The App Store has no shortage of zombie games, but most are of the “shoot first, ask questions never” variety. When you’re scrambling for ammo or health packs, the last thing on your mind is whether or not you can trust your fellow survivors, or what they think of you. This is where Walking Dead: The Game marks a dramatic shift from other games– you’ll get so caught up in the story of rising tensions and shifting alliances that killing zombies becomes secondary.
Walking Dead: The Game is an adventure game that seamlessly blends non-interactive cutscenes with environmental puzzles and lots of branching dialogue choices. The dialogue between your character, Lee Everett, and the other survivors forms the basis of your unique experience with the game. Depending on what you choose to say, you can make Lee into a disloyal liar or a charismatic leader in the eyes of the other characters. At certain moments, you’ll also have to choose who lives and who dies.
Let it all out, Lee.
Mixed in with this high-tech Choose Your Own Adventure gameplay are the remnants of old-school point-and-click adventure games. In these scenes, inventory management has been simplified, so items can only be used in particular hotspots in the environment. It’s still possible to overlook an essential object from a nearby scene, which can cause you to get stuck, but the scenes are fairly confined and there’s always the option of using an online walkthrough to complete the story. Walking Dead: The Game doesn’t offer any in-game hints, however.
Like in many adventure games, you can usually take your time exploring each environment without the fear of being eaten by zombies. But, when the walking dead themselves make an appearance, you’ll have to fight back with a prompted series of taps and swipes, or watch Lee get eaten. Telltale’s Jurassic Park game relied too much on these quick-time events, and Back To The Future was primarily a classic point-and-click adventure game, so we think Walking Dead has finally found the right balance between the two.
Don’t tell mom, the babysitter’s dead.
The storyline and branching decisions are the main focus of the story, but what ties it all together is the game’s beautiful visual style. The characters look like a cross between comic-book illustrations or paintings and photo-realistic human actors. Sometimes they look utterly realistic, and sometimes they look stylized. We haven’t seen anything quite like it on iOS, and its supernatural appearance make the game’s world feel like it’s just slightly removed from our own.
Plus, Telltale has done an amazing job with the sound design in this game. Every voice actor sounds professional, and the soundtrack gives you a sense of sadness and dread whenever you stop to take a look around the environment.
What sets Walking Dead: The Game apart more than just its art style, sound design, and groundbreaking game design is the impact of the choices you’re forced to make. It may seem a little cruel that the developers will only let you save one innocent life in a terrifying instant– but that just makes you want to replay the game and make a different choice the second time around.
I said, we’re closed!
Even as you end the first episode, you’ll be given a preview of the second episode based on who you allowed to live and die. We’d be concerned that disposable characters won’t add anything to the story in later chapters, but the preview seems to indicate that your actions do have meaningful consequences.
Telltale has been reviving the adventure genre and refining cinematic videogames for years now. This is the first of their games that we think combines the two so perfectly. Whether you’ve read the comics, watched the TV show, or just want to take the lead role in a dramatic story, Walking Dead: The Game is an excellent choice on every level.