Based on Robert Kirkman’s immensely popular comic series, The Walking Dead is Telltale Games’ latest point and click adventure. Published in a five chapter season, from April to November 2012, players control Lee Everett, a man convicted of murder prior to the outbreak, as he protects Clementine, a young girl whose parents are lost somewhere in Savannah, Georgia. With the first season officially wrapped up, it’s about time we gave you our full review.
The Walking Dead sheds most preconceived notions and mechanics of point-and-click adventures. Instead of featuring puzzle-centric gameplay, it focuses largely on character development and story progression. That’s not to say the game is puzzle-free. It’s better to say it’s puzzle-light with only directly logical solutions to problems that arise, which is a pleasant break from the typical habit of trying every object in your inventory with every interactive object in the environment to see what works. Dialogue and quicktime event choices are much more important to the evolution of the game than finding every item within the environment.
Controlling The Walking Dead is very simple. Lee moves with either using a control stick or the WASD keys. The mouse or number keys can be used to select dialogue options. Often times, dialogue decisions need to be made on a timed basis, or nothing will be said at all. On console, a non-obtrusive reticle appears on screen, and the gamepad buttons are designated to interactive options. If you happen to have both keyboard and controller connected on PC, the game switches seamlessly between the two.
Quicktime events boil down to aiming and hitting a contextually-placed interactive point on screen–like shooting zombie heads or kicking enemies in defense–or mashing a single key until the game tells you otherwise. On PC, the quicktime mash key is the Q key, which will certainly give your pinky some unexpected attention. We’ve found that the game also accepts mashing the left mouse button simultaneously with the Q key, but that queue is not given on screen.
Without a doubt, the quicktime mashing is probably the single most annoying aspect of the entire game, which we’re happy to report, doesn’t happen too often. But when it does, your fingers will get a workout.
The Walking Dead takes place simultaneously with the events from the original comic and television series, and even crosses over a few characters and locations from time to time. This adds credence to the game’s place in the infested universe’s canon, allows for some of The Walking Dead’s zombie lore to cross over, but also adds some minor exposition.
The story of The Walking Dead is one of the finest you’ll encounter in 2012. Clem and Lee skitter between different locations with their group, desperately trying to find a permanent respite from the zombie onslaught. Surviving the apocalypse is a paradox. The living are more of a threat than the undead, but getting by is much easier with the help of others.
The game adapts to how you play. Who lives? Who dies? Who hates your guts? Who will stand up and fight for you? All of these outcomes are controlled directly or indirectly by your hands. Other games have attempted this method before, but none have done it as successfully as The Walking Dead. The decisions you make in the first episode carry with you to the very end and have a rippling effect throughout all of your relationships.
Though it harkens back to the art style of the graphic novel, the cartoon cel-shaded art style may give some people the wrong impression about The Walking Dead. Its outward appearance looks light-hearted, playful, and even jovial. In practice, the game is anything but. It is dark, frightening, morose, and, at times, so touchingly sad, it will bring tears to almost everyone except the most hardened of hearts. By the end of the first episode, we grew to appreciate the contrast between the design and the story and can’t help but remark how well the two work together.
Jared Emerson Johnson, who has worked on a number of past Telltale games, melds the environment and the story together with his masterful score and may remind some people of the work of Mark Snow. The music motif between Clem and Lee will haunt you long after you’ve completed the game.
The voice acting holds steady throughout. Lee and Clem’s performances are particularly memorable, creating a bond between the two that will tattoo itself in the minds of gamers. You may cringe at some of the characters behavior, but that is more due to their off-putting personalities, and nothing to do with the voice actors’ deliveries.
Licensed titles are a tricky business. And gamers, for the most part, have grown to automatically dismiss video games associated with television shows, movies, and sometimes, comics. Rightfully so.
While we feel The Walking Dead won’t make gamers less gun-shy about movie and television-based video games, it certainly shines as a pathfinding beacon to anyone else who wants to develop licensed products. With any luck, Telltale games will take the lessons they’ve learned here as well and will apply them to their future titles.
We can recommend The Walking Dead to almost anyone. If you’re not a gamer, but love the comics and the television series, you need to play this game. If you’ve fallen out of love with point and click adventures, you need to play this game to see what can be done with the genre. If you like zombies, but feel they’re being overdone in the current video game realm, you need to play this game to see why they’re still relevant. Hell, if you happen to enjoy video games in general, you need to play this game.
We’re not just giving The Walking Dead a “Worth Buying.” We’re giving it an Elder’s Choice Award too. Few other adventure games have the replayability of The Walking Dead. The storyline is engrossing. The visuals are beautiful. And the characters Lee and Clementine are so sympathetically captivating, we can’t wait to see what Telltale games has up their sleeve for the next installment.
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- Name: The Walking Dead (Season 1)
- Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Mac, iOS
- Developed by: Telltale Games
- Release Date: April – November 2012
- Price: $24.99
- Elder-Geek Score: 5 out of 5 / Worth Buying
- Elder’s Choice Award Winner