Genre: Adventure Horror
Developer: Telltale Games
System Requirements: OS: Mac OS X 10.6, 2.0 GHz processor, 2 GB RAM, 2 GB Space Free, Video Card: ATI or NVidia card w/ 256 MB RAM. Not recommended for MAC Minis or early-generation MacBooks
Review Device: iMac 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 13” Macbook Pro
Price: $24.99 (all five episodes)
Availability: Out now
There is no shortage of video games featuring zombies. Some force you to think your way around battles, hoarding every bullet, while others are run and gun mayhem fests where you mow down fields of the undead. The Walking Dead by Telltale Games is something different, taking the popular comic book/TV show and fusing it with the classic point and click adventure game. It’s not a horror game because things come crashing through windows (though that happens), but because you’re constantly being placed in the position of having to make a choice, and live with the consequences.
In fact “consequences” is the major theme of The Walking Dead (TWD), where you play Lee Evans, a former college professor who opens the game in the back of a cop car, where he’s on his way to prison. What the crime was and why he did it unfold throughout the first episode, but Lee’s haunted face tells you that this is a man who is not proud of what he did, and wishes he could take it back. After the zombie uprising gives him, ironically enough, a second chance at life, Lee struggles to get back to his family while protecting Clementine, a little girl he finds whose parents were in Atlanta (and are probably dead). But as the two team up with other survivors, trying to find a safe place to hole up, Lee is confronted again and again by the consequences of his actions, and the people he could not save.
In terms of game play, TWD is for the most part a point and click adventure, melded with a graphically mature interface. You walk around in a 3D environment, interacting with objects, picking up useful items, and talking to people, which is the most intriguing part of the game. Dialogue trees give you multiple responses to most interactions, and Telltale informs us that the game will remember your actions, and have them affect not just this episode, but later ones as well. Did someone else save Clementine from an attack? She’ll learn she can’t rely on you. Did you try to conceal your criminal past or trust the other survivors? If you lie, what will they do if and when they figure out the truth? When a fight breaks out amongst the humans, with whom do you side? The people who drove you here, or the lady with the gun?
I’m anxious to see if Telltale can pull this gameplay mechanic off, giving us a truly divergent story line and not just the same plot with different character models, especially since one of the choices is “who lives, and who dies?” Adding to the tension is the fact that you have a limited amount of time to choose a response, though silence is, as the game reminds us, a valid choice as well.
Lest you think that TWD is a nonstop gab-fest, there is plenty of action in the game. There’s a stealth mission where you have to take down a parking lot full of zombies without making noise to alert them. Zombies will jump out and pin you in close-quarter fights, and you’ll have to beat them down with your fists. Winning these fights is largely a matter of having the right object and clicking the mouse at the right time on the right spot. No, they’re not hard to do (these games are for casual gamers and people interested in the story), but Telltale does a great job of making them tense: the target (the zombie’s head) moves, the screen gets redder and redder as you’re in greater danger, and a maddening heartbeat gets louder and louder.
The first episode of The Walking Dead is a great game, creating tension that really makes you feel like you’re part of a story, and not just a Bad Dude With A Gun cutting through corpses. TWD is a tense, harrowing game that makes you wonder who’s going to kill you first: the undead, or the humans.
Buy The Walking Dead: The Game