A Different Type Of Zombie Game
When it was first announced that The Walking Dead would be getting a video game version, you wouldn’t have been crazy to assume it would be some kind of survival horror shooter. After all, zombie shooters seem to be all the rage these days. But The Walking Dead was never really about shooting zombies, instead focusing on the horrible things people do when trying to survive. Zombies aren’t as scary as people pushed to their limits, and it just takes a couple walking corpses to get people to show their worst. So instead of some sort of bullet-filled slaughter-fest, Telltale has decided to create a socially focused point-and-click adventure game.
On the surface, this genre fits The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day superbly. The game forces you to make harsh decisions constantly. Nearly every dialogue choice is timed, forcing you to answer with your gut instinct. As a result, the main character Lee Everett very quickly becomes a reflection of yourself, causing you to empathize with his plight. Though this does get annoying at some points, most notably points where there really isn’t any sort of urgency to your response, it does successfully prevent gamers from exploiting the system to always pick the “right” response.
The decision-making in The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day is probably the most enjoyable part of the game. Let’s get something straight right now: There is no happy ending to a zombie apocalypse. At times, you will have to choose who lives and who dies, and that is a weight that will sit heavy on your shoulders. Very simple decisions could mean the difference between surviving and becoming zombie chow, and it’s not always obvious which decision you should make. Thankfully, it’s incredibly hard to get a “game over.” Your comrades might die, but you continue on, dealing with the ramifications of your decisions while you’re just trying to live another day in a zombie hellhole.
One thing that makes The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day stand apart from other adventure games is its constantly updating tip system. The game informs you via pop-up notices whenever you do something actively important to the story. It will notify you as to how people are reacting to your decisions and remind you of important facts you have learned. Because of this, you don’t feel like you are flying blind during social interactions. The game notifies you of the consequences of your decisions, and this not only lets you play the game more intelligently, but also makes subsequent playthroughs much more fun as you know exactly where the story branches off.
This game is certainly not a point-and-click adventure in the traditional sense. The focus on building an inventory and solving puzzles is seriously toned down, replaced by an intense focus on story instead. It feels more like a “cinematic gameplay experience” than a traditional point-and-click puzzler. It would be more apt to compare the game to Heavy Rain, a sort of interactive movie, than to Monkey Island.
When there are puzzles, the game makes sure that they aren’t too hard. Everything you can interact with is highlighted with clickable icons so you are never stuck wasting time trying to find that one important item you missed. Your inventory isn’t even usable in the traditional sense. You can’t access it in any way. Instead, simply having an item will bring up new options when trying to interact with other people and your environment. Some of these interactions are red herrings, of course. I once tried to use a remote control on a combination lock, only to find that the remote “wasn’t that universal.” Still, the game greatly streamlines the traditional point and click gameplay process.
Not only that, but failing puzzles doesn’t necessarily stop the game. Instead, the game simply continues on, generally leaving you in a disadvantageous position. Unfortunately, this does mean that you can miss out on some important story details by performing certain actions too early, and this makes the story feel like It’s jumping around a bit. At one point, I found out that two characters liked each other, only this wasn’t until one of them had already met a tragic end. If I had talked to people in a different order, I would have known this ahead of time, which would have made the death scene hit much harder.
Speaking of hard hitting, the emotional impact of this game is its biggest draw. The game holds no punches when it comes to gore and horror. However, it’s not the jump out scares that get you. The subtle personal terror hits you the hardest.
As gripping as the story is, there are some major flaws in the gameplay that mostly stem from its adventure game formula. This mostly has to do with finding item A to give to person B to progress the game. At one point you have to find a picture of a zombie in order to convince your friend that he once worked at a pharmacy and may have the pharmacy keys. However, the zombie is the only one in the area wearing a pharmacist’s uniform, and this is very easy to see even from far away. Similarly, the picture doesn’t even look at the zombie, which at this point is rotted beyond recognition. It felt like I should have just been able to say “Dude, look at what he’s wearing.” But I couldn’t.
Points like these pop up all throughout the game. At one point you can’t reach a brick that is a few inches in front of you, even though there are tons of long objects that would allow you to knock it your way. To reach it, you have to get outside, but to do that you have to axe off the lock on the gate. This would be a fine puzzle, except you find the axe at a motel—which you get to by leaving the place you were via the back entrance. If leaving via the back were so easy, you literally could have just gone around front and picked up that damn brick. There’s also a whole puzzle about finding a weapon to kill zombies with, but at this point you had already passed several knives, canes, and even a shotgun that the game didn’t allow you to pick up. It just breaks your sense of immersion at points. It strikes me that these puzzles could have easily been reworked to be more plausible.
As much as I nitpick, I still enjoyed The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day. As a fan of the comics, the game absolutely nails the tone and setting. Important characters like Hershel and Glen make an appearance, and they act just as you would expect them to. The voice acting is great, and the models are very expressive. You can tell exactly when someone is pissed off at you, or terrified at the zombies that are chasing you.
The first episode is five dollars and lasts about three hours. The game will come in five episodes, all of which are available in a $20 pre-purchase pack. If this guarantees me fifteen or so hours of terrifying social gameplay in the zombie apocalypse, then I’d say The Walking Dead: Episode 1 – A New Day is a great buy.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
The characters are expressive, though they are modeled in a comic book style. 3.8 Control
The controls are intuitive, but the puzzles are a bit too convoluted at times. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music really sets the mood and the voice acting is top notch. 3.5 Play Value
The game is short, but you’ll thoroughly enjoy every brain-eating minute of it. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best