It’s been less than a week since the first chapter of the zombie apocalypse struck the PlayStation Network, and it appears that fans of both The Walking Dead comics and television series are more than pleased with the way things are panning out. Split-second action, dramatic suspense, and moral culpability abound in Telltale Games’ newly released episodic game. Oh yeah, there are zombies too!
Telltale Games, most famously known for the production of Monkey Island, definitely seems to have a real gem of a game on its hands with this new release. Developed in conjunction with Robert Kirkman, creator of the Walking Dead comic series, the downloadable episode, titled “A New Day” is set in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia right at the outset of the zombie infection and prior to where the comic series picks up with its primary protagonist, Rick Grimes. In Telltale’s series, players are introduced to and play as Lee Everett, a former history professor who may or may not be guilty of murdering his own wife. As the game opens, the player, as Lee, is handcuffed in the back of a police car heading out of Atlanta, while multiple units scream down the opposite side of the highway, sirens blaring into the soon to be doomed city. It’s not long before the world goes to sh*t and Lee finds himself smack in the middle of the apocalypse we all know (and plan for) so well.
One of the most interesting aspects (for me, at least) about the gameplay is the classic point and click mechanism so reminiscent of old school PC adventure games. As the player controls Lee within preset environments, they have the opportunity to interact with certain individuals or items which all play a role in the manner in which the plot develops. From conversations with NPCs to the dispatching of zombies, the core of this game is all about decisions - how you make them, when you make them, and the repercussions that follow. Truth be told, this isn’t your typical zombie game like Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, or Dead Island. This one, like the series it’s related to, is about characters and their development.
Now, that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of action to be had! When it comes to zombie killing, Telltale does a good job of springing Walkers on you. One minute, you’re searching a house while the next, you’re on the menu. If you grew up plugging quarters into the games at your local arcade, you’re sure to have dropped a few bucks on Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace. The action sequences in The Walking Dead pay a sort of homage to these arcade favorites, granting players scant seconds to line up the reticule and keep from becoming zombie chow. In one sequence, my merely glancing away from the screen when my wife called my name resulted in Lee’s evisceration in a motel parking lot… such a classy way to go.
While the first episode is short (short enough for even me to finish it), it definitely has depth and replay value. As I said before, it’s all about the decisions you make and the consequences of those decisions. The above scene with Lee and Glenn (who makes a cameo along with Hershel Greene) was not part of my initial play-through, and, as the stats at the end of the episode show, my decisions did not rank in the majority of other players (but not because of reasons listed in tomorrow’s podcast!). The multiple layers and outcomes appear to have transcending results into the later episodes, so it looks like this game will warrant a few more rounds with me at the helm and it is definitely worth the $4.99. Too bad those of you in Australia and New Zealand can’t join in…
I give The Walking Dead: A New Day a solid 4.5 fire axes out of 5 and can’t wait for the apocalypse to continue.