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The Walking Dead - Episode 1 Telltale Games, Microsoft Xbox 360 Live Arcade, April 2012

The Walking Dead - Episode 1
Telltale Games
$5 (400 MS points)
If you watched The Walking Dead on AMC or read the comic book it is based off of, then you know that it excels at turning a zombie apocalypse into a character-driven drama. That's pretty much what you get in this episodic Telltale adventure game - character driven drama with zombies in which you play a part.

Specifically, you play the part of Lee, a former university professor with a questionable past. It starts before everything goes to zombie hell outside of Atlanta, and very quickly goes to zombie hell. Along the way you become the guardian of a little girl, Clementine. Both of you then try to survive as best you can.

You don't have to have seen the TV series or have read the comic book it is based off of to actually understand what's going on - it's pretty self-contained. Though characters from the TV series appear, it won't affect the game any if you don't know them or their background, which is good for something as story-driven as The Walking Dead - no "oh, great I have to watch the first two seasons before I play this" required.

Like the Sierra games of ye-olden-days, this is an adventure game, so if you're looking for action, you should really get Left 4 Dead since that's cheap now. There's a lot of moving a cursor around and examining objects, picking up objects, talking to people, and figuring out what object works with what thing. Fortunately unlike the Sierra games of old or the Lucasarts SCUMM titles, you won't find yourself trying to guess verb-noun combinations in order to do basic tasks. The interface is simplified - you point at an object and have at most, four options to select, with the click of a mouse or selection of a d-pad.

The interface fails somewhat in difficult situations, i.e. attacked by zombies. You're very quickly presented with a situation where you will die unless you do the right thing and it can be confusing what the right thing is, like move the cursor over the zombies head, and push down on the d-pad before it bites into your neck. Also - I realize this heightens the tension and attempts to re-create the "oh shit, there's a zombie" panic, but there are also times where you will find you have to do motions repeatedly, like getting a shotgun, then trying the shell in the chamber, finding you fumbled the shell, have to pick up the shell again, then put the shell in the chamber again, all before a zombie eats your face.

Interacting with characters is better, which you will be doing a lot of, through talking and handing them objects. The talking is most prevalent here, where you can say one of three choices, or stand there like a moron and say nothing. Each interaction with a character, and how you behave towards them, will affect things as the game progresses. Be a total jerk to a character, and you may find yourself in danger later on where you could use their help, but won't get it.

As a side note, when you get to the end of the game, it will compare your choices to everyone else who has played the game and let you know what percentage of people chose what - which has got to be good for someone's psychology thesis, or just personal interest.

Anyway, it seems preferable in the game to be nice to just about everyone as that increases your chances of survival. Most times you'll find you just want to be nice to everyone who deserves it - the writing is really well done throughout the game with characters you actually don't want to see killed, and a few who don't. Clementine, your unintentional adoptee is especially well portrayed - she acts like a little girl, she is a little girl, and you act appropriately towards her. So good job on Telltale for making me care about polygons.

About the polygons - since this is a downloadable episodic title, and file sizes have to be kept to minimum, I think they made the smart choice in making everything appear in the style of the comic. It allows you to simplify shapes, provides a tie to the source material, and is done well enough that you don't feel like "oh, this looks like crap and I've been horribly cheated."

Overall, if you are really into The Walking Dead, like adventure games, and don't mind episodic content (this one episode will probably take you five hours to complete) then this game is something you want to pick up.

--Shaun Clayton
Review posted May 8, 2012
Review copy provided by the developer

Additional Images

Walking Dead Episode 1 Walking Dead Episode 1
Walking Dead Episode 1

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