When Telltale Games first announced plans to develop a video game adaptation of The Walking Dead, I was both excited and a bit skeptical. I mean, yeah, they’ve done it before with Back to the Future, which I thought was quite well done, but now we’re talking about The Walking Dead here! How could they possibly match the drama and suspense we’ve all come to know from the TV series?
As a huge fan of both The Walking Dead and Telltale’s adventure games in general, I decided to give the game a whirl and see for myself. The Walking Dead was first released on consoles and PCs earlier this year, but I wanted to hold off on purchasing the game until it was ported over to iOS — I just couldn’t resist the idea of being able to play on the go on the iPad’s Retina display. Was it worth the wait? Read on for more.
Fire in the Streets
The Walking Dead puts you in control of Lee Everett, a convicted killer being transported to prison in the back of a cop car. On the ride over, the officer in charge of escorting Lee breaks the silence by starting with a bit of small talk that soon moves into more personal details regarding the trial and how exactly he got into his situation. As Lee (you) looks out the window, he notices several cop cars and helicopters responding to a radio dispatch regarding riots breaking out in a nearby city. This looks like something big.
Hit the Ground Running
It doesn’t take very long until things start to spiral out of control for Lee and his new officer buddy. In the first few minutes of your having full control of Lee, you’re introduced to a sort of tutorial with a variety of gameplay mechanics that you’ll need to become very familiar with to prevent your face from being eaten off in later parts of the game. Though the gameplay is a bit too simple at times, quicktime events still manage to deliver the intensity you’d expect from some of the game’s most frantic moments. Remember, this is primarily a traditional adventure game. The fact that it actually has action sequences requiring you to tap the screen like a maniac before a zombie sinks its teeth into your jugular is all sorts of awesome. I’ll take it!
A slight issue I have with The Walking Dead’s controls has to do with how sluggish it feels when using the screen to look around the environment. It would be of great benefit for Telltale to fix the problem with an option to change its sensitivity in the game’s options screen. I’m certain that the PC and console version of TWD have much tighter controls, but besides that one gripe, I didn’t think the touchscreen implementation took much away from the overall experience.
There Will Be (a lot of) Blood
The Walking Dead’s graphics are outstanding. Cel-shaded environments and character models certainly give the game a sharp and unique look and succeeds in recreating that comic book feel where it all started. Don’t let that discourage you, however. Though the game looks like a cartoon, it has plenty of mature content and atmosphere to spare. The Walking Dead is dark — and by dark, I mean downright gory. This is definitely not a title for the little ones to be messing around with. Everything from torsos crawling after you to heads getting blown to smithereens is all here, and man is it awesome. Telltale Games pulled out all the stops to make The Walking Dead game as faithful to the comic book and TV series as possible.
It isn’t just about running for your life and killing zombies every time you have the opportunity, however. Where The Walking Dead shines is its brilliant use of character dynamics and dialogue. Most of your time will be spent talking to and building relationships with other characters in the game with the use of a conversation system that gives you four different timed choices every time you need to respond. Depending on your answer, the game’s characters will remember details about you and the choices you make throughout the story, which will decide what path you end up taking in later episodes. There is no right or wrong answer; every road you choose is bound to be an exciting one. During my first play-through, I made an effort to be as friendly and as useful as possible to as many people as I could. To my surprise, things didn’t always turn out the way I expected them to, which was a big plus for me. Needless to say, I’m eager to replay the game doing the exact opposite and seeing where things end up in the following episodes.
Voice acting in The Walking Dead is superb. Though I wouldn’t say they’re the best I’ve ever heard in a video game, I definitely think most of the character’s voices are very believable and certainly make the interpersonal drama within the story enjoyable.
It’s Dark In Here …
As a fan of the TV series, I found myself wanting to play this game as often as I could. Waiting to purchase it on the App Store and being able to play it anywhere I took my iPad put a grin on my face from ear to ear, but it didn’t come without a few slight annoyances.
Remember when I said this game was dark? Well, I meant it — literally. The combination of the glare on the iPad’s screen with the amount of browns, blacks and deep reds used in this game made for a very bad experience playing on the go. This game is almost impossible to play outdoors. Make sure you find some shade or keep yourself inside if you want to get the most out of the adventure. Try to also make sure your iPad has a case on it, because it can get quite warm during extended play due to a very demanding graphics engine. Depending on how you play through The Walking Dead, expect 3 to 5 hours of play time on your first run.
The Walking Dead is probably the best $4.99 I’ve ever spent on a game for my New iPad. It is also one of the best traditional adventure games I’ve played in many years, and I’m only on the first episode! Am I slightly biased because I love the series? Probably. If I step aside for a moment and look at this game as someone who is not familiar with the source material, The Walking Dead still gets a high recommendation simply for the cinematic experience and sets a new standard for traditional point-and-click adventure games. Episode Two can’t come soon enough.
If you’ve ever doubted Telltale Games, you owe it to yourself to pick this title up and see how wrong you are.