interactive drama

The Walking Dead: No Time Left

Full Review

the Walking Dead CoverThe finale to the first episodic season of The Walking Dead has arrived, and after the shocking conclusion to the fourth episode, it was apparent just how No Time Left would end. Of course, getting there is never straightforward in The Walking Dead universe.

This final review will be rather spoilerific after the cut, so there’s your first warning. It would be massively difficult to talk about the season as a whole without talking about the characters and their relationships, the real core to The Walking Dead. It’s funny: comparing it to my earlier episodic gaming experience, Tales of Monkey Island, and while I’m going to end up awarding them identical scores, it’s for completely different reasons and I feel totally different about each experience. My thoughts are also a lot more complicated when it comes to The Walking Dead.

So with that, let’s talk Lee, Clementine, and the end of the world.

The Walking Dead: Around Every Corner

Full Review

the Walking Dead CoverThe penultimate episode of the first season of The Walking Dead brings our group of survivors to the edge with seemingly no hope for a happy ending. While I’ve certainly enjoyed the previous three episodes quite a bit, I feel like everything has finally clicked for me in Around Every Corner. There’s a great sense of dread, urgency, and horror as you progress, and it successfully caps off the previous three hours with a heart-stopping finale.

Telltale Games wouldn’t have been my first choice for a Walking Dead game, as a popular graphic novel and the most successful show on cable television, the intellectual property owners should have had their pick of the litter when shopping their game. Could Call of Duty: Black Ops II have sold even more with a fully licensed Walking Dead zombie mode? Should the Dead Island developers been tapped? Capcom for their Dead Rising experience? Valve with Left 4 Dead? EA for their gobs of money?

But Telltale’s interactive drama experiment has been a huge success, at least critically. There are bound to be more Walking Dead games in the future, but this will certainly set the bar high. Here’s my review of episode four: Around Every Corner.

The Walking Dead: Long Road Ahead

Full Review

the Walking Dead CoverIf there’s something that Telltale Games teaches its Walking Dead players in Long Road Ahead, it is that everyone is expendable. While I don’t know if everyone’s experience was like mine, I lost four major characters over the course of the episode. Zombies are dangerous in the world of The Walking Dead, but humans are a lot worse. To quote one of the characters, “I don’t believe in strength in numbers.”

I haven’t been quite as blown away by the episodes so far as the rest of the internet are, but I’ve certainly enjoyed them so far. The areas are generally small and there is little exploration or puzzle solving required. I’m reminded again of my original comparison of the game to Heavy Rain, but there was a greater sense of dread in Quantic Dream’s psychological epic than in this zombie-laden drama.

Long Road Ahead was released in late August and it was during this time that I was first exposed to the game through social channels, which is certainly not a surprise considering some of the hellish scenarios the episode puts its players through. While I feel episode three was an improvement over Starved for Help, I’m still looking for a bit more from the game than frantic quick time events.

The Walking Dead: Starved for Help

Full Review

the Walking Dead CoverI’m not any kind of expert on zombie apocalypse fiction, but from my point of view, there’s two crucial points in the story that every good zombie story needs, and needs to do well. The first is the tension build-up in Act 1. Everyone watching, reading, or playing some sort of zombie media knows there will be zombies. The ones who don’t know are the characters, the heroes whose lives are about to be torn apart by the undead. The more tension the author can build, the more satisfying and terrifying the reveal will be when hell is unleashed.

The other crucial part of zombie fiction doesn’t involve the zombies at all, but human conflict. The zombie mythos rule of thumb says that the dead are never the true enemy in zombie fiction and that interesting drama lies in the living. This is true, but drama isn’t necessarily easy or obvious to write, so it’s not a given it’s executed well.

The Walking Dead already featured their tension build-up and zombie reveal in Episode 1: A New Day, but it still surprised me that Episode 2: Starved for Help almost immediately dropped running from zombies in favor of arguing with fellow survivors, but Telltale Games is apparently confident in their story, so let’s take a look.

The Walking Dead: A New Day

Full Review

the Walking Dead CoverWord 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!

Heavy Rain

Full Review

Heavy Rain CoverI am willing to give every video game genre a try, including what Wikipedia describes Heavy Rain as an “interactive drama” and “psychological thriller.” To the traditional gamer, those probably rank right up with the dating sim and train simulators of the world. Why play an interactive drama when I could just watch a movie?

But this is a valid question that can be used to juxtapose any type of media. Movies are an excellent format at telling a story in about two hours, while many games take a two hour story and stretch it across 12 hours with bits of action padding the time. Heavy Rain was created from the ground up to challenge the idea that not only can a video game tell a compelling story, but that it can deliver the same emotional punches that a movie can too.

Released in February 2010 by French developer Quantic Dream, Heavy Rain tells the story of a father, a journalist, a detective, and an FBI profiler all tracking down an elusive serial killer who targets young boys. As one of the PlayStation 3 exclusives I’ve wanted to play the most, I was very excited to get my hands on the game after two years. You can see my first hour review here, or read on for spoiler-free thoughts on Heavy Rain.

Heavy Rain

First Hour Review

Heavy Rain CoverSince the PlayStation 3’s release over five years ago, I’ve been making a list of exclusives I needed to play when I finally owned the system. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was on there along with the Uncharted series, but at the top was Heavy Rain, the interactive drama from Quantic Dream. After thoroughly enjoying their previous psychological thriller, Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit), I was ready for whatever the studio had to offer.

Of course, being a system exclusive is annoying when you don’t own that system, so a full two years after its release I’m finally getting my paws on the game full-time (along with pretty much every other PS3 exclusive I was interested in). Was the wait worth it? We’re about to find out in Heavy Rain’s first hour.

If you’re interested in Quantic Dream’s previous work, I have the first hour of Indigo Prophecy available for your perusal. It was actually one of the first reviews I ever wrote, and the game really kicks off excellently. I’m definitely curious to see if Heavy Rain can replicate that energy.

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