By Kevin Lenaghan
TellTale have had a bit of a spotty run with their adventure games. Some of them have been delightful episodic updates of old and beloved franchises like Sam & Max or Monkey Island, or adaptations of movies franchises like Back To The Future, which have been done with care and attention to detail. Others have been terrible photo-hunts like the CSI games or really uninvolved quick-time-event laden crap-fests like the Jurassic Park game. I am glad to say the The Walking Dead’s first episode is not one of latter.
Unfortunately pressing “A” didn’t allow you jump on and ride the Triceratops. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Out with the old.
Adventure games have come a long way since Lucasarts ruled the roost, with incremental changes along the way, not always for the better. It’s good to see people trying to do something new with a genre that is almost as old as home gaming itself, dating all the way back to the far too fondly remembered text adventures on such platforms as the Sinclair ZX Spectrum or Amiga 2600 or the Pick Up/Look At/Use With interfaces of the point and click SCUMM engine games.
So many options!
It’s all about control.
Grim Fandango did away almost completely with the mouse pointer, giving you full control over the main character which turned out to be a masterstroke, whereas the more recent Jurassic Park took the tactic of giving you no control and no mouse pointer, making it much more console friendly but also kind of making it not a game at all. Every situation presented you with a series of button prompts with a ‘react quickly or die’ motif running through the whole experience. With The Walking Dead we can see Telltale learning the lessons from this and seemingly taking all the best elements from the better adventure games and putting them all together in a competent and user friendly manner.
“X” is a secret option to cry like a girl for sympathy.
As with the aforementioned Grim Fandango, direct control is mostly the order of the day here, however (if you’re playing on a console or using a PC controller) while the left stick controls Lee and moves him through his surroundings, the right stick moves a surprisingly user-friendly mouse pointer around the screen to enable interactions. I get the feeling this may be the benchmark in adventure game control schemes for a while to come.
Graphically the game is something of a joy to behold, certainly for fans of the comic book on which the game is based. All characters, environment and objects have a real ‘sketched’ look about them and, while the faces of the characters still retain a small hint of that Telltale cartoonish style, it in no way detracts from the gruesome violence and visceral nature of events throughout the game. There were points throughout where I was genuinely wanting one of the more interactive violent moments to end just because I thought the recipient of said violence really should have been been dead long before they where (or undead or whatever). And that is where this game truly shines. Interactivity.
Just die already……again!
Not just interactivity on a tactile level (though there is plenty of nail biting moments wherein you will probably wish you didn’t have to be in control for the sake of your nerves) but the true beauty in this game, as in the TV show and the original comic, comes from the level of interaction between characters.
OK, you guys sacrifice yourself to the Zombies and I’ll save this girl……in case if I need to sacrifice someone to the zombies later.
There is an option through which you can have the game point out to you moments which are affecting peoples opinion of you by the way in which you behave in conversation, whereby you will be informed after you have decided to side with one person or another or stay silent (which is always and option) that the decision that you have made is going to come back to haunt you in some way.
The game presents you with the option when you begin a new game so don’t worry about it if you’re a purist. It can also be toggled on or off at any time in the options menu if you find yourself getting curious or if you think it’s breaking the game. I personally didn’t really see a problem with it as you never know if it’s one of these moments or not until after the decision is made. All of this is framed by some exceptional voice acting and dialogue that is believable and sometimes exceptional.
The game also presents you with some decisions that leave no room for confusion about whether they are going to effect the course of the game, but still keeping in canon with the comic book story arc (as opposed to the divergent nature of the TV show), but you’ll know these when you see them. As such, these moments really capture the moral ambiguity and grotesque nature of the source material.
As such, peoples attitudes towards you and even central characters can change in a really meaningful way that gives me a lot of hope for the rest of this franchise and it’s replay value, having finished it three times with some fairly different results.
This game has the potential to really do alot for the episodic adventure game or at least, if this first episode is anything to go by, it certainly bodes well for the rest of the series. Excellent writing, game mechanics and a rather endearing art style make this game a real must for fans of the comic/TV show and adventure games alike. And for less than £5 an episode you really can’t go wrong.
The Walking Dead is currently available on PC, MAC, Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network.Tags: the walking dead