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The Walking Dead Game Series (Season 1)

-Review by Nic Brown-

 

I love “The Walking Dead”. The comic series by Robert Kirkman and the AMC hit TV show have revitalized the zombie genre and added a depth of story telling that a single two hour movie cannot provide. So of course as an avid gamer, I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to play games set in the horrific yet fascinating world that Kirkman has created. Unfortunately, my first try, “The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct” was a severe disappointment. Still, when I heard that there was another console game available for the series, one that had slipped under my radar and come out in 2012, I decided to check it out.

 

TellTale Games took a different route than most movie/comic tie-in game production companies. Instead of creating a first person shooter, or other ‘fight and progress’ style game, they created something I’d never seen - a choose your own adventure story in a game. You enter the game as Lee Everett. All you know about Lee is that he’s been sentenced to prison for murder and he’s being transported out of Atlanta to begin serving his time. The zombie outbreak interrupts that trip and Lee suddenly finds himself free, but alone and confused. He wanders through the woods until he comes to a residential neighborhood in a small town. The first house he enters is abandoned; answering machine messages tell the story of the occupants and allude to their fate.

 

Just when Lee is about to move on, he’s attacked by one of the undead and during the struggle he receives help from an unexpected source, a now orphaned girl named Clementine. It’s her home he’s in and it’s her baby sitter who’s attacked him. Lee and Clementine (or Clem as he comes to call her) become fast friends and allies. Soon Lee’s only concern becomes her survival and he has to make some hard choices to keep her, and himself, alive.

 

“The Walking Dead” season 1 is very different from what I expected. First of all, the game was originally released one chapter at a time through X-Box live and other game console online services. Each chapter was essentially a two hour episode done in the style of the comic, but with animated characters. Game play is not standard either. Many times the player is simply along for the ride as the story plays out in the game. However, when it comes to a decision or an action needing to be performed the player must make the call, often with a timer running. Whether it’s smashing a zombies head in, or choosing which characters in your band of survivors get to eat and which ones go hungry, it’s your decision and every time you choose, there are consequences.

The choices you make determine how the story plays out, creating your own custom episodes that come together to create ‘season 1’, approximately 10 hours of total game play/viewing over the course of 5 chapters.

 

“The Walking Dead” season 1, with its choice determined story is not a game of constant fighting and challenge solving like the “Left 4 Dead”, “Dead Island” or even “The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct”. It is more like one of the old create your own adventure novels that I loved to read as a kid. The kind of novel you could read again and again like it was the first time just by changing one decision. After finishing the 10 or so hours of game play I felt very satisfied. I’d experienced a story with almost as much plot and drama as the first season of AMC’s TV show, but with a more intimate connection created by my involvement in how the tale played out. You become a participant in the story, not just a voyeur and that makes up for many of the areas where the plot, by necessity, isn’t as intricate as it would be in the show or comic series.

 

TellTale games did a wonderful job with this game. It is both fun to play and fun to watch being played, unlike many games where spectating can be a dull and frustrating pass time. My wife actually wanted to see what was happening and how the story would go without ever playing the game. Now that I’ve completed it once, I plan to play it again, having picked a few key points where my decisions will differ, just to see how the game plays out. So if you want to try something different and if you love Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead”, then give TellTale games’ “The Walking Dead” season 1 a try. If you purchase it online you only need to invest in one chapter to try it out and if you’re like me, that’s all it will take to be hooked.




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