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On Telltale’s The Walking Dead; The Game I Didn’t Know I Wanted

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I wasn’t even paying attention to Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead game during its development. I had never played a Telltale game before and point-and-click adventure games weren’t my thing. So why should I care? It wasn’t until the game finally came out and I decided to try out the demo on a whim; mostly because I was bored and it was related to The Walking Dead

…It sucked me right in.

I was already of fan of The Walking Dead comics and TV show (yes, I like the show) and, at the time, I thought I didn’t need a The Walking Dead game; I could survive just fine with the series in its other forms. But the characters, dialogue choices, the ‘oh shit’ moments, my rag-tag group of survivors… it all changed my perspective on it.

Telltale gave me a game I didn’t even know I wanted. And sometimes that’s the best way to fall in love with a game.

Would you like an energy bar? I have, like, five.

The intro to Telltales’ The Walking Dead (which shall simply be referred to as The Walking Dead for the rest of this article) is really great, despite its slow pace. It sets up your character, Lee, and gives you a brief moment of peace before everything goes to hell. Its slow pace and the conversation you have with the police officer is a form of exposition, but it’s one of the moments where you, as the player, decide how you’re going to act. You can be a prick, the calm guy, or…some other character type. I don’t remember. Usually in games, the main character is someone who knows how to handle himself, but Lee is not that. He’s just a regular human being with human being problems. And as soon as you settle in to the mood of things, interacting with this police office—CRASH!! Guess what? Everything—and everyone—just got screwed. Did you somehow forget what game you were playing? It’s okay, because I did for a few moments while I was playing it.

It becomes even more evident that Lee is just a guy when you see him calling out to the cop (who’s obviously dead and a zombie), fumbling with the keys to his handcuffs and dropping the one shotgun shell as zombie officer crawls towards him. He’s just as freaked out as any of us would be in that situation. After he does what he has to do to stay alive, he leaves the area in search of help. In his case, the nearest house he could find. Things calm down for him, at least for the moment.

The Walking Dead plays out in a cycle of sorts. Things are relatively calm for a while, then things get tense, then all hell breaks loose, repeat. And despite realizing that myself, I welcomed it, it’s almost the same as the comics and TV show. No matter how peaceful things are or how well the people in the group are getting along, danger is right around the corner. Always. You know that things are about to get bad, but you can’t accurately prepare for it or warn the other people around you. As much as you are a participant, you’re also a viewer; bound by the laws and physics of that world.

Speaking of the people around you, am I the only one who got really protective of Clementine? I can’t be the only one, but I know that part of the reason I like her character and want to protect her so much is because I have a 6 year old Sister (who isn’t as polite as Clementine, by the way). The Walking Dead has no problem killing off characters, so I have this fear that if I don’t act fast and do what I have to do, Clementine’s going to die. Tell me, who did you save on Herschel’s farm? Duck or…whatever the other guy’s name was? I wanted to save both of them (I don’t see why that couldn’t have happened. There were, like, 4 adults there), but I went for the kid. And I thought that Herschel would understand my decision (spoiler: nope!) because he was a kid. Everyone told me that Clementine was now my responsibility, so why would I save the older person over the kid? Also, in what universe would placing a little kid on a Tractor be a good idea? If you ask me, Herschel’s son was asking for trouble.

Great job fixing that fence before you died. Idiot.

If you’re on the fence about The Walking Dead, at least go try out the demo for it. I don’t want to spoil a lot (or anything, if I can help it), but I’m just going to go ahead and say that the initial interaction with the people in the Pharmacy is great. The tension, picking a side, how to decide who lives and who dies, it was all fantastic. I can only hope future episodes have more of that; character interaction is good. Hell, the characters in general are pretty alright.

I especially like how The Walking Dead includes other characters from The Walking Dead universe. I already mentioned Herschel, but Glenn being in the Pharmacy wasn’t something I expected. Actually, truth be told, I didn’t even realize I was talking to Herschel until a message appeared in the upper-left corner of the screen stating that Herschel would remember something I said. I was so used to seeing live-action Herschel.

This guy is pretty awesome, albeit a bit difficult.

But you know what? As great as The Walking Dead is, I don’t think it would be as well received if it was simply a short downloadable movie. Making your own choices and participating is most of the reason for why this game is so great. Imagine watching someone else play Mass Effect in a way that you wouldn’t have. It’d be weird right? The face would be all wrong, the character class and god-forbid if he was playing Renegade as opposed to your Paragon style of play. This isn’t to say that there couldn’t be an animated The Walking Dead movie (don’t do that, movie making people!), but that this game offers so much more than the comics and TV show do. And having its own cast of characters and unique plot-line helps out a lot too.

Near the start of the game, when you and Clementine decide how to proceed with finding help, I chose to travel during the day (because why would you walk around in a zombie-infested world at night?). Later on, I watched a video online in which the player chose to wait until nighttime, and I discovered that if you pick that option, Chet is already a zombie and you instead meet some random cop; interesting. In my current playthrough, that cop could show up in a later episode and make things terrifyingly difficult for me. But if you meet him in Episode 1, he may be on your side later on. What else happens differently? What if you choose Herschel’s son over Duck? Will Ken put a Bounty on your head? Actually, no don’t tell me. Part of me doesn’t want to know because right now, in my game, Ken and I are allies. Dude saved me from getting bitten by a walker. He’s okay in my book.

All of their faces say, "MmmHmm. Nice Job." (Sarcasm)

Geez, merely thinking about the next episode’s release is making me impatient. I really want to see/play what happens next. Just a few more weeks right? Maybe I’ll go re-read the comics I have to hold me over until then…

…yeah that sounds like a good idea. Compared to the comics, The Walking Dead game is like Candyland so far. It pains me to think that the characters I’m starting to really like could be gone just as quickly as they arrived.

Kyree didn't have an N64 or Dreamcast as a kid (so sad) and he doesn't remember finishing any of his PlayStation games, but skip to the PS2/GC/Xbox era and everything changed. He hasn't been outside to play tag in forever, but he can recall playing way too much Smash Bros. and even more Kingdom Hearts; seriously, he can recite lines from it. I think he may have a problem.

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