Telltalle Games tells a powerful tale.
By Kamal Hwail
Note: This review is an overall evaluation of Season 1 of Telltale’s game. Individual episodes will not be addressed in isolation.
She just stood there quietly with her eyes glued to the ground. A navy blue sports cap crowned her fluffy black hair. Her brain tried in vain to process the horror that had stared her down. Her distressed eyes looked to me, “There was that thing in the bathroom. It tried to get me. But you stopped it. Can you do that more?”
I chuckled in sarcasm as I thought she must be joking. “Well I’m not gonna go looking for them!”
“I mean get the dangerous ones,” she reaffirmed as her face put me at ease.
“I’m gonna try,” I promised back to her. Clementine nodded confidently.
That was a promise in which I was determined to keep my word throughout The Walking Dead. This is an episodic adventure driven by masterful storytelling and dimensional characters with empathy at its core. When convicted murderer Lee accepts his fate behind bars, none other than the zombie apocalypse saves him. After he encounters Clementine, an eight-year-old survivor, they must must embark on a journey to find some place to settle down and be safe. Once experienced, there is only one thing to be said: The Walking Dead delivers the most emotionally gripping story ever told in video games.
I made that promise somewhere near the beginning of my adventure. At the time, I was sincere. But I surely did not know what obstacles lay ahead. As the world as we know it literally ruptures to hell, one must ask what makes it all worth it? We stick our heads out every day in search for somewhere safe, but flesh eating savages extinguish the little hope everyone has left. But amidst all the hardship and tragedy, I stood tall and strong with my answer. Clementine was my answer. An adorable first grader, whom I met surviving from the undead like me, became my purpose, my hope.
While borrowing several pages from Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel as well as AMC’s TV adaptation, Telltalle prides themselves in developing a dynamic story that is tailored by the player’s input. While this isn’t anything new in the video game world, Telltalle breathes some fresh air through this concept. Choices are apparent everywhere through minor conversing to life changing dilemmas. Make no mistake, The Walking Dead will take some wild twists and turns and its direction is at your fingertips. The moral decisions are not a clear-cut, black-and-white matter. Instead it really requires you to both overcome and sacrifice to prevail. As a result, relationships with other survivors may turn sweet or sour. Whichever plot thread you follow, the entire game is a heavy load. It’s amazing and sentimental to witness just how such fictional characters may end up becoming your friends. All that builds to an unforgettable ending that is sure to linger in your mind for weeks to come.
Much like the story, every other element in the game is very well handled. Many sensitive moments are presented well through believable facial animations and authentically convincing voice acting. To compliment the presentation, game play can also be innovative at times. The comic book visuals never distract from the gravity of the mood while greatly rivaling other cell-shaded looks. Environments are varied and refreshing, consistently playing with your expectations. Likewise, the atmospheric music is simple yet meaningful. You wouldn’t want it any other way. Just hearing a few tracks can put a man to tears.
One minor frustration I had, pulling me out of the experience from time to time, is that you’re timed for your responses. There is no reason to take my time on normal conversations, but when faced with heart wrenching choices, I want to make sure I’m positively sure. I don’t feel comfortable being forced to hurry for the sake of rising tension. Still, it is a minor complaint that is not a deal breaker.
In the end, which I wished never came around, I feel so connected to The Walking Dead. I loved watching my choices play out like they really mattered. Guilt haunted me, regret chased me, and sadness pulled me closer. At the cost of feeling like a graphical behemoth, Telltale focused on a fulfilling and lively story. As a result, they produced a rich adventure that constantly ups its own ante. My only wish is that I could erase my memory to replay this experience for the first time again. But for now, bring on Season 2!
Final Verdict: 9.75 “Incredible”