I watched the first TV series of The Walking Dead and really enjoyed it. I liked Telltale Games ‘Back To The Future‘ games but their form has been patchy (their Jurassic Park game was widely panned) so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this game.
Firstly this *isn’t* based on the TV series although it does take place in the same Walking Dead universe as the comics which the TV show is based on. Slightly confusing but the main thing is that this is an entirely different set of characters.
You play as Lee Everett, a university professor. As the game opens you are in the back of the Sheriff’s car on your way to prison for the murder of your wife’s lover. Thankfully for Lee the zombie apocalypse comes at just the right time and you end up having to escape from the cop car to survive.
Soon afterwards Lee meets a 9-year-old girl, Clementine, who is alone because her parents are out of town and her babysitter… well I won’t say any more . Lee takes her under his wing and they try to get somewhere safe and work out what the hell is going on.
The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure game, which means while you’ll have some freedom of movement you’re limited to small areas and different object to interact with.
Mainly you’ll be talking to the other characters and learning about the group of people you’ve ended up banded together with. And this is where the game shines.
Firstly it’s a cast of well written and acted characters. And secondly the writers aren’t afraid to put you in some very difficult situations, usually ending in you having to make a choice that will alienate one of the group. It’s tense stuff and because most the choices have a timer running down, you’ll often feel a sense of panic because you’re being forced to make a call on something quickly when you’d love more time to think it over.
The game has lots of different ways to play out, although the overall narrative remains the same regardless of how you play. At the end of each episode you also get a breakdown of what percentage of other players made the same choices as you. This is a real eye opener at times! Certainly on one choice I presumed everyone would do the same only to discover at the end of the episode I was in a 12% minority!
The biggest compliment I can pay the game is that Clementine is a believable representation of a child. I’ve never seen a child character in a game before that had so many of the nuances and speech patterns of a real child. And I strongly believe that is the reason so many people had such a strong emotional reaction to this game.
Telltale set up the relationship between Lee and Clementine in an identical way to the relationship you have when you have your own child in real life. What I mean by that is that when you bring home your newborn child it can’t fend for itself. It needs your help and support until it becomes strong enough to start looking after itself. Of course the real life bond is much more than can be conveyed in a game but I genuinely believe Telltale have given a lot of people a little taste of what being a parent is like. If you don’t believe me (and have finished the game – beware spoilers if not) check out the huge amounts of #ForClementine hashtags on Twitter!
The game was released in episode format over the course of months rather than weeks. I picked up the bundle before Christmas and I’d recommend doing the same at this stage – I believe the first episode is available free as a demo. If you haven’t played it you should definitely check it out. I would’ve loved to have experienced it spread out, for season two I will do just that.
The Walking Dead isn’t perfect. I encountered a glitch at one stage whereby I couldn’t continue the game. My character essentially fell through the train he was supposed to be on every time I went through a specific door. Thankfully a reset and reload solved the problem but I’ve heard of some people having other problems as well. Nothing major though and when the story is this good it’s easy to forgive the odd issue here and there.
Overall, I can’t praise this game enough. It’s a different style of game to the stuff I would usually play but through the excellent characters and writing, Telltale have delivered an emotionally charged and superbly crafted story that will likely leave you with a lot more emotional baggage than when you started. Play it. Now.