the dialog is written at a Gilmore Girls level pace to keep you off your toes. I had no idea what to expect from one scene about halfway through the episode, but it didn’t give me any time to fashion a guess either. I was ready to face the zombies again after that struggle.
But The Walking Dead’s biggest departure from the traditional point and click adventure storyline are the decisions it forces you to make. They start out small, should we leave during the day or at night? (dumb question, if you ask me) But by the end, the fates of two new friends are in your balance and only one can survive. Apparently, the choices you make will carry over to the next episode, so I’m excited to see if Telltale has the courage to really put its players through the ropes.
The art style of the game is quite handsome too, mimicking the lines and coloring of the graphic novel series the game is based on. One annoying problem I have are how the graphics chug pretty badly at times, especially early on for me. I have a computer that can play Borderlands 2 smoothly at 90 frames per second, but stutters during The Walking Dead without even maxing out my graphics card? I have no idea where the bottleneck is, but I have to point my finger at the code itself. Hopefully this is resolved in the later episodes but I have my doubts.
Due to the pacing of the game, The Walking Dead isn’t exactly a scarefest. There’s maybe one moment that tries to jump-scare you, but I was expecting it and prepared. Personally, I’m not a fan of horror movies or games, but I heard too many good things to pass this one up, and so far, I’m glad I’m playing. The game is heavy on the gore and language, so leave this two hour adventure on the shelf until the kids go to bed. Can’t wait to start episode two.