by Matthew Byrd4
The Walking Dead: Episodes 1-3 Review
Quite possibly the best examples of episodic gaming ever
I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that there can never be enough Walking Dead in my life.
Call it greedy if you must, but I’m just not satisfied with having just the comic series, the AMC show available on DVD and Netflix and season two of TellTale’s The Walking Dead currently in release at the moment. No, those releases just aren’t enough to satisfy my hunger for more morally ambiguous tales set in a modern-day Georgia overrun by zombies.
In that same regard, I just can’t be satisfied leaving our initial review of Telltalle Game’s The Walking Dead: Season One for Android alone. At least not when every episode that makes up that season is worth diving into further, and certainly not while AMC is releasing preview shots for a season of The Walking Dead I’m somehow supposed to wait until October for.
So join me, if you will, for a deeper review each episode of the Android version of The Walking Dead: Season One, in the hopes that it will stave off that insatiable hunger for more of this series, that may very well make zombies of us all.
Episode 1 – A New Day
A New Day is in the unenviable position of having to convince the player that this series is worth continuing, while not throwing everything in its arsenal out there at once, in order to save something for the follow-ups. At the same time, since this is an adaptation, it must also live up to both the aesthetic principles and quality standards laid down by its franchise forbearers.
It’s a tall task but A New Day pulls it off with such ease that you really have to stop and consider the scope of its accomplishments to truly appreciate them.
What starts off as the story of a man named Lee Everett’s trip to spend the rest of his life in jail quickly turns into his journey through the zombie apocalypse. His struggle to push on becomes both easier and more complicated when he meets up with fellow survivors, ranging from Walking Dead favorites like Glenn Rhee and Hershel Greene, to new characters like Clementine, the little girl who’s impossible not to love.
While this entire installment largely centers around a climatic occurrence outside a roadside motel, every moment in this game carries real weight, and does a tremendous job of balancing action, story, character introductions and gameplay elements that will end up defining this season moving forward. At its heart, this series is all about dealing with the ramifications of your instinctive decisions and A New Day exemplifies the benefits that pursuit can have on creating a strong narrative in this game and any game of its kind.
That being said, there are a few growing pains on display here. The most notable among them is an over-reliance on some half-hearted traditional point and click puzzle segments that just don’t mesh well with the rest of the story. The game is also too quick to repeat the same basic “Oh my God!” moment over again, removing some of the impact the second instance should have had.
But those are minor quibbles that ultimately do little to hinder what is one of the best cases of episodic gaming ever seen. A New Day is a guaranteed gateway to getting hooked on this series.
A New Day Score – 4.0
Episode 2 – Starved For Help
This episode happens to have one of my favorite game introductions of all time. It’s a simple event that involves the killing of a single zombie, but the execution of it announces loud and clear that our heroes, and therefore ourselves, are now entirely invested in this world of horror, and may now be willing to sacrifice more courteous elements of their humanity, for the chance to see another day.
It’s this moral quandary that drives what is perhaps the most suspenseful of any Walking Dead episode, as the cast of characters whom you chose to live through the last game, is now in desperate need of food, shelter and hope. They find what they believe may just be a safe haven in the form of a dairy farm, but it soon becomes apparent that there may be no such thing as a safe heaven in their world anymore.
With the exception of the 400 Days add-on, this is certainly the odd duck of the first season of The Walking Dead series. The events carry little over from the previous plot , and the ramifications of your decisions here are mostly contained within this episode alone. It’s an odd direction to take for such a relatively short adventure, and could have easily sunk the series before it had the chance to truly take off.
And yet it doesn’t. While Starved For Help may be a largely self-contained installment, it is also an absolutely brilliant one that often feels closer to a Tales From the Crypt episode than A Walking Dead game. There is some truly horrific and downright shocking stuff on display here, and it’s all made worse by the fact that you are often the one who creates the mayhem. As a result, I can almost guarantee you that you will make at least one choice that will have ramifications that leave you wondering, “What have I done?”
Much like the first episode, Starved For Help admittedly does linger a bit in the middle section as it tasks you with completing some pretty mundane goals, with only exposition dialogue to break up the monotony. Also, much as I love this story, its supposed twist ending is fairly easy to predict from a mile away if you’ve ever seen a horror movie from the last 30 years or so.
But much like that brilliant intro, the quality of Starved For Help doesn’t necessarily lie in its set-up but rather its execution. Telltale’s uses the gameplay tropes of this franchise to enhance a story that may feel slightly out of place but eventually finds its home among the best horror suspense stories this medium has ever seen.
Starved For Help Score – 4.5
Episode 3 – The Long Road Ahead
After the events in Starved for Help, our group finds it is lost. With everything they had left now slowly eroding around them, their remaining options for survival now force them to pursue the most dangerous and unsavory of paths — paths that many of them will not survive.
Without question, The Long Road Ahead is the most monumental episode in the first season of The Walking Dead. While the previous episode suffered a bit by not really including events that affected the overall story, this episode almost throws too many climatic events at you. From a voyage into a zombie ridden town for supplies, to a showdown with bandits and the eventual discovery of a train that may be the key to escape, there is so much happening here that revisiting the installment yielded many moments that I forgot ever occurred.
This also happens to be the closest the Walking Dead series has ever come to a traditional adventure game. While those callbacks to the genre of old slowed down the first two episodes, here it’s handled with such care that the instances of puzzle solving and item management actually enhance the narrative focus rather than detract from it.
But really, it’s again those moments of choice and consequence that separate this episode from the pack. Even the best Walking Dead moments are a slow burn that pays off in spurts but here you get events that provide immediate gratification and consequences. I’m still stunned at what transpires here, and I’m honestly a little troubled at the part I had to play in these episodes .
In fact, The Long Road Ahead‘s biggest flaw may just be that it’s so climatic, it almost harms what is to come. Still, taken on its own merits, this is quite simply the peak of the story thus far.
The Long Road Ahead Score – 4.7
That’s it for now, but be sure to join us next time when we take a look at the final two episodes in The Walking Dead: Season One, along with the intriguing 400 Days expansion.
Is It Hardcore?
Summary: This review score reflects the overall score for the entire first season of The Walking Dead.
Title: The Walking Dead: Season One
Developer: Telltale Games
Buy it: Here
You Review It: Here