Everything was going poorly for Lee Everett. Being charged with murder is always bad, but having it happen at the same time America collapses under a zombie apocalypse is especially unfortunate luck. On the bright side, surviving hoards of undead should provide a distraction from Lee’s legal woes.
Based on the wildly popular comic book series of the same name, The Walking Dead is an adventure game developed by Telltale Games that takes place alongside the events of the comic. This first episode nicely sets the stage for the series by introducing us to a varied cast of characters and a handful of neat gameplay segments. All told this first episode takes about two or three hours to complete, which is fine since replaying each episode allows you to see the consequences of your choices.
The Walking Dead follows a similar path of older adventure games in that it is light on the gameplay and chooses to focus on story. The hook here is making meaningful choices and living with the consequences. Even seemingly minor decisions can lead to someone getting killed or making a new friend. The conversations that you have also carry a similar weight since you are told how the other character reacted to your response. It makes the player want to slow down and consider what they will say but many of the responses are timed and if you take too long you say nothing. Silence is a valid answer sometimes, but don’t expect it to win you any allies.
The Walking Dead’s story line never lapsed into b-movie territory and even felt like the writers respected the player’s intelligence. The characters behave realistically and react to the horrible scenes around them in a believable way. There are even a few funny lines that break the tension.
The puzzles are also smart and never felt frustrating or broken. One segment has Lee face off against a group of zombies at a hotel. The goal is to avoid getting caught and eaten by the zombies and killing them silently. Mistakes are rewarded with gruesome deaths, which may lead you to fail on purpose.
The Walking Dead is a mature video game that tells a mature story in a believable manner. Unlike Telltale’s previous adventure game, Jurassic Park, The Walking Dead never forces you to do anything that will insult your intelligence. That means no pointless quick time events or awkward forced puzzles. The story is engaging and the meaningful decisions give each conversation a weighty tone. Throw in a few brutal zombie deaths and you have a game that won’t disappoint or be forgotten.
This review is based on a retail copy of The Walking Dead Episode 1 provided by Tell Tale Games. It is also available on PC.