by Justin Snyder
reviewed on X360
A Brand Name in the Zombie Scene
Despite the sheer amount of zombie-related entertainment that has flooded the market in the last few years, there still doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. I’ll admit, shows/comics/games like Walking Dead (yes, it is all of those things), make that fact okay in my book. The comic, which started in 2003 and is on the verge of reaching its 100th issue, has been one of the most critically acclaimed ongoing series of the new millennium. The massive success (and the zombies) prompted a television adaptation that began in late 2010. Four months later, in February 2011, Telltale Games announced plans to develop an episodic adventure game based on The Walking Dead.
The first such episode, titled A New Day, has hit (digital) shelves for PC/Mac, Xbox 360, and PS3. Generally called point-and-click adventures (with good reason), the release of games like Walking Dead on consoles has been a polarizing topic for some who believe the genre is ill-suited for play with a controller. After my time with this first episode of Walking Dead, though, that objection hardly seems relevant anymore. I can’t pinpoint why, exactly, but moving the cursor with an Xbox 360 controller just doesn’t feel problematic. Even compared to my time with PC adventure games, I just had no complaints. Even the game’s more intense moments work well; the controller, thankfully, doesn’t seem to have been an afterthought in development.
Someone to Look After
Walking Dead really shines in its dialogue and great supporting cast. You play Lee Everett, a man who’s found his marriage at an abrupt end and is on his way out of Atlanta when “the walkers” start to show up. The dialogue here, and throughout the game, is often very well-written and the voice acting is great. This intro scene shows off the game’s time-based dialogue system. Often, especially when Lee isn’t the one asking the questions, you’ll only be given a certain amount of time to react and choose a response. Otherwise, Lee just says nothing (which is sometimes a choice in and of itself). In a game that is so much about player choice and the trust between the player and other characters, it makes sense that you can’t take all the time in the world to think about a response. In a normal conversation, it’s not like people are often in a situation where they can think about a possible answer for a few minutes, and that’s certainly not the case in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.
In the prologue, you’ll encounter a little girl named Clementine. She’ll become your companion throughout this first episode and beyond. Your role of caretaker for her, in place of assumed-dead parents, is a very important one. Saving her from zombies, keeping her fed, tending to her if she’s wounded, all of these things need to be taken care of. Clementine gives the player someone to really care about and connect to. For me, it worked like a charm.
In the game’s first section following the prologue, you find yourself on the farm of Hershel Greene, whom fans of the comic and/or TV series will recognize. The game is a prequel to the main Walking Dead story and characters from that main story, like Hershel, will pop up from time to time. It’s here that you’ll also meet Kenny, Katjaa, and Duck, some of the main characters who will accompany you throughout the episode. Your relationship with these characters, based on whether or not you're honest with them, if you side with them in arguments, help them when they need it, etc., is a central focus of the game and part of what makes it so enjoyable. Playing with the normal HUD, the game will alert you when a particular choice will have any importance and sometimes reflect that importance. “Hershel believes you,” or, “Kenny will remember that you stood up for him,” for example.
Great, engaging story, strong characterization, point-and-click style works well with controller
Some stiff animation, a few audio glitches, occasionally weak puzzles