A story about more than just surviving…
Telltale has a reputation for being fairly business like when it comes to pop culture’s most cherished licenses. With Back to the Future they ticked all the boxes necessary chucking in plenty of in jokes, interactions with the Delorean and a plot which served as a nice epilogue to the movies. Their next effort, based on Jurassic Park, wasn’t handled quite so well, thanks to an over reliance on quick-time events and characters which made you want to reach into the screen and strangle them with your bare hands.
Needless to say the pressure was on for their next big episodic series, The Walking Dead. One of the more current favourites the studio has gotten access to and like a zombie reaching for an injured toddler, they’ve grasped their opportunity with both hands.
The secret of Frank Darabont’s comic book franchise, which spawned an entirely separate TV series, is human drama. Sure there’s a zombie apocalypse going on and our species is circling the drain of extinction, but really what keeps readers, or indeed viewers, involved is seeing characters reach absolute breaking point. Admirably this is what Telltale’s latest point and click hybrid does so well, with the story being told from the perspective of Lee who finds himself looking after a child and struggling to get along with a team of nuanced survivors. Getting to know these characters is the meat of the experience, with an interesting trust mechanic guiding the story along during key moments; players even have to decide who lives and who dies at certain points. It’s a great system which can guide your playthrough down multiple different branches – some subtly different, others more substantial – but we always struggled to make the really difficult decisions.
Structurally The Walking Dead is also very different, mixing the style of Jurassic Park and more traditional point and click experiences into one. Quick time events are only reserved for rare live or die moments, whereas the rest of the time you’re directly controlling your character, talking to fellow NPCs and searching the environment for items. Thanks to the protagonist being directly controlled, you feel much more involved and the quality of the voice acting and animation means that getting immersed isn’t at all difficult. The first episode also zips along at a swift pace, with only the simplest of puzzles to slow down progression, but given the setting it feels right.
Telltale has endured some missteps, but episode 1 of The Walking Dead is a great return to form. Here’s hoping the next four episodes are just as entertaining.
Forget Jurassic Park, Telltale are back to their best!
Tags: The Walking Dead
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