Producers: Telltale Games
Developers: Telltale Games
Plot: When a zombie apocalypse kicks off, convict Lee finds himself the only person who can protect eight year old girl, Clementine.
At first glance, Telltale’s Walking Dead game seems like it shall be another miss of the mark. For one, Telltale Games haven’t had the greatest track record. ‘Back to the Future’ failed miserably and although ‘Jurassic Park’ was enjoyable, it was hardly ground-breaking, or even memorable, gaming. On top of that, downloadable games don’t do too well anyway. Why would you invest money into a few hours of gameplay, when you could save up for a fully-developed game? On top of that, before you understand that the visual style is meant to be comic-bookish, the graphics looks spectacularly ancient. It seems like Telltale Games have disappointed yet again.
But give it time, because the Walking Dead game has something that few games have: heart. You are thrust into the character of Lee, freshly arrested and en route to jail via police car. A Walker attack sees your arrested officer mauled and you are left, limping to safety. As you reach your first ‘catch your breath’ moment, you are introduced to an eight year old girl, Clementine. She was left with her babysitter when her parents went to Savannah for a weekend away, when the Walkers hit. Now, with her babysitter having an unusual taste for brains, you, as Lee, are her only hope of making it through the zombie apocalypse. Right from the moment, you awkwardly make your way around the conversation of how her parents are most likely dead, you are emotionally invested in the game. I don’t think there has ever been such a tight connection between two video game characters, but for the next five episodes Clementine will become a virtual daughter to you.
Be warned, this is a slow-burning game. Some people will not like this game, especially those who are more comfortable racing through a level of Call of Duty. This is where the shortened running time helps. We have the time to properly throw ourselves into the game and let every emotional note hit us, which come aplenty when dealing with a character-driven zombie story. Rather than the conventional action games usually give us, choice becomes the element here. We choose to brave the day or the night, we choose how much information of our past we divulge to passer-bys (remember, you began your story in a police car), and by the end of the level, you are choosing who lives and who dies. Your choices carry on to the next episodes, so pick wisely. Every step you take with this game could have devastating consequences in the near future.
Rather than action, this level feels more like a logic-solving puzzle. When the characters are introduced and we wade through lengthy exposition (even fans of the game must admit that it is a bit much this time around), the level settles into a pharmacy. From here, we are given a handful of problems to solve and you must figure out the best way to do it. It’s not the most tasking set of tasks in the world, but it finds an enjoyable level of difficulty. The challenges also set up better ways to get to know the characters. You tend to like the people you solve puzzles with, more than the ones forced upon you by the story.
This is pretty much an introductory level for the series. While the later levels will amaze, this acts as a set-up for the rest of the episodes. We end the level with the group mostly intact – there are a few demoralising losses – and ready to set up shop at a local motel. Character arcs are set in motions, cliques are formed within the groups and we think we have the game pegged. Trust me, as the next few episodes hit us, we realise we don’t know jack.
Final verdict: A solid start. While not for everyone, Telltale Games take a risk with this slower-paced drama and I am happy to announce it works.