Alright guys, Christmas has long since come and gone and I have finally started working through my otherwise gigantic pile of less than played games. This week on my playing docket is Tell Tales: The Walking Dead. Based more off of the comic by Robert Kirkman than AMC’s very popular show, the game shares a very similar artistic style to the comic, using the very underused (in my opinion) cell shading as a graphical and visual template.
Tell Tale does an excellent job of making me feel as though I were part of the comic. Well that’s the last of my non-spoiler part of the review, so for all of you who don’t want to know any more. Go away… Now shoo… Alright fine I’ll give you a sneak peak of my score: **% Awesome! Okay now seriously, shoo.
Now that we’ve rid ourselves of the riff raffs, we can get into this game. The Walking Dead was amazing, simply put it’s without a doubt one of the best most unique video game experiences that I have ever had the privilege of playing. The Walking Dead is designed in an episodic format, meant to be played in small three hour chunks.
Throughout the game you are given tough choices that often give you no more than seconds to decide. These decisions can have very long standing implications as you make your way through the game. Remember all those choose your own adventure books you used to read as a kid? Yeah? Well this is that, except its an awesome video game about zombies!
You start the game off as Lee Everett, newly convicted of plot-irrelevant crimes and being driven from Atlanta to a nearby prison. Along your trip there, the inattentive police officer hits a walker and “shock and awe” you guys crash horribly. After leaving the accident Lee ends up in a nearby suburb where we meet Clemantine.
Clem’s family has clearly died and Lee takes it upon himself to protect this little eight year old girl. As you progress through the game, you meet many different companions and followers, fan favorites Hershel and Glenn make small appearances in the first episode.
While working with these other survivors Lee and Clem decide to try to get to Savannah, the last known location of Clem’s parents. The real magic of this game comes from your interactions with the other survivors, getting to know who they are, what makes them tick. The writers do an excellent job of endearing the characters to you, the player. They make you love these characters, and then they do an equally excellent job messing with your emotions. Think fast sucker! Carley or Doug dies!
You have exactly three seconds to decide!!! Then you have to live with what you did, or possibly what you helped someone else do. It creates an extremely well balanced flow to the story and really makes you feel every decision you have to make. I remember one situation where you are given four pieces of food and have ten people to feed, these people will not forget who you chose to feed and who went hungry. These are the choices that can bite you in the ass very quickly.
Now I’ll focus a little more on actual game play and design. The episodic format of the series is nothing new to Tell Tale Games, they have been doing it for years with many excellent titles. This however is the first time where you actually get to choose how the game plays out versus other titles where you are following a canned storyline.
The thing I liked best about having it done in this episodic way was it let you digest the story, talk about it with your friends, heck even go back and make different decisions. Upon completion of an “Episode” the player is treated to three most wonderful things. One is what I call the “Oh Shit…” moment, this is the part of the story where you have resolved whatever the current crisis is and Oh Shit… now there’s a big problem we have to deal with! It’s a terrific way to segue the story into the next crisis and next episode.
After that we have a very tantalizing teaser trailer for our next installment of the story, who doesn’t love a good tease. Then lastly you get a list of all major decisions you made within this episode and what everyone else chose to do. I loved this, it was such a neat and inventive way of showing you whether you went with the majority or the minority of other players out there.
It was surprising to me to see that I was only part of 12% that killed both of the St John brothers. That’s what makes this game special, knowing that my experience was different from both the guy before me and the one after.
Alright, now the bad, yup there is a little bit here and there that could be worked on. Firstly and well really singularly my biggest issue with the game was that there was very little true choice given to the player. Most decisions gave you the illusion of choice but regardless of your response the game would stay very linear in its actual story. An early example of this is you’re given the opportunity to save a little kid or Hershel’s son.
Well regardless of who you actually choose to save, kid lives, guy dies. The only thing to change is who’s pissed off at you, Hershel or the kids dad. Like I said, the illusion of choice.
So I suppose I should be scoring this thing…
Graphics: Well like I said earlier, I love cell shading. I think it is a really neat way to artistically design a game, and in this situation in particular does an excellent job of giving a “comic book” feel to the overall visual. In terms of room for improvement, there was the occasional bleed in the scenery and graphically it could have been slightly sharper. But honestly I’m nit-picking here.
Gameplay: For gameplay they created a very simple and very immersive style of play. It was so simple, everything done in game was just like life, you do it yourself and you do it in steps. So Lee is you, if you want to put shoes on, you don’t just magically have them on, you put them on, then you tie your laces, then you brush off a speck of dirt, etc etc etc… Now while this may sound boring, it really immerses you into the character, makes you see it from their perspective. When that zombie lunges at you it shakes your vision and you need to kick it off, simple yes; but it draws you in. Plus there is more than one situation where the game forces you to do some pretty awful things.
Sound: Well in the sound department, I would not say there was any five star music, epic, sweeping or otherwise something worth mentioning. That being said, the sound effects and music were quite well done, and more importantly the voice acting was impeccable.
Lasting Appeal: Tons of it! The game itself is such an excellent tense story, add into that your ability to choose everything; it all equals out to going back and trying it all over again. You get to see what happens when you side with a different leader, choose different people to survive, etc… That’s what makes the game special. The only negative knock I can give to this and I mentioned it earlier, was that it really is just the illusion of choice; after replaying once or twice you begin to realize that many decisions are not actually your own.
Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Well that’s about it for me. To recap…
1. Buy this game
2. Play this game
3. Love this game
4. Internet high five me for the introduction
5.Cry at the end…
Telltale’s Walking Dead is available on the Apple App Store.