Game Rant’s John Jacques reviews The Walking Dead: Episode One.
It was a wise choice for TellTale to continue with the cell-shaded visual styling they’re used to creating – for an episodic title like The Walking Dead, it’s a style which simply works. As you can see in the trailer, it’s a styling which also matches well with the comics its based on. Environments are simple enough not to be overwhelming, but also detailed enough so zombies can look, well, as horrifying as cell-shaded zombies can look. Despite how wide-eyed shocked characters seem to get (you’ll see a lot of that), the game plays as well as it looks – simply.
Much like the show itself, the game focuses on the characters and interactions between the survivors. As stress levels rise and tough choices have to be made, you’ve got to watch what you say and trust your instincts. Those looking for a Left 4 Dead clone full of hectic adrenaline aren’t likely to get their fix here – since TellTale did a wonderful job focusing an in-depth storyline which goes along with the styling of the comics, and they take their time showing it. While there are moments of frantic fighting, they’re spread relatively few and far apart, placed between many character-building conversations and events. In the moments where actions count, TellTale kept the controls remarkably simple, leaving the game open to even casual gamers – as long as you can move a controller and press three different buttons, you can play this game.
Episode One plays out like a point-and-click adventure with real-time button-mashing sequences and lots of talking in-between the action. Entitled ‘A New Day’, players fill the role of a man named Lee Everett being transferred by the police for a crime which becomes implied he may not have committed. Anyone who has played TellTale’s Back To The Future will recognize the conversation styling, where players are given a choice for their responses in dialogue. This time, however, there’s no going back if you make the wrong choice, and you’re given a limited amount of time to answer before the moment passes. It’s a nice touch that keeps gamers on their toes and in the moment, and really brings pressure to trying to find the right questions and answers.
Lee’s relation with Clementine is a great example of TellTale’s story writing ability.
Despite how well-crafted the story is, some truly bizarre moments stutter the experience and are a sore point in an otherwise well-crafted speech. In one instance, there’s a reporter, quick-witted and a sure-shot with her pistol, who for some reason can’t figure out that a portable radio needs batteries – and sends you on a quest. Then even when you give them to her, she can’t figure out how to put them in properly without your help – how can someone be so adept at survival skills like shooting, but not know about batteries? Likewise, Lee seems like a level-headed guy, but spends the first half of the game humorously (though not intentionally) falling over any possible object there is to slip on or stumble over. Thankfully, these blotches don’t get in the way of the game presenting an enjoyable experience.
Episode One lasts about two to three hours from start to finish. While it may not be the longest trip you’ll take for a game, keep in mind TellTale will bring out another episode each month until the finale in August. While it has the potential to bring out some scary moments depending on how antsy you get at scenes that require fast actions, Episode One plays out in a linear fashion and feels like you’re watching an episode of the show you happen to be directing. In that way, it’s very similar to the way Heavy Rain works (as well as the less-successful Jurassic Park). Your choices make an impact on the game (and the fate of certain characters), and it’ll be interesting to see how these choices impact the later episodes.
By the time The Walking Dead: Episode One is over, players will likely be left wanting more – and that’s a good thing. It’s the same feeling you should get by the end of an episode on the TV Show. At the stunningly low price of $5 for the first episode (and each one thereafter), it’s hard not to recommend this to any fan of the show – or modern point and click-style adventures. It’s an enjoyable, well-crafted experience that should satisfy the cravings of anyone who enjoys a good story but, for those seeking action thriller from start to finish, can be a little slow-going at times. In short, it’s a great representation of the show, and TellTale has done a good job crafting an enjoyable, character-driven story in game form.
The Walking Dead: Episode One is available now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Game Rant played the PS3 version for this review.
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