Genre: Adventure Horror
Developer: Telltale Games
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.6, 2.0GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 2GB hard disk space, 256MB ATI or NVidia video card. Not recommended for Mac minis or early-generation MacBooks.
Review Device: 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac
Price: $24.99 (all five episodes)
Availability: Out now
It’s something of an open secret that the title of The Walking Dead doesn’t refer to the zombies that have overrun the world, but to the human survivors, who quickly see that once that human nature can be far more cruel and vicious than the hungry corpses. At least the zombies are up front about wanting to kill you.
As a game, Telltale established that The Walking Dead (TWD) was going to be a game about making tough choices and living with the consequences. And not just choices in terms of who lives and who dies, but also in how you conduct yourself as series protagonist Lee Everett. Though I thought of him as a generally good man haunted by his past, I realize now that’s because of how I was playing him. In conversations with the other survivors in his group, and especially Clementine (a child he’s protecting), Lee could also be blunt, cruel, or selfish, or he could make no choices at all. The plot of the game remains generally the same (Lee must, after all, survive to make it to the next episode), but the other characters reactions to you will change.
And while the first episode—with the group fleeing the city for the relative safety of an abandoned motor lodge—was brutal, the second offers even harder choices as the food runs short. When you have four rations (made up of such feasts as half an apple) and 10 hungry mouths, who do you feed? The children? Your friends? The people who can defend the camp? When factions start squabbling about whether to stay and face starvation or attempt travel and risk attack, whose side do you choose? Staying out has its consequences as well. There’s no hidden third solution that will solve every problem.
When help arrives in the form of a farm family looking to trade food for gas, things begin to brighten up. The St. Johns have surrounded their farm with a high-power electric fence that keeps the walkers out, allowing them to live in peace so long as they have fuel. They invite the survivors to have a meal with them and discuss a barter system, and the farm is painted in rich, autumnal colors. Heck, there’s even a swing for the kids.
Things don’t work out.
No spoilers, but I’m sure you can guess that things aren’t all what they seem at the St. John Dairy, and there’s horror aplenty to be found, even as the zombies are mostly in the background for this episode. And as things go from bad to worse, pressure within the group causes an action so terrible that the survivors might never recover.
With game play, TWD is a mix of visual novel (where your decisions lead to a divergent series of cutscenes), point and click adventure (walk around the farm, gathering objects to open doors and investigate the St. John family) and minigames (usually during fights) where you have to hit the right keys at the right time, or punch and kick by clicking on the right spot, usually while the target is moving.
The storytelling continues to be top-notch, with a lot of tension and a genuine sense of mystery as Lee and his companions come to learn what’s happening to human society while they’ve been fortified at the motor lodge. And now, even that sense of security may be taken away from them.
Buy the The Walking Dead: The Game