Twd Ep1 2

The Walking Dead: ‘A New Day’, an awesome experience

After playing Episode 1 of The Walking Dead, both Ash and I were stoked on the experience so much that a joint review is needed. Without any further ado, let’s talk about Telltale Games latest episodic adventure series.

[Update 5/17/2012]

Looks like episode 1 of the Walking Dead is selling like hotcakes, over 1M episodes sold so far. Check out this new trailer — we’re waiting in hot anticipation of Episode 2!

Ash’s take:

Zombies and I go way back.  When I was a little squirt, unable to tie my own shoes or really scrape together independent thought, George Romero’s zombies descended upon my elementary school… to pick up their kids.  Romero’s Day of the Dead was filming right in my back yard, and from that day forward I’ve been a fan of the living dead.  The Walking Dead is a bit of an anomaly.   Forever pitched as “The zombie story that never ends”, the Walking Dead shouldn’t work, but it does.  If you’re a fan Kirkman’s comic, or AMC’s The Walking Dead television series, we have some great news for you, Telltale’s The Walking Dead is an incredibly worthy addition to the franchise.

While you may be used to following the misadventures of sheriff Rick and his band of misfits, The Walking Dead game instead focuses on a new collection of characters for you to love (and hate).  The writing and voice acting are solid, and didn’t leave me wanting for more.  So how does the game play?  The Walking Dead is part Mass Effect and part Monkey Island, meaning that player decision and adventure puzzles make up the bulk of what you’ll be doing while on your adventure.  Conversation and the establishment of relationships with NPC’s make the game feel more like an interactive novel than anything I’ve really played before.  It was actually jarring as to how heavily player decision factored into  the overall narrative of the story.  There were multiple times during the first chapter (A New Day) where I was forced to choose to save one NPC over another.  After I made my difficult decision one character was gone forever, never to appear in my narrative again.  With a ticking timer the choices felt real and carried a lot of emotional weight.  The best part about the whole experience is that I found myself emotionally attached to various people in my party for their own individual reasons… that folks is good writing.

I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed Tell Tale’s The Walking Dead.  If you’re  a fan of great story telling, nail-nibbling action, wicked gore,  and some innovative puzzles then download this title ASAP.  Let’s hear what Scott has to say.

Scott’s take:

I have a pretty naive perspective on the source material, having only seen one episode of the television series and never read the comic. On the other hand, I have a fairly deep experience in adventure gaming. I had absolutely no problem jumping into the story. The player is faced with tough decisions from the get go: deciding what kind of character you want to be and what your priorities are, as well as some gut wrenching life and death decisions.

My greatest fear heading into this game was the pedigree of Telltale, not to say it was negative, but most of their adventure titles focus on humor, rather than heavy drama. I was worried that I would be completing mind-melting puzzles and fetch quests while running from the dead (take the bubble gum to the train conductor, trade him for a whistle, that the monkey needs to scare away the elephant, etc.). Fear not, for Telltale brings their unique style of adventure gaming with the sensibility of The Walking Dead; and with reservations rested there’s so much to enjoy here.

I made a lot of mental comparisons to Heavy Rain in this game, both in the style of gameplay and the gravity of the story — for me, this is huge. And, while a single play-through of the first episode might take only a few hours, the game does an excellent job of establishing emotionally-charged relationships with the game’s characters. In reality, you’ll find yourself wanting to complete multiple play-throughs, exploring the game’s branching decisions and character development options.

The game is beautifully rendered in the style of a motion comic, and never executed in a way that detracts from the intensity of the story. The art style lends itself to some quite expressive characters, which goes a long way in establishing relationships. There’s even bit of humor here  and there, mixed in with the tension, fear, and conflict. It’s great, and it all works.

I was also very appreciative of the optional hint system. Perhaps the greatest annoyance to the non-hardcore adventure gamer is the detection of hotspots (the hiding of interactive elements in adventure games, that often leads to pixel hunting). However, this game is definitely not a pixel-clicker. The help UI is turned on by default, and it will also let you know when your decisions have a lasting impact on the characters — it’s sort of an organic tutorial. It’s great that the option is there, and that your choice to use it or not has no impact on your completion / total experience of the game — I see it is a great way to bring gamers, unfamiliar with  adventure gaming, into the genre.

Nerd Appropriate:

As we mentioned on the podcast (Episode 57), The Walking Dead finds broad appeal among fans of adventure games, interactive narratives, Telltale fans, comic fans, zombie enthusiasts, and of course TWD fans.  With this in mind, I found this game to be immersive, compelling, and fun to play. It’s a MUST play.

It’s safe to say that we’re hooked, and I can’t wait for the next episode.

Happy gaming.

[From the 3/20/12 press release: The first of five monthly episodes of The Walking Dead is set for release in late April on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for Xbox 360® for 400 Microsoft® Points, on PlayStation®Network for $4.99 and on PC and Mac as a season pass for $24.99 from the Telltale Online Store and other digital outlets. ]

Scott

Hi, I’m one of the founders of Nerd Appropriate and the Rated NA podcast. I like good and bad sci-fi films and tv, pho, and the retrofuture. I am primarily an Xbox gamer, but also do some PC and Wii U gaming as well. By day, I am a research scientist, mostly in topics related to human-computer interaction and user experience. Before all this, fellow NA co-founder Matt and I played music together in various bands. I also used to make "comedy" videos for my high school morning news program before there was a place to post them online. Favorite Star Wars character? Admiral Ackbar. Best Bond era? Timothy Dalton (Craig a close second). Game of all time? Maybe System Shock 2. Thanks for being a part of this labor of nerdy love with us.