If you were wondering what those sighs of relief you’ve been hearing lately are all about, it might have something to do with the fact that Telltale Games’ much beloved The Walking Dead: Season One finally made it to Android, after being available for iOS, Xbox 360, PS3, PC and quite possibly that old Texas Instruments calculator you used in the 8th grade.
In case you have somehow managed to avoid the games up until this point, allow me to fill you in on the basics. The Walking Dead: Season One follows a man named Lee Everett, who is on his way to prison after having been convicted of murder. Along the way, a most unfortunate car accident triggers a series of events that forces Lee and a ragtag band of survivors, to try and live through the internet’s favorite version of the apocalypse: the one with zombies.
The Walking Dead is styled much like the point-and-click PC adventure games of old (think Myst or Maniac Mansion), but while those games were largely based around finding the right in-game items to solve various puzzles, The Walking Dead is a much more narrative driven affair that revolves around dealing with the consequences of your choices. Throughout the course of the first season (which consists of five episodic parts, and a 6th side-story episode) you’ll be forced to make decisions both large and small that will drastically impact the events of the story moving forward.
That implementation of choice is not necessarily new to games, but none have executed that concept with the same scope The Walking Dead does. The result is one of the finest stories you’ll ever find in a video game, filled with characters you’ll not only care about deeply, but will begin to feel responsible for once you realize that every minor interaction with them could very well seal their fate. These interactions are made all the more troubling by the fact that your only guide between “right” and “wrong” in these instances is your own moral compass.
Of course, because this is a zombie game, there are still moments of good old shoot-em-up, smash-em-all zombie killing action. The difference is that The Walking Dead treats the majority of its action sequences like glorified quick time events. This may trouble some, but to be honest the game does such a good job of implementing these action sequences at precisely the right dramatic moment that they lose no intensity whatsoever from being simplified. There is a tremendous balance between narrative development and heart pounding action on display here, making this series the structural opposite of a Michael Bay film.
Nowhere is that balance on greater display than in the season’s first installment: A New Day.
Largely centered on introducing the main characters of the series, and getting them where they need to be going, A New Day may serve as the obligatory ‘getting to know you’ installment, but it never once feels like it. Within mere minutes of starting the game, you’ll be in your first life or death situation, and, not too long after that, you’ll be asked to make an incredibly major decision in a relatively short time-frame. From there your journey covers a fairly short distance, but is packed with so many incredible moments, that it ends up feeling like a much grander quest than it probably should.
In fact, the incredible pacing on display in A New Day makes it an arguable contender for the best episode in the season. While the evolving plot takes this series to much more intense places in subsequent installments, that need to introduce you to nearly everything these games will offer lends A New Day so much content, that you never feel like you’re just getting the first chapter of an ongoing series (cliffhanger ending aside), but rather a self-contained masterpiece that just so happens to have a follow up. At around 2 hours of playtime, A New Day might not be very long, but it also doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Unfortunately, the game’s transition over to the mobile platform is less than masterful. The problem doesn’t lie in the game’s graphics (which, aside from some odd glitches, are phenomenal for this platform), nor in the pitch perfect sound transition, but rather in the controls. When you’re simply moving Lee around and interacting with the environment or other characters, things handle fairly well. However, during moments where the camera is more fixed and precise movements are called for (mostly action sequences), maneuvering the game simply feels awkward. The slightest movements can trigger erratic movements, making these sequences more difficult than they should be.
There’s also the issue of the game’s pricing. While the first episode is free (YAY!), each other episode will run you $4.99 a pop, or you can buy the entire season (DLC included) for $14.99. While the season pass price is far from absurd, it is nonetheless much higher than your average mobile offering. Not to mention that you can likely find this game on larger, more powerful formats for around the same price or, in the case of the PC, much cheaper.
These issues may not sound like much, but they hinder the game just enough to warrant the question of whether or not you should go with this version. For those that never got to play these games originally and love their Android device, it’s a no-brainer pick up. While further reviews are coming, I can comfortably say that if you fall into that group, you shouldn’t hesitate to pick up the season pass straight away.
For everyone else, I’d advise trying out the first episode for free and seeing if it feels comfortable to you. Just be warned that even if you have experienced The Walking Dead before, you may be caught up again in just how incredible this opening truly is, and will find yourself diving into another binge of the entire season just to relive those characters, moments, twists, turns and no good, dirty rotten, human emotions that make this game the modern day adventure classics it truly is.
One of the best games in recent years survives its Android transition with relatively few hitches.