TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead

Lee Everett and his ward, Clementine

(Jan 2, 2013 – Post has been updated after the bit I wrote about The Walking Dead Episode 1 because I played through the entire series on Steam. Overall thoughts on the entire series is below. ~A)

Status: Episode 1 – A New Day complete (XBLA), waiting impatiently for more

It’s no secret that I love horror movies, books and games. Nor is my love of all things zombie. The Walking Dead has quickly become one of my favourite small screen adventures, despite my having not read the graphic novels because I have a thing against starting a series that hasn’t been wrapped up. Which is probably why I’m a little surprised with myself for purchasing Episode 1 of Telltale Games’ point and click game adaptation knowing full well that it’ll be a while before all of the episodes are out.

Now, I didn’t have to purchase the first episode on Xbox 360. My husband won a season pass for Steam on Twitter so I have every opportunity to hijack his account and enjoy the series, but the 360 has always been my go-to gaming machine. I felt that I at least had to give the initial installment a shot on the console.

Lee is a convicted murderer, being driven out of Atlanta to serve out his sentence at a detention facility. As he and his escorting officer make their way down the highway, helicopters and emergency vehicles are rushing in the opposite direction. Along the way, they are in a bit of an accident and Lee comes face to face with his first Walker. Unsure of what is going on, Lee heads off in search of shelter and comes across Clementine, a young girl whose parents had gone to Savannah for vacation and left her home with a babysitter. Lee can’t bring himself to leave Clem on her own, so he brings her along as he makes his journey to Macon to check on his family.

During this episode we meet a few characters from the graphic novels. First up is Hershel and Shawn Greene when we make a slight detour at the farm. Since the events of A New Day take place prior to the graphic novels, there are no family members infesting the barn at this point. Once Lee, Clem and their companions make it to Macon, we meet Glenn for the first time as the scavenger helps our small group move to a slightly more secure and defensible position.

Lee and Glenn take on a hoard of Walkers

I absolutely love how the decisions you make in the game impact the overall story. Save one life for another, those who suffered the loss will remember that. Lee can’t please everyone, and while a few know his past, all he can do now is help the group survive the zombie uprising. Not only that, but the more critical decisions are timed, meaning you’ll have to make that split second call even quicker.

Since I was playing a point and click title on a console system, I knew that the controls might be a bit iffy at times. Most often, my issues came with moving Lee in the direction I wanted him to move or look. A lot of times when hiding behind cover and attempting to look over the obstruction Lee would instead move to the left or right. This was rather annoying when I was in a position where long term exposure would mean discovery by nearby Walkers.

The other problem I had with the game was the lack of guidance or assistance given when I was clearly lost or missing something big. I had hoped going in that I wouldn’t run into the same issues I had with Wallace and Gromit on XBLA, but after wandering around and still not figuring out what I was doing wrong I found myself checking GameFAQs. And I really hate having to resort to looking stuff up online in games like these. I hate feeling stupid.

But all was forgotten when I wrapped up A New Day. I put my controller down happy for the experience and wanting more, hoping in the back of my head that maybe, just maybe, the next episode will have addressed the issues I had. No matter what though, I will definitely be playing this one all the way through to the end.

Shambling walkers, as all zombie stories have

Status: All episodes completed on Steam
Achievements: All unlocked on Steam

I slacked off big time and didn’t play the episodes as they were released. Mostly due to a lack of XBL points, but also because I am impatient as all hell with series of any kind: games, books, TV shows.  So when the final episode, No Time Left, was finally released, I decided to put aside my discomfort with keyboard and mouse gaming and just finish the series by playing on my husband’s Steam account.

Unlike my experience with controls and the 360 version of the game, I had a much easier time moving Lee around the screen using the directional keys. Replaying A New Day refreshed me on the story as well as helped me get familiar with WASD, especially at the motel scene. That’s not to say I became a pro with the keyboard; I had my fair share of dying over and over again later on because my console geared brain didn’t seem to want to make room for PC gaming information.  And switching quickly from mouse to mashing the Q and E keys for quicktime events? Holy mackerel, Batman! Getting the hang of that one took me even longer than the WASD practice.

Decision making never got easier as the series progressed. Each time I had to make a split second decision to choose who to save, I’d almost run out of time and second guessed whatever choice I made. Was it the right one? How was this going to affect my game in the next chapter? And most importantly, how would Clementine react to my decisions?

Lee takes on a walker in Clem’s house

Because at the end of the day, this is the story of how Lee redeems himself to save a little girl all alone in the world. Lee’s caring and desire to save this little girl from a world gone completely bonkers is the driving force behind the game and why no matter how many ways I play the game, every single time will be just as emotional as the last.

The Walking Dead was one of my favourite games of 2012, proving you don’t have to be a Halo or Call of Duty in order to make an impact in the gaming world. Games with story and heart ultimately beat out all others. I highly recommend you play Walking Dead Season One even if you aren’t the biggest fan of zombie apocalypse games or the TV series. It takes about 12-15 hours to run through all five episodes depending on how much you die or how much time you take to talk with members of your group during the slower parts. There is a reason virtually every gaming community named Walking Dead their Game of the Year in 2012.

Walking Dead is available for 400 MS points per episode on Xbox Marketplace and $5 per episode on PSN. You can also grab a Season Pass for $25 on Steam (PC/Mac). It was also released on retail disc for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

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