The Walking Dead: Episode 1
Zombies are everywhere; they’re the current fad. Modern gamers have been programmed to think that zombies are bad and humans are good, that zombies must die at all costs. Point-and-click veterans Telltale Games are aiming to put another perspective on the genre, where the divide between good and bad is more blurred. Episode one is the first of five episodes to place gamers into the world of the Walking Dead comic books, created by the minds of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. Will you survive?
Who is this?
Familiar Walking Dead characters Rick Grimes and his family are nowhere to be seen. Instead, players assume the role of Lee Everett, a man convicted of a murder that he may or may not have committed. We join him on his journey to jail in the back of a police car during the start of the zombie outbreak. The journey does not go smoothly, but to tell you any more will spoil the story for you. However, fans of the comic book lore will be pleased to know that some familiar characters will be making an appearance during the game.
Both beginners and veterans of the point-and-click genre will find something to enjoy here. There are two difficulty settings: Standard and Minimal. Standard means that all interactions will be marked on the screen with a faint white dot, and the game will occasionally give out hints if players get stuck. On Minimal, players are left to work things out on their own. Interactive objects will only appear when the cursor passes over them and the icon changes. As the game itself is not too difficult, I must recommend that veterans play the game on Minimal to get the most enjoyment out of it. The settings can be changed through Options in the Main menu at any time in the game, so if things are too easy or too difficult, you’re not stuck with those settings.
Unusually for a point-and-click on this platform, the controls didn’t feel clunky in any way and are quite intuitive. Lee moves around with the left joystick, while the cursor is moved around with the right joystick. All actions are mapped to the four face buttons, or players can use the d-pad instead. Generally, Y (up) is the inspect button, A (down) is the button used to interact with objects, B (right) is the button which allows players to use objects, and X (left) is used to talk to other characters. Those four buttons represent different dialogue options when interacting with characters.
Zombie killing with morals
Initially I was disappointed with this game. The first four chapters were completely devoid of everything that I loved about point and clicks. Every objective would automatically be completed without me having to work anything out once I had wandered around for long enough. I underestimated the impact of the few choices that I did make though. Dialogue choices will affect the way that other characters react to you further into the game. Player actions will also change the course of the story and the characters with whom you travel through the game.
Things get better from chapter five onwards and we get the type of gameplay that I had expected from Telltale. Players have to explore their environments and solve puzzles in order to progress, although failure to work something out will not result in game over. Being a point-and-click, players can’t just wander through the game attacking every zombie that they find – all zombie encounters are carefully scripted into the story and Telltale attempts to make players empathise with their plight. Characters must avoid being bitten – there’s no immunity here. There’s also the constant need for information of family members and friends and the cruel decisions that come when the inevitable happens.
Zombie encounters are made tenser by the limited amount of time in which players have to react. Failure to react in time will end in Lee’s grisly end at the hands of several zombies. Some dialogue options also give players a limited amount of time to react; these are the options that usually affect the course of the story. Players can choose to be honest, dishonest or just sullen and silent. Choose carefully, because you don’t want to annoy a character on whom you’ll need to rely on later.
What happens next?
The game ends with a montage of scenes from the four future episodes. I for one will be intrigued to see how the story pans out, although I hope that future episodes will be longer. Episode 1 will take you a maximum of three hours to complete, two if you’re fairly familiar with the way point-and-click games work. Despite the budget pricing, gamers may feel like they aren’t quite getting their money’s worth.
Miss; The length of the game. An extra hour would have been sufficient.
Needed; More puzzle solving – the type of gameplay I would expect from a point-and-click.