I’ve never been a big fan of Telltale Games. While I certainly enjoyed their official Back to the Future sequel, I never felt the need to actually finish it. I only made it through about ten minutes of Jurassic Park before I decided I just couldn’t get into their point and click adventure titles. (I had a similar experience with Escape From Monkey Island, which is a LucasArts,so it’s probably my aversion to the genre, not the quality of the games themselves). I’d made peace with this realization.
Then, something unexpected happened. I started to hear people proclaiming The Walking Dead as not only a phenomenal title, but to some credible sources (and also Spike TV) it’s been named a contender for . . . (trumpet fanfare) Game of the Year. A point and click adventure title beating out such powerhouses as Far Cry 3, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3, and Dishonored? Could it really be that good?
Yes it could. For one thing, it’s very difficult to bring genuine emotional resonance into the world of a video game, but The Walking Dead succeeds at doing just that. I’ll bypass all spoilers but provide a little exposition to explain how. From the outset of the story, you are partnered with an eight-year-old girl named Clementine. How you decide to protect her is entirely up to you, but I promise you will have an immense emotional attachment to her before the final episode one credits roll. Clementine provides but one example of the care and consideration taken with all the characters; none of them feel generic or written simply to serve as plot devices. Each other character you encounter has unique motivations besides survival—some you will love, and some you will loathe, but they all feel like real people and not typical video game characters. Choosing who lives or dies is never an easy task, and there are always looming ramifications for each difficult decision you make. You’ll feel empathy for the characters far more than you might in a typical game, a true testament to the amazing storytelling and attention to detail that absolutely gushes from the well-polished narrative.
Lee Everett, the main protagonist, is one of the most developed characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. His journey is not some obligatory quest to bash some zombie skulls with a wrench. Lee casts a real shadow on the player; I genuinely cared about him. If there is an award given for voice acting, David Fennoy deserves to win it hands down, as he delivers each line of dialogue perfectly.
Finally, as a former native of Georgia, each of the locations represented was recreated perfectly, from the opening scene on Interstate 85 to the eventual journey to River Street in Savannah, I actually felt like I was back home in the peach state.
Much like previous Telltale Games, you use a four tied conversation tree that corresponds with each direction of your control pad. Unlike previous titles, however, in The Walking Dead all of your choices are timed (and some you only have mere seconds to make). There is absolutely zero backtracking to see different options or outcomes. This gives each of the choices a weight that just didn’t exist in similar point and click adventure games; once you make a decision, you are stuck with it unless you restart the entire chapter. On top of that, your choices directly affect how other characters react to you and behave in the narrative overall. This minor tweak to the familiar formula makes all of the difference; it turns what some might describe as an interactive movie into one of the best titles I’ve played in a long time. This is a game you are going to enjoy multiple times just so you can see the outcome of different choices.
Even if you’ve never enjoyed a point and click adventure before, I’m certain this will be the exception.