Gamer Review of “The Walking Dead: A New Day”
I have been reading “The Walking Dead” comics since the first few issues. It’s an ongoing story about people living in a world after a zombie apocalypse, focusing on their lives instead of only the killing of the undead the movies tend to focus on. When the adaptation for television was announced, I was excited because it’s a character driven series that lends itself perfectly to the small screen. In reality, the TV show has been hit or miss but overall still enjoyable. Then I heard they were coming out with a game and I was just confused.
When you think “zombie game,” usually you think one man against a horde of the undead, arming yourself to the teeth to kill as many of them as possible. “The Walking Dead” did not fit this genre. Even more surprising, it was developed by TellTale Games, the company responsible for bringing the adventure game back into the public eye with their recent series such as “Tales of Monkey Island” and “Back to the Future” (both of which I reviewed favorably). “The Walking Dead” seemed like an odd choice for them, but having faith in the company and the source material, it was still a highly anticipated title for me.
The first episode is out now, with four more coming out over the next few months. The results were not what I was expecting, but this is in no way a bad thing. Rather than call this a game, I’d say it’s more like interactive storytelling along the lines of the PS3 game “Heavy Rain.” You progress through the story and have to make some tough decisions along the way (and every once in a while you have to fight off a zombie by mashing a button). There are a few small puzzles that move the plot along, but nothing overly complicated.
As for the story itself, rather than retread old territory from the comics and TV show, the game tells the story of the first month of the outbreak through a new character, Lee Everett. Lee is an escaped convict who finds himself protecting a little girl named Clementine as they try and survive the hordes of the undead. We learn a little about Lee as the story progresses, his crime is mentioned, and there’s a heartbreaking reunion toward the end of the episode. There were a few times I found myself genuinely upset over these characters, which is impressive for something with such a short time span. Along the way there are some very tense moments where you have to quickly make a decision about what to do during zombie attacks that cause you to save one character while letting another die, impacting how the story progresses. I am very interested to see whether these decisions about who lives and dies will affect the later episodes in the game.
For those familiar with the comic and TV show, you’ll run into a few familiar faces along the way. Most of them fit in the story seamlessly but I felt that one cameo was a little forced. It doesn’t detract from the story, but they could have done more if they had spent more time with him. You don’t have to know about these characters to understand the story; it’s just a bonus for fans of the source material.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s very simple. You move your character around the world and click on various objects to interact with them. If you die, you go back to the beginning of the scene to try it over. The only problem is the limited clickable area on interactive objects which leads to occasional frustration. The game highlights these areas with small gray circles, which I felt took out some of the challenge and sense of exploration. As soon as you walk into a room you can immediately see everything you can interact with. You have the option of turning off these circles, but then surviving a zombie attack becomes almost impossible. Finding the tiny area you need to click on has to be done in a few seconds or you will get eaten. I turned them off in the beginning of the game and I couldn’t pick up a shotgun because I was clicking the barrel instead of the handle. After being eaten by the same zombie twice, I turned them back on.
However, the real disappointment I had with this episode was the length. Each chapter in previous TellTale episodes usually lasts about 4 to 5 hours. The first episode of “The Walking Dead,” on the other hand, is easy to complete in 2 to 3 hours. There is some replay value in going back and making different decisions and those few hours are packed without a break in the action, but it still leaves you wanting more.
Overall, the first episode of “The Walking Dead” is compelling. They created an engaging new story in the established universe without forcing unnecessary references. Well, except one. The gameplay is basic and it’s a little on the short side, but the story makes up for most of its flaws. It’s worth purchasing whether or not you’re already a fan of the series, making for a good starting point for those looking to get into the world of “The Walking Dead.”
“The Walking Dead: A New Day” is available now for download on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 for $4.99 with more episodes to be released in the upcoming months.